Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Looks

I have never been happy with the way that I look. I can look back at pictures of myself and realize that I was good looking at times in the past, but at that time, I felt unattractive. I've always felt fat. I am totally fat now, but in high school, I was healthy and muscled, and I felt fat. I wasn't.

I've never felt beautiful. Even on my wedding day, I didn't feel beautiful. I still don't see a beautiful bride when I look at my wedding pictures (which is why most of my purchased wedding pictures do not include full pictures of my face, only turning my head).

As I was growing up, I was told I was not beautiful. I could not be beautiful. I could only ever be cute. In fact, the Mad Scientist is the only person to ever call me beautiful. And I know he believes it. And in moments, I've gotten close to believing him, then the little voice returns chanting that I can never be beautiful.

I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and beauty is only skin deep. I know that what is on the outside doesn't matter. But it never felt good to not be a beauty. It hurt to know nobody thought I was beautiful growing up (I didn't meet the Mad Scientist until I was in my late 20s).

So when my children were born and I saw how beautiful they were, I couldn't help but let them know it. I must tell TRex and DQ how beautiful they are to me at least once a day, if not more. I want them to know they are beautiful to me and that nothing can take that away.

But then, I read an article earlier this week about continuing disparities in the legal profession between men and women. Despite women representing more than 50% of law school graduates for a long time now, the percentage of women in management positions in firms is still minimal. The article went on to discuss how women are still mostly judged by looks, rather than skills.

I've read dozens of similar articles about professional women, about raising girls, or about how society starts when girls are young to define the girls' self-worth through looks, which is bad.

So, I started to think I was bad for telling my children I think they are beautiful. I cursed myself for ohhing and ahhing when DQ dresses up and I tell her she is pretty. I was angry for singling out TRex to let him know is handsome when he gets dressed. I wanted to thwart my subconscious for trying to keep my children from feeling the pain I had and constantly telling them how beautiful I think they are.

And then I realized that I don't only comment on my childrens' looks. I'm not raising children that will only be good enough if they are beauty queens or fashion models. I don't only give my children praise for dressing well or being pretty. I tell them I love them and hug them when they ride a bike, make a new picture, form a new sign in ASL, or sing a new song. I praise them for their accomplishments both physical, intellectual, and creative. (And I am not trying to raise entitled children, so I also scold them when they are naughty, make them work, and they are never allowed to say they can't and must use "I'll try".)

At the end of the day, society is going to make its own judgments about my kids. It is my job to help provide them the tools to succeed and thrive in this world no matter what is thrown at them. One of those tools is being comfortable in their own skin. Knowing that their mother thinks they are beautiful won't help them in 8th grade when they are picked on, but I hope it will provide them with protection so that they don't believe the mean things that will be said.

What do you think?


  1. So this post touched me in so many ways. I have always (or more often than not) been heavy...that part touched me to the core. I have my grandfather's nose (no, it is not the greatest gift he could give me) and it has always made me self-conscious. I was the 'smart' one in our family...which I now realize is a really good thing. Back when I was in school, it was not the best thing.

    I probably over-compensate (ok...not probably) with my kids. I tell them they are the cutest, smartest, best little kids in the world. I do it a LOT!!! I honestly believe it too...to me they are the greatest kids ever. I hope it gives them the self-esteem that I so missed growing up.

    Again...another post to touch my heart. THANK YOU for sharing your experience and getting me to feel things that have been buried for years.

  2. Your post made me sad for you for being told that you could never be beautiful. What an awful thing to say to a young girl. However, it also made me reflect on my own poor self-esteem. I, too, always felt fat, and I look back at pictures of myself from H.S. and realize that I wasn't. As an adult, my weight has yo-yoed, but I still have a hard time thinking that I'm good looking even when I'm at my lightest (truly healthy) weight. I don't know if my parents helped mold my poor self-esteem; I know they didn't call me ugly or anything, but I don't necessarily recall them saying that I was beautiful.

    With my own sons, I don't purposefully tell them that they're cute or handsome to boost their self-esteem. I know I say it quite often though, along with "smart," "silly," other positive attributes. As long as you don't focus on just a single attribute, I think you're on your way to raising well-adjusted kids. I do think, though, that some self-esteem is hard-wired into humans. I've got two little boys, and one thinks very highly of himself and the other has very hard time believing anything good about himself. I know that my husband and I treat them pretty much the same, especially with the compliments. In other words, some of it is nurture, but I think a big part is nature.

  3. It's such a hard balance. I've also read studies that say when you praise kids, you should say "Oh well done, you must have worked hard," instead of "You're so smart" because the latter makes them think their success is not something they control. Great in theory, yes?

    But when your munchkins are brilliant and beautiful, how can you not tell them? And even if they weren't (which is hard to think, but I will love my kid even if she isn't smart. I decided that years ago after watching some of my students' parents. ::shudder::), shouldn't we make them feel that way?

    I think the way you show them your values is by your actions, not just by your words. And when you recognize the good in them and in others not just because of their looks, then they see what really matters to you.

    Sorry I just blogged in your comments, lol.

  4. I just have one comment to make, and that is I think you looked beautiful on your wedding day, and I am pretty sure I can think of other times I have thought that as well. I think you are the bees knees!!!


Having a child with a CHD is like being given an extra sense---the true ability to appreciate life. Each breath, each hug, each meal is a blessing when you've watched your child live off a ventilator, trapped in an ICU bed, being fed through a tube. Each minute is a miracle when you've watched your child almost die and come back to you.
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