Friday, April 15, 2011

To be beautiful

She watches me as I straighten my hair with the straightening iron.  The she asks, "What is that?  What does it do?"  I tell her that it helps my hair look nice.  Then she asks, "Can you straighten my hair too?"  "No," I reply, "you're hair is beautiful, you don't need it".  "But I want it...just straight my hair please..."  To appease her curiosity I run the hot iron through two chunks of hair.  She beams and asks how her hair looks.  I tell her, "It's beautiful, it was beautiful without the straightener".  She insists it looks better now.  She watches as I continue my morning routine routine for going outside of the house.  Hair, makeup, brushing teeth.  I grab my eyelash curler and squeeze my eyelashes in hopes that it will make me look a little more presentable.  She asks what I'm using and I explain "It's an eyelash helps mommy look helps me look more awake".  I wanted to say, "It helps me look more beautiful" but I immediately stopped myself.  While that is how I feel, I don't want my 3 1/2 year old to equate beauty with an eyelash curler. 

I consider myself pretty low maintenance.  I don't shower everyday.  For makeup my minimum is concealer and powder, my maximum is eyeshadow and mascara.  Maybe, just maybe, a little lipstick on date night.  Some days I'll do my hair, most days I won't.  Even though I don't feel the need to be all dolled up everyday, I still feel the pressure to look a certain way.  We all know what that way is...flawless skin, tiny waist, tight abs, sparkling white teeth, long & lean legs, etc.  In short, everything I'm not.  My Guatemalan genes decided long ago how tall (or not tall) I would be.  They decided I would never look like a runway model.  I know that.  So why am I frustrated when I look in the mirror?

The pressure to look a certain way is strong in our society.  I don't own a television, yet I feel it.  I see the airbrushed perfection on magazine covers while I'm grocery shopping and cringe at my meager appearance in comparison.  I know that the cover is airbrushed.  That doesn't help.  I can rationalize all I want....I am still unsatisfied with my appearance more often than I am content.

I'm trying to figure out that balance.  Where I'm not so focused on my appearance that it's distracting, but I still care enough to look nice.  How much is too much?   How little is too little?   How will the way I approach physical beauty and appearance effect the way my daughters feel about themselves?

I want to save them from the obsessive focus on your body's flaws with which I was plagued in middle/high school.  I know that this means I must be extremely mindful of how I look at myself in the mirror when they are present, and even when they are not.  They must see in me that beauty does not come in a mineral foundation or a new dress.  While those things can help boost your confidence, they must place their worth in something more permanent, more eternal.  

That is a tall order to fill, and I'm not sure that I'm up for the job.  I  am worried that my example will not be strong enough to outweigh the assaults the media will lob at my daughters.  I know that a campaign like Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is taking steps in the right direction.  But, they are still trying to sell you something.  I don't want my girls to buy into the thought that they must purchase items in order to be beautiful. 

Ultimately, we all know that outer beauty fades.  I want my girls to be beautiful, I want to be beautiful, when physical appearance wastes away.  My friend posted this video on her blog awhile back.  It conveys what I want to teach my girls, what I want to feel myself.  Watch it. 

p.s. there is one f-word in this have been forewarned.


  1. How crazy! Just two weeks ago I was looking for empowering slam poetry to share with my English classes. I LOVE this poem and wanted to share it with them soooo badly...darn F words. Very powerful message though! And performed well too!

  2. i really appeciated this post. i've seen the video before and loved it! thanks for sharing this miriam.

  3. fantastic post. i know...such a balance. i'm sure you look at your self-image in a new light once you have little girls watching you...i'm all about making myself look my best (health, exercise, natural makeup) but i probably do spend too much time and energy on my appearance...definitely too much $$. :-) it's fun to be a girl, but not to be a slave to beauty.