I remember a time when my mom would look at my sister and I, all dressed up and ready to leave the house for whatever big event, and say, “Well aren’t you going to wear lipstick?” Now to be fair, we were old enough to wear lipstick, but of the many things she was able to pass down, Mom’s affinity for remembering lipstick wasn’t one of them.
There is all this research out there that suggests complimenting a little girl on her looks will have a detrimental effect on her overall perspective on what is important. Instead, we are supposed to connect with girls on their intelligence by asking them what their favorite books are and by encouraging them when they respond with a list of titles. “I read that as a girl,” or “Those sound like great books” are just two suggested responses.
I grew up with all the compliments in the world. I couldn’t go into a grocery store with my mom without at least ten people complimenting me on the color of my hair. Every time I was out and about, there would be a dozen of my siblings’ friends announcing how cute I was. At the beauty salon, on lookers would mention how they’d “die for that color red”… So why in the heck did I grow up hating my red hair?
And I had the brains, too… While the nuns weren’t exactly forthcoming with compliments on anyone’s intelligence, I earned good grades, participated in summer reading programs, and was an avid reader (though I stunk at reading comprehension which I still blame on the fact that I read too fast). I was in higher level reading and math classes through high school which in itself was a compliment to my academic progress, but I still felt inadequate. I earned awards for being selected into various honor societies, but still I felt like I didn’t measure up to my peers.
I didn’t grow up in a home that cultivated creativity, but Instead found my creative outlet in art, music, dance and drama classes outside of school and home. I loved these activities, but never stole the stage in any performance.
While I wasn’t overly athletic, I spent my time in grade school on the cheerleading squad and basketball and volleyball teams. I played soccer and swam as well. I enjoyed all of these sports, but never really excelled enough to be a star.
In all this, I wish I had the vision of myself God has of me– that I am beautiful no matter what I look like, no matter what stage I was on, no matter what sport bench I found myself watching my own team play from… God loves me despite my inadequacies, mistakes, and failures. God made me perfect in his eyes. If there is one thing I will try to instill in my kids, it is God’s perspective on beauty– and that my sister and I look beautiful with or without lipstick.
Now, how do I teach my girls to embrace God’s perspective of them as they navigate this often competitive, unfair world?