I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful

Guest post by Amanda

By: LeyCC BY 2.0

I’ve started telling my girls that I think I’m beautiful. It’s been so easy to tell them how beautiful THEY are, because it’s obvious. They are the thing beauty is made of. They are the reason we started worshipping beauty. They sparkle and dance. When they’re sleeping, they turn into soft cloud babies, little perfect tufts of white on the moonlight.

There are a lot of people like me. Women who know things. Women who have seen things. Women with diseases in their livers. There are a lot of women with scars on their arms and words that carry themselves like sparrows. There are women who were too big for this town, who had their backs bent carrying things like religion and a history that originated somewhere in the crook of a branch that extended over a stream. A place where a patch of the sky was visible through the leaves, where a little girl let her bare leg dangle too far down.

There are a lot of people like me, because we’re all the same. We’re all blood and electricity. We’re lonely under the gaze of god. We’re all wet with dew and swallowing hard against DO THIS, CONSUME, SHUT UP and BE AFRAID to die.

All of you women with lines on your brow, with cracks between your fingers… it’s been a long winter. All of you, you are beautiful and so am I.

Long Island Children's Museum

The thing is, my children are perfect. I am the grown up, so I’m supposed to show them everything about life. When they wake up in the morning, though, I stare at them and they’re new. They teach me everything. They are babies and they teach me what it means to be a person. It’s easy to see that they’re beautiful.

I am slow and I am tired. I am round and sagging. I am harried. I am sexless. I am getting older.

I am beautiful. How can this be? How can any of this be true?

I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that’s what women do. That’s what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.

“Look at me, girls!” I say to them. “Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today.”

You Are Beautiful print by Etsy seller iolabs
You Are Beautiful print by Etsy seller iolabs

I see it behind their eyes, the calculating and impression. I see it behind their shining brown eyes, how glad they are that I believe I am beautiful. They love me. To them, I am love and guidance and warm, soft blankets and early mornings. They have never doubted how wonderful I am. They have never doubted my beauty. How confusing it must have been for them to see me furrowing my brow in the mirror and sucking in my stomach and sighing.

How confusing it must have been to have me say to them, “You think I am beautiful, but you are wrong. You are small and you love me, so you’re not smart enough to know how unattractive I am. I know I am ugly because I see myself with mean eyes. You are my child and I love you, but I will not allow myself to be pretty, for you. No matter how shining you are when you watch me brushing my hair and pulling my dress over my head. No matter how much you want to be just like me, I can’t be beautiful for you and I don’t know why.”

It’s working, a little bit. I’ve even stopped hating myself, a little bit.

I’ll be what they see. They see me through eyes of love. I’d do anything for them, even this.

I am beautiful.

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Comments on I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful

  1. Yes you are! Thank you for this. I trace my stretch marks on my stomach, and I remember my baby pushing on me from inside. I love my inperfectly perfect body…but then society creeps in, and like you I sigh in the mirror at those same inperfections. I will save this to remind me that I am beautiful.

    • The hardest part, for me, is learning to love the parts of me that I can’t blame on having babies! It’s been almost 3 years. I don’t think it’s “baby weight” anymore. haha. But, I’m trying. And if I can’t change the way I see myself, I can at least be sure not to let my girls know that I don’t like what I see in the mirror.

      • Amanda – it’s been 31 years for me, but I still call it “baby fat”! Of course, most of that fat was already there before I ever got pregnant! It’s still there, and I own it! πŸ˜‰ You are, indeed, beautiful! And what you are doing for yourself and your daughters is a beautiful thing! You GO, girl!

      • I appreciate your perspective on parenting girls–but first may I say that while I live in Texas, I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and I am a HUGE Black & Gold Steelers fan.

        As a mother of two daughters and one son, one son in-law, one grandson, and one sexy pilot husband, I too had to tell my girls I was beautiful. However, what worked well for one daughter really back-fired on me for my other daughter.
        All of the role modeling I did: PTO, School Board, church and community volunteer, Girl Scout leader, working out for a healthy heart–not for weight control, caring about my appearance…for one daughter she looked to these things and wanted to emulate them as young adult,a teacher, a wife and now a new mother. My youngest child, who happens to be a daughter found my role modeling to be too high an expectation…too high to hope for, so she just doesn’t try.
        Yes, I not only tell them they are beautiful, and that I am not so bad at 54, but I really encourage their dad to make comments about how we all look and for how we all give back and contribute to the world. His words at times are more powerful than mine will ever be…add into the mix a successful, dynamic, son…his words have even more impact on my daughters, especially the youngest.
        Yes, I have stretchmarks, saggy breasts, hail damage on my bootie…and I would love to embrace my sagging facial skin, but it is difficult when I really don’t like what I see. But it is even harder to want to change anything when I have a daughter who feels that what the rest of us in the family have or have aspired to is out of her grasp. Somehow she missed the messaging. She missed the opportunity to see herself as a beautiful child of God.
        She is a young professional and I am blessed that she has a strong relationship with God…but she still struggles with her self-esteem. She once told me that she would never be able to come close to what I am or what I have given to others. I told her, she doesn’t know what plan God has for her. I told her, I have failed miserable, but I get back up and keep moving. Giving her examples of my failures seemed to give her solace–that we all have set backs. In her defense she has had many more set backs than most. But, while it may take her time to get back up, she does…and she continues on.

