Okay, so actually she is. In fact I have heard the word “stunning” numerous times to describe her. By society’s standards she is absolutely gorgeous.
So when a friend of a friend saw her at a family party the other day it wasn’t surprising that one of the first things out of her mouth was “You’re so beautiful”. It took every ounce of will power I had in me not to scream “Don’t say that to her!”
So why, you ask, do I hate hearing those words?
Oh let me count the ways:
1. You know absolutely nothing about her, so you have no idea if she’s truly beautiful. Some of the most hateful and hurtful people I have known in my life were “pretty”.
2. Her younger sister was standing right next to her. Although she has a different body type and different facial features, she doesn’t see herself as any different, so why is she not receiving the same “compliment”?
3. She had nothing to do with how she looks, so what is she supposed to say? That’s like you telling me “Great job on the sunset tonight”. I had no control over it so why would I get credit for it?
4. What happens when she hits the “awkward stage” in a few years (and she will hit it…everyone does), and the “compliments” stop coming?
5. I don’t want her believing she’s special just because she happens to have a small nose, high cheekbones and chocolate brown eyes.
Now if I can say something from my own perspective:
“My daughter is beautiful!”
Why you ask?
Let me count the ways:
1. When she sees someone is hurting she hurts with them. She cries at injustice and seeks answers as to why.
2. For her last birthday she realized that she needed nothing, so she asked her family to bring toys that she could donate to a local after-school center in a nearby impoverished city.
3. Last summer she decided on her own to bake a batch of cookies and sell them in the neighborhood. She donated ALL the money to a local homeless shelter.
4. Anytime she gets money from a job or as a gift she outs a huge percentage (sometimes all of it) into her bank account for college. Even though she’s only 10, she’s planning for her future.
5. She’ll spend hours outside working with me in the garden. Not because she enjoys gardening, but because, as she puts it, “I just want to spend time with you mom”.
I could go on and on, but I think you get my point.
I tell my daughter she’s beautiful and special all the time. But not when she comes down in a new outfit, or when she has combed her hair just so. I tell her after she helps a friend up who has fallen.
“You have such a beautiful heart sweetie and I’m so proud of you”.
I tell her after she finally finishes the math chapter that has plagued her all week.
“You are so smart honey. I know that wasn’t easy for you but I’m so proud that you stuck it out and worked hard to finish. You can do anything if you put your mind to it and work hard”
I tell her after she has helped me in nursery or watch her baby cousins.
“I love your maternal instincts and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for your future. Whether you become a mother, a teacher or a doctor, I love how you take care of people and how much you love on them”
I tell her after a hard days work volunteering.
“Thank you for helping. You have such a servant’s heart and I’m so thankful that you are willing to sacrifice your time to help those who need it.”
I still have to fight the urge that is ingrained in me to say things like that to both of my girls or even other little ones in my life. It is just so natural to say “Why, don’t you look pretty today!” or “Wow, I love your haircut, you look beautiful!”
I’m not saying that there is never a time for those kinds of compliments, but when those are the only ones they ever hear then how can we be surprised when as teenagers their entire self-worth is tied up in their looks and image?
So please don’t be offended if you ever meet us and I don’t agree with you when you tell my girls they’re beautiful. Even though I know it’s true, I will wait to tell them when their inner beauty is shining for all to see. That is the beauty I want them focused on. Nothing else. Period.