What I Want My Children to Know About...Feeling Beautiful

November 20, 2013

I bought my daughter Elise's first Barbie the other day. I felt a little conflicted over it -- the unrealistic body shape, the picture-perfect makeup and hair, the feet permanently arched to accommodate high heels -- but in the end, succumbed.

Elise -- my beautiful, smart, kind girl
I could spend time trying to justify my choice. I could tell you that we have a house full to overflowing with projects and toys that will help my daughters gain confidence, that the culture of princesses that pervades our society is offset by other interests. I could tell you that I found the most modest doll I could find, which happened to be the "Barbie for President" doll. And I could tell you that yes, I tell my daughters that they are beautiful, but I also tell them that they are smart, and capable, and kind, and generous. 

And all of that would be true -- but I'm not sure if it matters. 

Because in the end, my daughters' sense of beauty -- and the self-worth that underpins it -- will come, primarily, from me. From my example.
And to tell you the truth, I've always felt average. Average looks, average intelligence, average talents. Average. So what do I tell my daughters about beauty?

To be honest, when I look in the mirror, I don't always see the bright smile my husband noticed on the day we first met. I don't notice how my “smiling eyes” crinkle up, the blue disappearing when I smile -- just like Mrs. Johnson told me hers did, way back in the middle school. I don't notice my graceful "piano" hands, a legacy from my grandmother. I don't think about the heritage that gave me my blue eyes and blonde hair.

Instead, I see those lingering 8…5…6…pounds on my mid-section that fluctuate, but linger, a legacy of two children, insufficient willpower to work out regularly, and a penchant for sweet treats that I blame on my Norwegian forebears. I see that I have my crazy mom hormones to thank for yet another mole – or, as I like to tell my daughters, "freckles." I see that my roots are growing out, and my eyebrows need to be plucked, and dear God, I've got another wrinkle. Sigh.

But I try to give myself grace. Because when I think of the people that I love, I don’t think about how I would love them more if they weighed a little less. I don’t think about how my love is conditional on how many wrinkles they have, if the crow's feet next to their eyes are expanding or their hairline is receding. My love doesn't alter based on what they look like, so why would I do my loved ones the disservice of imagining that the way they love me is based on the shallowest of measures? 

Those wrinkles next to my eyes? Speak to a life of laughter.
Those few extra pounds? A small price to pay for my children.
That mole – er, freckle? Whatever. Just, whatever.

What I want my children to know about feeling beautiful is that true beauty comes from the confidence of knowing you are loved and accepted. I can say, truthfully and unselfconsciously, that I am well-loved. And so are you.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." Ecclesiastes 3:11a



  1. This is so true and I need to remind myself of this everyday! Some of the most "beautiful" women in my life are attractive simply because of who they are, not what they look like at all.

    1. Thank you, Anne! I'm reminded of that whenever I think of loved ones I've lost, too -- I can't always remember the fine details of their physical appearance, but I'll never forget the way they laughed, and hugged, and the things they said.

  2. I LOVE this post! I see that it's an oldie but a goodie, but I'm so glad I stumbled upon it. This is a much needed message and I would love to feature this (with proper notation and a link back to you) in my newsletter this week. If you would not like that, please let me know! Many blessings to you sweet ladies!

    1. Sarah Ann, We would love to be featured in your newsletter! Thanks and blessings to you too!