On Being Pretty

I must confess. I am pretty vain. If I walk past a mirror or a window, I steal a sideways glance to see how I’m looking. How’s my hair? My clothes? Are they sitting right? Is my tummy jutting out?

I hate going to the shopping centre in my scrubby house clothes, hair unkempt, as that is always when I will run into someone I haven’t seen in years. And yes, I care what they think.

So when I read blogs, tweets, articles or FB statuses about how we shouldn’t care what we look like, that we should be comfortable in our own skin, that we should wear what we want without anyone caring, I admit, I roll my eyes a bit.

What is wrong with wanting to look well presented? What is wrong with wanting to look nice? In my experience, the more I “put myself together” the more confidence I have. The more I think I look good the better I feel.

When I read things or see things on TV about how we shouldn’t tell our kids they are pretty/gorgeous/handsome because it makes them think that is the most important thing in the world, I just don’t get it. I understand what they’re saying, but I don’t agree. I tell my son all the time that he is handsome. I also tell him that he is clever, smart, cute, funny, caring, kind and that he can be anything he wants when he grows up. I don’t feel the need to always follow up “You’re so handsome” with “and smart and kind and caring!” All of this combined, hopefully, contributes to his confidence and self esteem.

I also think what we show our kids is just as important as what we tell them. I grew up with a mother who was always whinging about her weight and always on a diet. I love that my son sees his parents exercise regularly. I love that when I feel and look good, I am confident, and he sees that. I love that at 5 years old, he already talks about what is healthy and what is not. I love that when he works something out he says, “I am clever, am I, mum?” And I say, “The cleverest!”

I don’t think we need to dress down to make a statement. I don’t think we need to de-sex ourselves to make a stand. I think we can be intelligent, kick-ass successful women and be “pretty” at the same time. I think suggesting otherwise just fuels the notion that attractive women are dumb.

What do you tell – and SHOW – your kids?

Linking up with Kirsty at My Home Truths for I Must Confess

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21 thoughts on “On Being Pretty

    • I’m not even sure what I think about this. Sometimes I feel very strongly this way, other times I can see the other side of the coin. I’d have never made the debate team, arguing both sides! 🙂

  1. I watched my sister battle anorexia growing up and now have three teen girls of my own and realise the importance of having a good self esteem. There is nothing wrong with boosting your child’s self esteem and starting them off on the right positive foot. But what about a little realism thrown in as well? What about all those people that turn up for Australian Idol auditions thinking they are the bees knees because their family have encouraged them, only to end up a laughing stock?

    I personally don’t think there is anything wrong in wanting to look your best but where does it stop and at what cost. Cosmetic procedures, extreme diets???….for some just being fit and healthy and making the most of what you’ve got isn’t enough. You seem to have a very healthy approach. Will be interested to hear what others think as well.

    • That’s a great question – where DOES it stop? Not having a daughter or any experience with eating disorders, I don’t know/understand/think about that side of things. I imagine it would be easy to go down a slippery slide when focusing on those things.In saying that, as a teenager I always hated my body because I only ever heard mum complain about her’s, and no one ever complimented me on mine, so I figured I was “fat” too. Looking back at pics I think “oh my god, I’d love that body back!” I think it’s a really grey area and I appreciate your input and thoughts. x

  2. I hate that all of the ‘real body’ campaigns are of women without makeup but they are still saying ‘see look at me, I’m real’. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to look your best if that is what YOU want to do. If you are happy to go shopping in yoga pants, a ripped shirt that belongs to hubby and hair that is so greasy it gives KFC a run for its money then that is ok too. I call Mr 4 ‘my gorgeous boy’ but like you I also complement him on the clever things he does as well. I too grew up with a mother who was always on a diet and as a result I have a lot of issues around food and eating. I don’t want that for Dyllan so I have banned diet talk in my house. It’s fine to want to be more healthy, but talk about how much I hate my body doesn’t help anyone.

