The Effects of Society on Children’s Reflection on Themselves
At merely four years old, my daughter worries about what makes her look pretty.
One day, while sitting at breakfast, my daughter started to cry.
When asked what was wrong, she told me that she didn’t feel pretty if her hair wasn’t done like a princess.
Utterly speechless, I froze in the kitchen in panic in the face of a conversation I didn’t think I’d have for at least four more years. A conversation I knew was bound to come with raising a daughter. And now here I was searching for the words I’d wished someone had given me.
I’d asked her why she felt this way and her response was, ‘because I’m not pretty unless I do my hair and dress up.’
Facing her in my plaid pajama pants, tank top, and messy mom-bun, I told her that she didn’t need to do all of those things to be pretty or beautiful. I continued to tell her that I know sometimes we don’t feel like our best selves but that no matter what we wear or how our hair looked, we were always pretty.
She looked at me, thinking about my answer, and nodded slowly, but didn’t respond.
This was when it dawned on me.
So many things depict girls and women in a certain light.
Yes, we have moved away from dress sizes and focused on how every shape is beautiful, but we still have room for growth. We still have room to teach ourselves and our children that we don’t need a pound of makeup and fancy clothes to be amazing.
Now I don’t claim to be the perfect parent as my child watches Disney movies and children’s television, but at the moment, it made me think.
Every Disney princess she idolizes always looks perfect. Always appears to be naturally ready for any occasion despite the terrible occurrences that come their way. And as for television, someone that is in pajamas is shooting a cold medicine commercial compared to a clothing line with fabulous-looking models.
And as a role model, I myself throw my hair up in a ponytail all the time for convenience accompanied by shorts, yoga pants, or jeans.
As this all rolled around in my mind, my heart slowly broke at how fast this process had begun for my daughter.
Walking over to sit beside her, I gave her the only words I could think of.
I told her, “You want to know a secret?”
She nodded tears in her eyes.
“Every girl has a day when they feel this way. When they don’t feel like their best selves. Even I have those days. But do you want to know something?”
She nodded again.
“You are perfect just the way you are. Messy hair, perfect hairdo, your best dress, or your pajamas. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, but the best kind of beauty that people really notice is being a kind and good person.”
“But you always make me brush my hair,” she said.
“Because that’s something to keep your hair healthy. I’m talking about being a beautiful person.”
She asked, “What do you mean?”
“Not everybody realizes it, but your personality and who you are is beautiful too. And if you are nice to others and you are kind, that is what people truly love to see in a person.”
She smiled a little, “I’m a nice person and I like to give people compliments.”
“See! So today is just an off day. You look beautiful every day, inside and out.”
She laughed, “Mommy, you mean my personality and how I look. Inside of me is bones and yucky stuff.”
This conversation taught me something valuable.
It taught me that it’s never too early to start talking about how important it is to have a beautiful personality, especially for children.
Giving her these examples and making a point to talk about it when she shows these qualities towards others makes all the difference. And my hope is that she will grow up to know that looks aren’t everything. That you don’t have to be perfect all the time.
Take the time to talk about these important issues with your kids, because it makes a difference.