Society’s notion on beauty is a complicated one. And as I attempt to live a life of integrity and authenticity within my roles as amother and an egalitarian, I find it too easy to be hypocritical about this issue of beauty. Since SO much of a woman’s importance is placed on how she presents herself, it’s a tricky balance to model a healthy antithesis to society’s encouragement of narcissism and ostentation.
I have had the fortune of being privy to many beauty-related conversations girlfriends of mine have had with their daughters, most of whom are under the age of 7. Usually the conversation is in the context of the mom encouraging her daughter, emphasizing that her daughter is beautiful (inside and out), and that she doesn’t need to change herself. She’s been created perfect just the way she is. Inevitably, the conversation turns when the daughter inquires about why her mom changes her appearance.
Why do you wear make-up?
Why do you dye your hair?
Needless to say, this is the junction where modelling the healthy antithesis to vanity and narcissism would come in handy. (Thankfully my daughter isn’t of age to ask me that today; otherwise, I would have to concede that I am a hypocrite and that I buy into – figuratively and literally – a billion dollar industry that tells me I’m not okay…). I’ve heard many women chime in about what they would say if their child asked, and typically, the response is something like this.
It’s fun, and I like to play with colours [of eye shadow and lipstick].
Really, ladies? Really!? The MAIN reason you wear make-up and colour your greying roots is because it’s fun? I beg to differ. My suspicion is that the MAIN reason you wear make-up or colour your hair is because you feel self-conscious. After all, we’ve been bread to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in our own skin UNLESS we do something to ‘fix’ it.
Don’t we do a disservice to our daughters (and sons) when we’re not honest about this? Don’t we do a disservice to ourselves? Our children are already being sold images and ideas about the expectations of genders, and for women, one of these expectations is to appear polished, presenting the ‘best’ physical version of yourself. Why can’t we tell them that? Why are we hesitant to be transparent with them about this reality? Perhaps if we talk openly about this, engaging in some hard conversations, (not to mention attempt to model what it’s like to truly be comfortable in our own skins), our daughters and sons will grow up with the ability to critically think about the images and ideas they’re being sold.
And in the midst of those conversations, maybe we can move beyond the media’s depiction of beauty to talking about what it means to be whole and beautiful, not simply a shell and beautiful. We can talk about the beauty in:
- Wisdom, sharing stories about our grandmothers.
- A great sense of humour, and how laughter can brighten the darkest situations.
- A genuine smile. One that reflects contentment and shines through your eyes, not simply your teeth.
- A heart that is kind, choosing to see the best in people, even when they are at their worst.
- Empathy and compassion, emphasizing that the world needs more examples of this.
- The life Christ lived. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, observing His example and how he treated people encompasses all of the above points…
And maybe, just maybe, as we start having these conversations with our daughters and sons, we will think more critically too. We will remember that wisdom, humour, authenticity, kindness, empathy, compassion… are all more important than our shell. So while we still may choose to wear make-up or colour our hair, our value won’t be found in and through that.
Our antithesis will be the whole version of beautiful and how to share that with others.
This is a great reminder to me today, Brandi! Thanks very much for this well spoken piece. I really love the exhortation at the end to tell my daughter stories about my grandmother and her wisdom. I don’t do that enough, I don’t spend enough time really *remembering* my grandmother, but I want to do it more.
Thanks, Laura. Yes, remembering is tough. Since time isn’t in our corner, reflecting can be a challenge; if we don’t have time to reflect, then we often forget to remember.