    • I think for kids to have self esteem they need to be praised in every aspect, including looks, or they’ll feel like their parents never thought they were beautiful because they never said it. I have no problem with other people wearing sweats and having greasy hair, if that’s who they are, but if it’s trying to make a statement then I don’t get it.

  3. I agree with Mystery Case. Its a question of degrees. I dont see anything wrong with diet, exercise, hair, make up and generally good presentation. However it becomes unhealthy when a person aspires to impossible standards and goes down the route of invasive and risky cosmetic procedures.

    • It does, and it makes me wonder how people got to that point in the first place. Were they never told they were beautiful? Or were they always told they were beautiful and now they think their beauty is fading? is it a combination of both? Wonder if I can get a govt grant to do a study!?

  4. I must admit I do tell my boys they’re handsome all the time. I also tell them they’re smart and awesome. I don’t fixate on my own looks at all and rarely bother with make-up and the like at home. If we’re going out somewhere I do make a bit of effort, but I’m more relaxed now than I was in my 20’s when I’d spend HOURS getting ready, yet at the same time I was still deeply insecure about my appearance. So, yes I think presenting yourself the best way YOU can is fine, but not obsessing over it or trying to achieve impossible standards.

  5. I do tell my girls that they’re beautiful, but I try not to use that as a form of praise. Having five impressionable girls terrifies me tho, I’m constantly second-guessing myself about the messages I’m sending by my own behaviours.

    • 5 impressionable girls would give me grey hair! 😉 When I found out I was having a boy I was actually a bit relieved because I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about what he saw me saying about my weight and body etc. I think I was wrong, because he still pays attention to my training and exercising and I’m glad that’s what he sees.

  6. This is a really thoughtful post Aroha. I’m ultra conscious of trying to be a positive role model for my kids when it comes to their self-esteem. I was overweight as a child and have had lifelong body issues as a result. My eldest daughter is the same but I’m determined that she will grow up with a more healthy sense of self. It can be a delicate balance and we haven’t even got to the teen years yet…

    • I am sure you will get the balance right Kirsty. You’re a smart woman – and a beautiful one! – and I think you’re a great role model for her. I think Maybe getting out on weekends and exercising together as a family if you can could help?

  7. Such a thought provoking post Aroha. I do tend to agree with a lot of what you said and think that there needs to be a balance. I think kids need to develop a sense of resilience, I think they need to fail but to know that that’s not the end of the world. They need to not always expect something in return for doing something. Self esteem is something that, in my work, I see missing in so many kids, girls especially. I constantly have girls coming through my office saying they are fat and ugly and no one likes them and it’s just heartbreaking…

    • I thought the same of myself in high school. I think, because I was never told any different! It is sad to see, because I think sometimes it’s those girls who seek out that feeling of acceptance in other, sometimes self-destructive type ways.

  8. No comments other than agree, agree, agree… My mother always told me that I was beautiful, She also told me to always present myself in the best way I could. She also said that I’m intelligent and could do all I wanted in life. I think we have to teach our children that they can be both pretty/handsome and clever. Why do we have to choose one or the other? I read what the others said about this and I also think it’s a question of balance.

  9. I thought I left a comment but it looks like it’s disappeared! Although I’m comfortable in my own skin, I still enjoy making the most of it. And I love that although hubster thinks I’m beautiful just the way I am, I can still make his eyes bug out if I go to a little bit of extra effort!

  10. I think keep the compliments coming as far as building kids self-esteem but always bring it back to balance – sometimes I take the easy (rushed, lazy) way and make minimal effort with my appearance and I’m comfortable, if not exactly thrilled, with how I look, other times I make an effort and feel good about myself, especially when Little Yang says ‘You a bit pretty Mum’! I think we do need to be very conscious that overwhelming societal pressure is to look good so erring on the side of a ‘casual’ approach to appearance is probably wise.

  11. I totally agree – I wish I had more money (and know how) so I looked like you do, always well presented and groomed. It’s very important, and I always praise how gorg my children are. I must try and wear something more than jean shorts and a t-shirt (sending out an SOS – like you’ve really got time!!) xxx

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