Beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety

Last week, I read about Dove's campaign for self esteem on Kelle Hampton's post about what you would say to your 13 year old self here.   This idea of self esteem and beauty strike at a raw chord deep in my soul, as it is a part of my song here as girl, mom, woman, wife, daughter, friend.  I'm determined to pass along a healthy relationship with body and beauty to these girls.

This line struck me, "Imagine a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety." Good point, DOVE, why is beauty a source of anxiety?  I find myself questioning...
How do I handle beauty?  Every woman deserves to feel beautiful, but how much value does it actually deserve?  How do I pass on to my girls the value of their beauty without Anna Cate or Molly basing her value on beauty?   Sometimes, I forget overnight how beautiful my girls are.  I look at them in the morning, and think, "wow.... I sort of forgot how gorgeous you are in the 9 hours since I've seen ya."
IMG_0641.jpg picture by batesking04
Doesn't every mom want her daughter to know she is beautiful?  Surely so! In fact, it is that thought which unraveled the grip these feelings of unworthiness had on me. Because I've been "overweight" either in my head or on my bones since I was about 8, I have struggled with my body image more than I care to think about. But after Anna Cate was born I saw a beauty in her that I'm sure my creator and parents saw in me, and what a slap in the face to my parents to feel so unworthy of this gift because of a thick waist.


Is it a bad thing for a girl to know she is beautiful? Anna Cate at 4 does know she is cute, but if one of my 13 year old students carried herself like that, it would be offensive. Why? Is it unhealthy to seek beauty? Last week I taught Buddhism; its basic principle goes something like this: the source of our suffering is wanting things, so the way to eliminate this suffering is to quit wanting things.  Understanding that is quite easy; I imagine living that way is hard. Is there "a middle way" for beauty?  Maybe with beauty and body image, it is this:  the source of our discontent comes from wanting it so much?  
How can I show my daughters how to feel beautiful without them equating their self worth to it?  Isn't makeup, hair, and fashion fun? Can we do it without getting too wrapped up?  I know it would be odd to teach them that these things don't matter in life, right?

 I'm sure as I journey alongside my girls to be confident and secure, I'll have many more questions.  But along the way, we are going to avoid the anxiety of  believing there is only one form of beauty and it has to look like the airbrushed cover of magazines.  I will model celebrating beauty in many forms, and disregard the notion that if you are beautiful, then I'm not; or, if I'm beautiful, you are not. Can't we just say many things on this earth are beautiful?!?! (Like an adopted MumMum who will get up in the dark on a Saturday morning to watch Anna Cate and Molly so Mommy can go on a 10 mile run)

  I believe the sunsets, or the vibrant colors of fish I've seen in blue oceans from The East China Sea to the Carribbean to the Red Sea, or the hues of the trees around me during the Fall must be a sign God wants us to enjoy beauty around us, celebrate it about ourselves as well as in others.
I am not going to lie and say that I'm free from the feelings of unworthiness or don't feel the toxicity of comparing myself to others. I wish I had a flat tummy or fewer lines around my eyes, but I am finding more ways to honor and be thankful to my body for what it has done for me and for my daughters.

 In fact, sometimes I even see my "weight problem" as a blessing in my life for it gave me the companion of running and the commitment to nutrition at an early age.  I read a quote once that said  something like, "First, we love our self for self's sake, then we love God for self's sake, finally we love self for God's sake." I would add that we also love our self for our daughter's sake. So I'm going to model for them a life worthy of myself and of the parents who gave it to me where beauty is found by seeking health, finding the divine in nature, and loving my body for the amazing gift that it is. And some great makeup, hair products and outfit won't define me or be the source of my value, but it can boost my confidence.

I will teach the value of being emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy. I will be modeling the joy that comes from caring for our skin, our heart, our mind, and from loving others, being active, eating real food, and finding beauty in our friends and family as well as in ourselves, both inside and out.  
IMG_0641.jpg picture by batesking04
And in doing so, I will hopefully diminish the anxiety and increase the confidence so that my daughters will be able to celebrate the beauty I see:



Kelle said…
What a beautiful and thoughtful thing to pass on to your girls. Yes, they both are beautiful. And yes, it's made me think a lot about what beauty really means, and it's a huge responsibilty this role we have as mamas and wanting our girls to just be confident. Thank you for your sweet comment and for your inspiring post!
Lana said…
Your post really hit home for me as I tell my two daughters that they are beautiful every day but not because that is all they are, but because it is a part of who they are that I want them to believe very deeply. Just as I tell them how smart they are, how strong, how loving, how brave...

I grew up being aware of enjoying the lip glosses and hair accessories but always knew that it wasn't ALL there was. I knew I was beautiful because my parents told me that I was, inside and out. Their hugs were the best thing, and their faces lit up when any of their children walked in the room (and still do, 42 years later) . THAT told us we are special!

I believe that not only should we tell our children they are beautiful, but I think we must always be pointing out to them the beauty in everyone and everything, whether it is a physical attribute, or a feeling, emotion, or action...
OOhh what a topic!~
Molly Bates said…
BEAUTIFUL AND TOUCHING ARTICLE. I hope you know how beautiful I know you are-both inside and out. I could not see the pictures and when you can, if you would please send them to my E-mail. Thanks sweetheart, for being the wonderful daughter that you are and for being confident, eloquent and loving, as well as beautiful. You bless me each and every day.
PJH said…
Thanks for commenting on my post and sending me your blog. I'm a teacher in VA, too, with a daughter, so we have some things in common! Your piece was wonderfully written and inspiring, and you are ALL beautiful! I also have a personal blog ( more posts on these kind of topics.