“What would you like to wear today?” I asked my four-year-old daughter as I opened her closet doors. Bouncing over, she announced: “Something pink!”
A few minutes later, I heard her rummaging through her underwear drawer.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“I need pink panties!” she exclaimed. “Mom, I can’t find them!”
Sighing, I walked over to look. I had returned from vacation only to find my typically rough-and-tumble daughter had entered a new phase.
I blame it on the Pinkalicious books. Or maybe Fancy Nancy. But this morning as I tied the bow on the navy-and-pink dress she had chosen to wear and she told me that she wanted it tied because she “wanted to be pretty,” I decided: That’s enough.
“Honey,” I sighed. “You don’t need a dress to be pretty. You’re beautiful, inside and out.”
Honestly, where does this come from? Even though my daughters are the tender ages of four and two, I’m careful to guard my words. I don’t talk about the few extra pounds I’d like to lose, how my nose looks weirdly long and witch-like to me, or how I think my voice sounds too quiet and nasally. Our culture is tough on girls, so as a mom, I go out of my way to intentionally pour on non-physical words of affirmation: You are kind. You are smart. You are compassionate and generous. You are brave. You are a good friend. You are a good listener. You are strong.
But this morning, I wonder if it’s a little disingenuous to build up my daughters while ignoring the vulnerability of how I feel about myself. When I think of myself, do I think about how I am generous and smart? Or do I think about how I could be better, do better, if only I looked better? At a work conference in Mexico last week, I wish I could say that I spent my vacation thinking about how my amazing brilliance is only outmatched by my generosity toward others (maybe if I say it often enough, I will believe it!). Instead, too often last week I spent my vacation thinking about how I needed to suck in my stomach while at the pool and whether or not the length of my sundress made my legs look chubby. Comparison truly is the thief of joy.
If I’m going to foster confidence and self-worth in my daughters based on who they are instead of what they look like, I need to believe it of myself. That I’m worthy, loved, and truly beautiful not because of my smile or my shape, but because of who and what I reflect. That although clothes may be fun, they are a source of pleasure, not a source of worth. That the things I own don’t make me a better or worse person.
And, most of all: Our outward appearance does not define us, it can only reveal or distort the person within us.