        Hug and love your babies…but know, even through the grace of God you are doing all of the things you believe are right and good and loving…sometimes you have to recalculate and adjust your approach because each child is different and can hear the same message in a very different way.
        Keep up the great blog. I was happy a friend posted it on Facebook so I could read it!
        One last thought, as a mom of the 80’s and 90’s I tried to be superwoman…do it all, but I found myself tripping over my cape…that was when I realized, being a wife and mom was what I needed to do best and that is what I have done for 28+ years.

        • Kathie, I was so moved by your response. I think you’re so right. It’s not just us Mum’s who need to change our perceptions of beauty and ourselves but that of those around us, our husbands, sons, society. For some girls, the message from Mum doesn’t resonate. I know this was true for me.

          We also don’t HAVE to be beautiful to be valuable, loved, talented, worthwhile people. Sometimes I wonder if this infatuation with our beauty, or lack of, is truly the trap.

          We judge our men on their success in life (work and what not) and our women on their beauty.

          • The message I took from this (which I LOVE) is not that we should attempt to “convince” ourselves or our daughters that we fit any specific definition of beauty. Rather that we ARE, WHATEVER we are, IS beautiful. The things that make us valuable, loved, talented, worthwhile people is exactly what MAKES us beautiful. NOT denying our own beauty (regardless of the form it comes in) to our children is valuable.

        • As the editor of a blog called GIRLilla Warfare — this was such a great message. I work hard to combat the media messages that our girls (and US too) have received forever: You are not skinny enough. Not pretty enough. Not Enough of Enough — good for you, Mama — let them know you feel beautiful … and they will too. It all starts at home … Lisa Barr

          • Thanks for your understanding and meaningful comments. Now we need to teach our sons to respect our sisters, daughters, mothers and grandmothers etc…that is gonna be quite a job for sure…where to begin is something I have already done to teach my two wonderful caring human beings to respect the women in their lives…and it works.

        • Great comments Katie and well put. I agree that we have to like ourselves, it’s natural to love yourself, in our private time most of us think we’re all that. The key is that we must like ourselves and be accepting of life’s changes reflected on us. Enjoy every stage of life, they are all too fleeting. I’ve come to realize that if I did what I felt was best with what I had, then that’s all that can be asked of anyone. Life brings wisdom.

        • Hi Kate,
          I don’t quite know how I got here … but I was moved by your reply to the quite enlightening post. I am sure it is not just women who feel like this… As a father of two, now 40 year old’s, I used to think… ‘It’s hard work being a hero’
          Here is a workbook that I take my clients through…


          I think it will teach your daughter that the only thing she needs to believe in … is herself!

          You are a loving mother and I know you want the best for her.

      • An attorney in my office had a beautiful baby girl, and just three months later, she didn’t look like she’d had a baby at all. I told her how great she was looking, and she said, “Well, it’s been three months since I had her!”

        I laughed and said, “It’s been 15 years since I had mine, and I still have the baby weight!” It made everyone in the cafeteria laugh. But hey, it’s true. πŸ˜‰

      • Strength is beauty. Smarts and toughness, hard work and softness, bravery and a willingness to be afraid, they are all beauty. Sincerity is beauty. What you wrote made me gasp at its truth. Thank you.

    • My daughter tells me all the time “mommy your beautiful, and your not fat.” I always argue with her that shes wrong. SMH you are so right after reading this I will live it. Thank you for seeing so clearly in this cloudy world and sharing such beauty with the world. My daughter has been right all along how dare I question her pure insight with mine which has been tainted by mainstream. Thanks again.

