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Are We Setting Up Our Little Girls For A Lifetime of Beauty Obsession?

“Mommy, I want makeup for my birthday,” my 3-year-old daughter tells me. This was after she spent the morning at an older friend’s house who owns a box full of play makeup.

Crap.  I really didn’t want to have to address this subject at such a young age.

“Really, honey? Why do you want makeup?”

“So, I can be beautiful.  I want to put on makeup before I go out so I can be beautiful.”

What the?!?

When did she go from 3 to 13?

I used to be one of those girls in high school and college who wouldn’t leave the house without makeup.  Now, I rarely wear it.  Between concern about the ingredients in beauty products, working from home, and raising two kids three and under, I just choose not to wear makeup much anymore.

So it’s not like she sees me spending hours in front of the mirror putting on makeup every morning.  I am so not ready for dealing with this issue.  My daughter is just too young!

But, I recently read an article on Huffington Post which states this is not that unusual of a topic for a 3-year-old girl.  The article quotes an ABC News Report that claims almost half of three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. Where does a three-year-old get the idea that they are fat?

According to the article, it all has to do with how we talk to our girls.  When the first things that we say to our daughters, or other girls around us, is how cute, pretty, nice, etc., they look, we are setting them up for having issues related to their appearance and body from a very young age.

From the article:

“Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23.”

This is not what I want for my daughter.  But, what makes me so sad, and frustrated with myself, is that I am realizing all the ways in which I have already done this with her.

For example, I’ll be getting the kids dressed in the morning, and when my daughter has on a cute shirt, skirt, or dress, I’ll say, “Go show daddy how cute you look.” And off she’ll scamper. Like that’s the only thing he cares about or something.  Ugh. As I sit here and write this post, I am feeling sick to my stomach thinking about all of the times where I have said very similar things.

And I should know better.  I know that girls get this message blared at them from every direction.  It shouldn’t also be something that they hear and learn at home… from their mom… sigh.

I’ve always wanted to teach my daughter that her inner characteristics and beauty are so, so much more important than her outward looks.  And I do try to be intentional about complimenting her on, and talking to her about, all the wonderful, beautiful aspects of her personality.  But, why do I still say stuff about her appearance so much?

I think it’s just that I am so much a part of this culture that values the way a female looks more than anything else.  I mean, isn’t that almost always the first thing that women say to each other? “You look nice today,” or “Oh, thanks, I love your shoes!”  It’s like it’s mandatory, or something. It’s just ingrained in my head, and then it comes out in my words and actions toward my own daughter.

I realize that I will have to work really hard, and be really intentional, from now on about the compliments that I share with my daughter, how I talk to her, and what I emphasize, or critique.  I do not want her to ever think that the way she looks is the most important thing to me.

The author of the article encourages talking to girls about things that have to do with their mind – their favorite book, what they’re learning, their likes and dislikes.  She encourages modeling intelligent conversations with girls, and avoiding talking to them about things that have to do with appearance.

It sounds too easy, but for some reason, I’m not sure it will be.

But I am committed to teaching my daughter, as best as I can, that her worth and beauty come from what’s on the inside, not the outside.  And setting her up for a life that is defined by what she learns and knows and does, and not how she looks or what she wears.

Have you thought about the things that you say, to your daughter or other girls around you, that focus on their appearance?  How can we raise young girls who don’t worry about being fat at age three, and instead value inner beauty more than their outward appearance?

Raising the Anti-Perfectionist: Kids learn by making mistakes!

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