Saturday, June 2, 2012

Claiming Our Own Beauty


By Jurii (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I have been joyfully amazed that my daughter is able to claim and proclaim her own beauty.  This is a counter-cultural proclamation!

I realize how controversial this is.  We have accepted the notion that embracing our beauty is egotistical.  We might even think that embracing beauty will turn females into "mean girls."  I believe that it may be, in part, the pain of not embracing one's beauty that contributes to the "mean girl" phenomena.  It is possible that if girls actually understood and accepted their own beauty there would be less need to prey on those who others see as "less than" the ideal.

Some feminist parents would chastise the notion of focusing on beauty in the first place.  It has been a long standing ideal that we should be telling our daughters how intelligent they are rather than focusing on their beauty.  Must there be an either/or?  Why do we buy into the notion that a woman can either be intelligent or beautiful?  Are we afraid of the fully empowered female who knows she is beautiful and intelligent?  I am a feminist and I celebrate my daughter's intelligence.  I also refuse to deny her the delight of knowing that she is a beautiful creation.

How did we get to where we are today?  My daughter faced a rude awakening when she was four years old.  In the social politics of preschool she discovered that "...you are either in or you are out."  She was out.

It took a long time for her to have the courage to divulge the pain she was experiencing.  I started noticing that she was denying herself food.  I was desperately alarmed.  My daughter didn’t have any weight to lose.  Every year, I had to take her for more medical tests to make sure she did not have something terribly wrong with her because she was so thin. 

As she was dealing with her preschool class I started to wonder if she was developing an eating disorder.  Unfortunately,  I was not far from grasping the truth.  I will never forget the day when she shared with me why she was only allowed one friend in the four year old class.  There was only one other child whose parent was (as determined by her classmates) "fat" and that meant that they were only allowed to be friends with each other.  In preschool, she felt doomed.  

The impact of that rude awakening stayed with her as do many childhood wounds.  It also motivated me to be an advocate for a more whole understanding of beauty.  It is beautiful when one embodies their gifts of music, art, science, math, etc.  It is beautiful when someone stands up to a bully.  It is beautiful when someone shares their dreams.  It is beautiful when my daughter can look at a photo of herself and say, "Oh, mom!  I look pretty!"

Recognizing your own beauty is countercultural.  Be a rebel with a cause.  Please, take some time to look at yourself and discover the beauty that is you.  Look for ways to express that beauty today.  You will bless us all and I will be grateful.