How to Talk So You Don’t Create Emotionally Anorexic Little Girls.
I suppose I’m more of a ‘super-size me’ in the gushing department, but I just read a blog post “promoting healthy body image in young women” that is so emotionally anorexic that it makes me want to find every crumb of beauty and grace that I see, lick that bowl clean and tell anyone within earshot about how awesome it was.
In fact, I’d like to stage a full out beauty-binge in protest.
Here are the cliff notes from Lisa Bloom’s “How to Talk to Little Girls”:
Don’t tell kids they are pretty because: “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.”
Sorry sister, but I can’t get behind a” healthy body image” philosophy that promotes less endorsement and less validation of the innate beauty that we radiate. I find the whole idea repressive and more importantly, a wasted opportunity to express love and speak truth.
The way I see it is like this. Inner and outer beauty are like conjoined twins. They are BFFs. Peanut butter and jelly, Yin and Yang, Simon and Garfunkel. We only recognize beauty on the outside because it comes from somewhere inside of us. Beauty doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s not an isolated entity that can be jarred. Beauty is dependent upon and attached to something else… it’s a piece of a larger picture, an extension of something more. Naming beauty when we see it goes a long way towards connecting to that other space.
Our job as parents and thinking women should be to expand beauty, not to constrict it. We should speak of each other’s beauty often and loud. The granddaddy of the Chassidic movement, the great Israel Ba’al Shem Tov taught that you only recognize beauty in others because you yourself contain it. In other words, the mere act of recognizing beauty in someone else is a confirmation of your own.
Look, I’m not saying I get it right all the time, I don’t. I fall into busted body images just like every other woman does from time to time. But mostly, I dig who I am and how I look. I totally dig who my kids are and I would never hesitate to tell them that they look awesome, especially when they are actually busy doing something that is making that awesomeness spill out onto their face. Their very occupation with awesomeness through deed and intention translates into beauty right on their little faces.
I give standing O’s for random acts of kindness, fist pumps and a woot-woots for the kids who jump straight in without feeling the water first, and when I see beauty in them, on their sweaty face, on their dirty clothes, or on their tear-stained cheek, I say it like I mean it until I see that they see it too. Whether I am addressing an external expression of who they are or an internal quality they are radiating, I will say it because:
They. Are. Beautiful.
And they deserve to hear it.
There is a woman we know, who wears all manner of unhip second hand clothing. She is pear shaped, doubled chinned, often has pit stains and she limps. She also has a few unruly facial hairs. Please believe me when I tell you that this woman positively GLOWS – she is stunning – you know why? Because she makes it her business to find goodness and beauty wherever she looks. When she sees me, her wide-eyed smile triggers an even wider smile from me, which then radiates outwards, touching if not for second, even the most guarded of hearts; and then that smile-induced-oxytocin-love-fest continues to spin out… maybe even forever, to like another planet.
My daughters get that this woman is beautiful because, a) their eyes have been well-trained b) part of that training is having heard their Mom say it out loud. “I love to see you smile.” I say to this woman. “You are beautiful.”
So instead of verbally fasting when we see beauty, we’d all get a way bigger return if we train our eyes and our kid’s eyes to see beauty more. To see it EVERYWHERE, to go on beauty-benders and find magnificence and grace in funny, weird, unexpected places… and then to speak it – often, slow and loud.