DO YOU/ WILL YOU TELL YOUR DAUGHTER SHE IS PRETTY?
BY MARCIA LEONE
I was asked this question by Marie Claire for their March issue celebrating International Women’s Day. I answered yes. Here’s why:
Whether we like it or not, we live in a looks-obsessed culture. Our physicality shouldn’t define us, but the answer isn’t to refrain from telling our daughters they are pretty. It’s changing the context of what pretty means.
Pretty doesn’t have to mean perfect. You don’t have to be pretty like this girl or that girl, you can be pretty like you. That is what I’ll be telling my daughter.
I will tell her that she’s pretty. I will also tell her she is pretty smart, pretty strong, pretty brave. I will teach her to love herself, from the inside out, just as she is.
I won’t tell her she is “prettier” or the “prettiest”, rather that it’s our differences that should be celebrated — that we are all pretty in our own way.
As mothers, if we don’t tell our daughters they are pretty, perhaps they will try and seek this validation from others. Perhaps they might think they are not enough and look to ways to change themselves. I want my daughter to know she is enough. Without make-up, without fillers, without surgery, without trying to look like someone else. That her mother sees her beauty, inside and out.
Of course, I will also place emphasis on other qualities, so she knows it’s not what we look like, but how we feel that is important. I want her to feel confident in how she looks — to feel “pretty” in her own skin
We are living in the Kardashian era, and as a mother, that feels scary at times. There is an obsession with women who have morphed themselves into an unrealistic (and unrecognisable) version of pretty, and it’s far from healthy. But the obsession with pretty is not new. When I was growing up it was the girls in magazines — the 90’s super models, the Dolly cover girls — and the same type of debate was happening then. It’s just that the photo-shopped billboards and magazine covers are now accessible to everyone, as a constant feed streaming through social media 24/7.
It is so important to teach our children self-love, both girls and boys. To be confident in who they are. Our children are sponges, they hear the way we talk to others and ourselves. They see me prioritise self care — doing things that make me feel good — mentally and physically. I like to feel pretty. I also like to feel smart, successful, healthy, loved. I am not all of these things at the one time.
I would be a hypocrite to tell my daughter it is wrong to feel pretty while she is watching me get my hair done, apply make up and select clothes that make me feel good. To me, feeling pretty is being confident in your own skin and I want her to feel that, too.
The answer isn’t avoiding the word “pretty”, just tweaking the meaning. Let’s tell our daughters that they are pretty perfect, just as they are.