Seeing the Beauty
My daughter is beautiful.
She has these gorgeous big blue eyes that are the size of sand dollars. Her hair flows like golden thread down her back. When she smiles, the sun shines a little brighter.
When I look at her I see a beautiful princess. There is not a single thing wrong with her. She is perfect.
I take a lot of pictures of her. Mostly because I find her doing adorable things at random moments throughout the day. I often share her adorable moments on Instagram and Facebook. One thing that always catches me off guard are the comments about how much she looks like me. When I look at my daughter, I do not see a little version of me. This is a person I have seen almost every day of her life. When I look at her, I see the girl who once was my baby who is quickly growing into a big girl. I see a few similarities, but I would not say she is a clone of me. I think this is pretty common among parents. I hardly ever talk to a parent who can see the similarities between their children and themselves. Most are like me, they see some traits, but not all of them.
Regardless of what I think, people still tell me that she looks exactly like me all the time. Which means that she hears that she looks like me all the time.
So no matter what I tell her she looks like, she is going to take cues on the value of her appearance based on my opinion of myself. Do you see how confusing that can be for her? I can tell her she is beautiful, but if she hears me degrading my looks, what is she supposed to think? Do I really believe that my critical words about myself will not affect her?
Most mornings, she is standing right next to me, in the bathroom, mirroring my actions as I get ready for work. There we are, the two of us, staring into the mirror getting ready together. Right now, she is four and she wants to be just like me. Sure, she sometimes puts eye shadow on her checks instead of her eyelids, but she is trying her best to be like her mom.
Now imagine, if every morning, as we are getting ready, I am voicing an external dialogue of self-criticism. Or, in an attempt to make sure she knows how beautiful she is, I make remarks about her beautiful hair and my awful hair.
As if only one of us can be beautiful.
This habit of self-criticism teaches my daughter two things. First, it teaches her to look for the negative. Find the flaws. Instead of teaching her to focus on the things about herself that make her beautiful, self-criticism teaches her to focus on what’s wrong with herself. When I tell her how beautiful she is at the expense of my beauty, I am teaching her how to compare her looks to those around her. I’m giving her the words to build sentences like “I wish my stomach was as flat as your stomach” or “Your skin is so much clearer than mine!”
This is not uncommon in girl world. She is bound to come across it, but she is not going to learn it from me. For the rest of her life she’s going to hear “You look just like your mom” when she is around my friends. She might be like me and find that hard to believe (in her teenage years I’m sure I’m the last person she’ll aspire to be like), but at some point she might begin to see the truth behind that statement. She might look into the mirror and see glimpses of me looking back at her. When she find those pieces of me, I hope she will see the beauty in the mirror. I hope she will smile when she sees my smile. I hope her eyes will sparkle when she sees my eyes.
I do not think I am perfect. You will not find me on the cover of a magazine anytime soon; okay let us be honest, ever.
But I believe the best gift I can give my daughter is the ability to look into the mirror, ignore the flaws, and see a beautiful face looking back at her.