Alright, this one is for all the females, and inspired by my wise teacher, Brianna, my 2 year old daughter.
Brianna went through a phase a few months ago where she said everything was beautiful. But because she’s only two, it came out as “das bootiful”. Her cuteness level is an 11/10. She is so adorable. Shortly after the “das bootiful” phase, she started telling me that I was beautiful. She would cup my face in both hands and say “Mommy you’re beautiful”, or run her hands through my hair and say “Oh mommy, you are so beautiful”. If you are picturing the sweetest mother-daughter moment ever, well you’d be completely correct. This sweet girl is the most beautiful little person you can imagine, both inside and out.
And so in these moments, I would say what any mother would say which is “Thank you baby. YOU are so beautiful.”
But can you guess what her response was? No, maybe you should not…. Because it will surely break your heart in half.
My sweet, perfect, gorgeous, amazing, wise, wonderful, funny two year old daughter would respond with “no, I am not.”
Ugh. It’s heartbreaking. You are not? What do you mean, you are not!? You are literally the definition of beautiful. With your perfect skin and your sweet innocent eyes. You are beyond beautiful, my darling Brianna.
“I am not.”
I witnessed this pattern for about two weeks until my husband and I finally talked about it. And he simply said “well, yeah, she gets that from you.”
And there it was, my little mirror. The one I can not ignore. I DO THAT? Yes, I do. Gary tells me I look beautiful and I respond with “Ugh I feel like I look like crap”. Someone compliments me, and I say “Really? I don’t feel beautiful today.”
“I am not.”
I say this. I tell myself daily that I am not beautiful. I look in the mirror, and I focus on the flaws. And ultimately, I know I am beautiful. I know I am good and kind and fit and happy but…. I still say it out loud: “I am not”.
And then, I started noticing this pattern everywhere. Literally every female that I would compliment would do this. Deflect. Reject. Deny. I am not. I am not. I am not.
So I made it my mission to retell my story; to retell my teaching from my wise and wonderful daughter. I would retell my story to every single woman who deflected a compliment. Can you guess how many times I retold that story? About one hundred times this summer.
I’ve witnessed that this is our culture as women! We all do this! And of course, many of us (like me) are unaware of the pattern, and unaware of the effect on our children. But it starts young. And it needs to change. Often we blame the media for teaching us that we are not worthy. We blame instagram models for displaying an unrealistic standard of beauty, and making us all feel inferior. And of course the media and advertising plays a role in our beauty standards… but Brianna isn’t learning about beauty through instagram. She’s two. She is learning how to be female through my example. It is my responsibility to teach her about confidence, and how to receive a compliment. It is our responsibility as women, to teach our younger generations that beauty is on the inside, but also that we are all beautiful and worthy and unique on the outside too.
Say it with me: “I am beautiful. I am worthy. I am loveable.”
Louder please, for the people in the back.
I AM F*CKING BEAUTIFUL!
Your fellow student of life,
Photos by Maegan Matthews with Wild Hearts Creative.