It occurred to me recently that my daughter owns way too many mirrors (I’m talking seven handheld ones) and she even has a Cinderella vanity table (she’s five, people). But I don’t want her growing up thinking beauty is a woman’s strongest asset.
Yes, her father and I have given her some of these reflective gifts over the years without giving it a single thought. She loves nail polish and lipstick, too, and sometimes asks if she can wear mine. While I love painting her tiny fingernails and toenails, I’m starting to rethink how much emphasis on vanity has already occurred in her short life. I don’t want her to live her life thinking that she’s somehow better (or less than) others for what she sees in the mirror every day.
For boys, this doesn’t seem to be an issue. Beyond a crib mirror or the one affixed to the backseat of my car so that I could see him when he was buckled into his infant seat as a baby, my son owns zero mirrors. He barely combs his hair or wipes the toothpaste from around his mouth in the morning before jetting off to school, happy as a clam. Somehow toy mirrors for girls are synonymous with toy guns for boys.
Because I know that vanity starts so early for girls and that women’s looks are a constant factor in so many areas of life as an adult, a career person or someone in the spotlight, I want to ensure my daughter understands where self-worth comes from at an early age. While I love putting pink sponge rollers in her hair at night and I practically have to hold myself back from buying every adorable dress I see in her size, I am making a pact to myself to refocus my attention on not just how cute she is (I’ll continue to tell her that, too), but also how smart, brave, silly, independent and funny she is. Those are the qualities that make her amazing to me at this stage in her life and those are the qualities that make her beautiful on the inside, where it really counts.
My daughter is going to grow up loving pink princess dresses, pretty hair bows and glitter lipstick all the world over. I’m sure there will come a day when she wants to shave or wax far before I’m ready. And that’s OK. But I want her to feel just as good about herself when she finishes a book all by herself, kicks a goal in soccer, makes a bummed-out friend feel better or helps out at dinnertime as when she looks in the mirror.
There are so many things we can encourage our kids to be proud of. I won’t let beauty be the only thing my daughter (or my son, for that matter) relies on when it comes to self-esteem.
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