As the mother of three daughters, I am continually plagued with apprehension about their well-being. Are they happy? Are they being treated properly? Am I raising them to be assertive, yet kind? Are they confident? Of all these concerns, I am most preoccupied with their self-confidence. A person who possesses confidence usually has everything else fall in to place for them. They are happy because they are self-assured. They are treated properly because they think too much of themselves to let anyone treat them otherwise. But how is it possible for young girls to be confident when they are besieged with images of size zero celebrities and models who have perfect hair, skin, clothes, and everything else? We all know these images are not real of course. Thanks to super high-tech computer programs, these women can be airbrushed into a creepy-perfect, unattainable image that only leaves the rest of us wondering: What’s wrong with me?
I write this article, not because I am an expert on how to raise daughters, but because I was raised by an expert- my mother. I am one of seven girls, all fairly close in age, who survived growing up in a very small house with only three tiny bedrooms, and two very tiny bathrooms. Since one of the bathrooms belonged to Mom and Dad, the other was shared by me and six sisters. This arrangement did not exactly foster any opportunities to primp. “Get in and get out” was the motto for just about everything that took place in our daily routines. We didn’t have lavish wardrobes, and we used our make-up until we were scooping up every last bit of blue eye-shadow with cheap applicators just so it would last one more day. The amazing part of this story is that out of the wacky chaos we embraced from day to day, came seven very feminine, yet strong, confident, and happy women who started off as goofy, messy-haired, freckle-faced little girls who flounced about with holes in their jeans and dirt on their faces.
We were not neglected. In fact, we were far from it. We just had very wise parents who decided to let us find confidence in who we were rather than how we looked. My mother encouraged our creativity, even when it came time to fix our hair or choose an outfit. She wanted us to feel good because of something we did rather than because she spent hours making us look perfect. “It’s more important to be beautiful on the inside,” was a phrase very familiar in our home. My mother taught us that when we are attractive in our words, thoughts, and actions, we radiate beauty to our physical appearance as well.
My mother instilled in us these simple truths when it comes to beauty:
1. Don’t obsess over your physical appearance so much that you neglect who you are as a person.
2. Don’t focus on being a certain size. Focus on eating healthy and having fun outdoors.
3. Be lady-like in your words and actions.
4. You don’t have to show more skin to be more attractive.
5. Focus less on yourself and more on what you can do to help others.
As I struggle with what to do for my own daughters in this much different day and age, I always go back to those five principles. Example is the most powerful form of teaching. And while I may not be the role-model of their choice, I will definitely be the role-model with the most lasting influence.
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