    • My son loves my stretch marks πŸ™‚ We call them “Tigger stripes” because I got them when he bounced around in my belly like a tigger. I wouldn’t wish them away…and it seems so important to him that I love them. I try to love me every day, and be kind to what I see in the mirror. I’m finally feeling beautiful because of my children. Something else I will forever owe them. πŸ™‚

    • I had my daughter when I was 39. when she left home to live with her boyfriend in Hawaii thought my heart would shatter. was so sad that I would go into her room, take her pillow from her bed and hold it up to my nose to smell her scent. I miss her so much, I miss the baby,the toddler,the young little girl, the young girl, and now the young woman. I raised her all alone but it worked for us. I had tea parties with her, even played barbies, and I never even owned own myself…all the things My mom and I did not not do due to life cicumstances, because violence and domestic abuse lived with us…we were not close until I had my daugher Cheyenne. The closeness they shared was like watching everything I wished mom and I had shared come to life. mom and I became close because she loved Cheyenne so much and was so different with her. what an amazing transformation. when my mom told me she was proud of me,that I was a good mom it was amazing. we bonded,finally because I had a daughter, because my daughter was a miracle God granted to me…I was lonely in ways I did not even realize, I had missing pieces of myself I did not even know…but when my daughter and mother found love and then passed it on to me…all those missing pieces found their way back to me…I will never to totally together, but I am totally fine, I am not a hot young thing, but still I am beautiful. survivor of breast cancer,of a life of abuse, i began to live when my daughter was born..and oh the love, amazing. I am getting ajusted to Cheyenne living her own life now. we talk every day and that to me is priceless. she and I are best friends. mama died 6 years ago, it was devestating to Chey and I . I am grateful we all found a bridge that led us to one another…this bridge…so strong…so beautiful…called love.

      • Lorrie,thanks for sharing your story–it was beautifully written. Just know this—it TRULY does just get better and better. Even though your daughter moved out, I PROMISE you, your relationship will continue to grow—and the joy you felt all along will continue–just be found in different ways. If you’re lucky, one day you’ll get to watch her become a mother–and the joy you feel then, pales in comparison to what you’ve already felt. You have so much to look forward to! ENJOY!

  2. Beautiful and so very true. I too need to tell my children I am as beautiful as they think I am (even if my 10 year old daughter is quick to point out my sagging breasts and large pores)

    • My girl told me the other day, “You have the biggest butt in the family. Actually, you have the biggest butt in the whole world!” But, she meant it as a compliment, so I strutted it like it was one. πŸ™‚

      • Whenever my husband and I go clothes shopping I always ask him if my butt looks big. If the answer is no then I put the clothes back. My butt is big and beautiful.

      • That…is…bloody…BRILLIANT!!

        Good job. Don’t teach your daughter that having a big butt is something to be ashamed of. Or big thighs, or a soft tummy, or skinny legs or whatever! It’s all beautiful in it’s own way. Why are we all so ashamed?? Makes no sense at all!

    • She is only pointing it out because that’s what we (women, society) have taught her to look for . . . and now you can show her just how beautiful you are as you discover it for yourself πŸ˜‰

  3. Every cell of my body agrees with you! Our beauty is not something to be diminished but worn like the soft scratches of patina on silver to create a more beautiful shine! We are what the future will be for our daughters and sons! Thank you for such a well worded reminder!

  4. I can tell even from the way that this is written that your soul is stunning and when a soul is stunning its packaging absorbs that as well.

    Thank you for sharing this, lady of beauty!

    • Just out of curiosity, why don’t fathers do the same thing, take pride in themselves? Of course, I’m sure men could word it a different way πŸ™‚ but I’ve been thinking, it seems a double standard to look for the best things only in women. Granted, women are awesome!, but I think teaching kids by example to value everyone, including themselves, is a lot less of a mixed message than only seeing the beauty in women. Men have the same confidence issues; they just take different forms, like abuse of self and others, relationship problems, anger management, etc. I think self-esteem is an important lesson for all parents and kids, regardless of gender.

      • Jon, that is another undertaking that all women and men should do… as in teaching our young little boys that respecting the women in their lives. I raised 2 boys and 3 girls and my sons….did learn to respect their sisters, grandmothers and I taught them to always communicate with respect. There is no word “abuse” in the vocabulary of my two sons. I blame a lot of this on our media, Hollywood Producers and how films, cartoons present their own ideas into the videos etc. that the young boys see…even in music videos….Question: Have you ever seen any of these music videos lately…how they project violence toward women in these music video?….it is a shame. We all need to stand up against all of this “violence”…TURN OFF THE TELEVISION…COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CHILDREN TEACH THEM, THEY ARE OUR FUTURE IN AMERICA TODAY! They are lost, help them.

  5. Thanks for this – I think I may have mentioned in comments on this site before how grateful I am in my mother for displaying confidence in her unconventional beauty. She didn’t say it directly, but she talked about situations where she felt attractive and confident and helped to teach me there is more than one, standard way to be beautiful.

    I think it is a really good point as well, that sadly we associate finding fault with being an adult, and somehow expect our daughters to ‘grow out’ of finding us beautiful.

