Beauty is a tricky thing. We all seek it out. We go to art museums, attend concerts, decorate our homes and share photos of moments of beautiful days. But when it comes to our daughters, “beautiful” has become almost a bad word.
Well-intentioned and thoughtful blog posts like this and this have been floating around a lot lately– admonitions against mentioning our daughters’ appearances, and instead talking primarily about their intelligence, creativity, sense of humor, and other purely intellectual traits.
But I won’t stop telling my daughters they’re beautiful.
When I tell my daughters they’re beautiful, I’m not saying they’re merely pretty. When someone is beautiful, who they are is part of how they look. A beautiful woman’s kindness, creativity, energy, and humor shine through her appearance and the way she carries herself. And if a pretty woman is vain, selfish, unkind or ungenerous, that mars her beauty.
But I am also telling them that their bodies and the way they express their looks is beautiful, too. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well,” the Psalmist says. Our bodies are a masterpiece made by a perfect Creator, and he doesn’t make mistakes.
I love the way Lucy and Catalina’s brown eyes twinkle when they laugh, and how soft their cherubic cheeks are. I love their infectious smiles and pert little noses and dimply hands. If that isn’t a pure and sweet kind of beauty, I don’t know what is. Our bodies aren’t just utilitarian; they’re marvelous, and I want my girls to know it.
I agree we need to raise well-rounded, curious, thinking daughters, who know their worth is not in their looks. But I see some potential harm is this approach. The way to avoid body-image issues and objectification is not to not talk about our bodies at all. That will almost certainly backfire.
If they don’t hear about their bodies and the true meaning of beauty at home, they will learn it from the media, their classmates, from Disney princesses. If a girl never hears at home that she’s beautiful, she won’t grow up not caring about her body. She’ll just wonder whether she is pretty, and seek affirmation elsewhere.
We need to teach our girls which ideas of beauty they will encounter all their lives are good and true, and which are false and harmful. You can’t avoid teaching your daughter about beauty.
Let’s talk to our girls more about beauty. Let’s teach them what it is and what it isn’t. By teaching them to be kind, creative, and genuine and to express their unique traits and talents, we can teach them to be beautiful from the inside out. And by teaching them healthy body image, we can help them focus on the inner qualities that lead to lasting beauty.