    • Yes! We sure do. When our children find us beautiful, we say, “That’s just because you’re a kid and you haven’t learned yet that I am fat and hideous.”

      It’s so crazy to think that way. Especially since I trust my daughters more than I trust all the places I got my ideas about how not-beautiful I am.

  6. Spoken like a poet. We need this attitude in more mothers if our children are ever to avoid falling into the pit of self loathing so many women of our generation wallow in.

  7. Very powerful! Thank you for writing this. My two year old daughter is quick to say “ooooooooh, Mommy look pretty!” when I dress for work, and I am equally quick to want to brush her comments aside. When I see myself, all I am able to see is flaws. But I’m going to try to stop. Because I’m beautiful too.

    • I do this too. Every time my husband compliments me, I brush him off saying something like, “Well, I’ve gained ten pounds.” It’s almost painful to just say, Thank You. But, I’m trying!

      • It IS hard to accept compliments. When I compliment a friend and she tries to deflect, I gently say “just say thank you.” It always gets a sheepish grin. But I do it too! I got compliments on some photos of myself tonight and immediately gave credit to the photographer. WHAT? It’s MY smile, MY bright eyes they see!
        Just say thank you.

  8. This made me cry. You truly are beautiful, inside and out. We all are. If only we would treat ourselves as well as we treat our children. We make sure they are healthy and happy, eat well, stay active, build up their self esteem, tell them how much we love them, how beautiful they are, how smart they are, and how they can do anything they put their minds to. If only we would be so kind to ourselves!

  9. I love this post so hard. When I’m getting ready to go out, my son likes to hang out with me in the bathroom and put on makeup. He looks in the mirror and preens with me and we gossip about how good we look and how shiny our hair is and how we can add some extra sparkle to our eyes with glitter. It’s mostly just silly and fun, but it also feels a little bit important: modeling confidence and feeling good about how you look is great to thing for parents and children of all genders!

    Now excuse me while I thump my chest and sing some Christina Aguilera into a hairbrush.

  10. Crying at work… a totally new kind of beauty that! Thank you so much for this. The “I would do anything for you” doesn’t ever seem to include “I would love myself for you,” does it? And it should. Thank you.

  11. Thank you!! I started treating my face and self better lately (investing in some lotions and potions) and my girls have noticed and are starting to take care of their skin, teeth and hair better. Along with reading this, I think it’s clicked – you have to set an example that normal women are beautiful women.

  12. Love, love love this post. And so beautifully, lyrically written. The idea of not sending mixed messages to girls, by denigrating yourself whie telling them not to do it themselves, really resonated with me.

  13. Thanks for all of your wonderful words, everybody! I am sick and was feeling awfully lonely, and your comments totally made my day. I love that we’re all in this together, even on lonely sick days at home. <3

  14. My girls look at me funny when I break into song, “I feel PRETTY, oh so PRETTY!” They know I’m crazy, they love me and I hope they appreciate their craziness too! πŸ™‚

    • Being crazy with the kids is HUGE. They crack up when I do silly voices or pull funny faces, and I love it, because I am showing them that I have enough confidence in myself to be ridiculous, to be the only one dancing in line at the grocery store, whatever. I want them to love life, not fear it. RAWR!

    • Beautiful post by a beautiful person. I have two daughters and a son and I reckon sons benefit just as much as daughters in living with a mother who can love who she is and celebrate the beauty in her life. The experience is probably a little different for him compared to his gorgeous sisters… but the self respect is huge.

      • I would imagine for sons it helps teach them that beauty isn’t what magazine and TV show him, but true beauty comes from loving oneself, as much as they love others.

  15. Isn’t this the single most important gift we can give our daughters? A mother who knows she is beautiful? I am going to start today. Enough with lamenting over the sagging upper arms, the ten extra pounds, the bags under the eyes. Deep breath: I am beautiful and I want my baby daughter to grow up seeing this.

  16. This is fantastic. I’m not a mother yet, but it sure hurts to hear my mom complain of not looking like she did at my age. I’ve always thought my mom was stunning because she’s my mom. She’s the strongest and most loving person I know, I certainly don’t know what I’d do without her. Thanks for this, what great advice!

    • Brilliant post! Made me tear up.
      I remember those awful shows about women hating themselves about how they look and then they get transformed completely. You just have to take a look at their children how confused they look when they get reunited.
      They just want their mommy’s back.
      I can remember one particular show were the mum had a breast implant and face lift and was styled like an 18 year old. Her 16 year old daughters face expressed what she felt: she was completely shocked, you could see how her self esteem went down completely.
      We shouldn’t want to look like our younger self. We have to let our daughters express the joys of youth. Cause it is now their turn.

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