Posted by: Deborah Drezon Carroll | November 30, 2010

Do Your Daughters Feel Pretty? Do You?


Sesame Street has produced a new song for kids designed to teach black girls to “love their hair.” Called, “I Really Love My Hair,” it’s totally adorable. When it was posted online, that prompted a whole lot of people to view it and react. Lots of discussion about race and hair and how some black women torture themselves and spend a fortune so that they can love their hair.

While I understand all of that, I don’t think it’s solely a race issue. How many women do you know who love their hair in its natural state? Or, for that matter, how many of us love all the parts of ourselves in their natural states?

Of course we want to raise girls who love themselves and feel great about their appearance. How many of us succeed? I feel pretty good about myself and overall, I like to believe that I set a good example for my daughters, but, alas, not perfect. I have announced many times that I dislike my wrinkled neck and if I had life to live over, I’d wear sunscreen at a much earlier age. (Yes, I’m aware that in the scope of life’s regrets, if that’s my only one, I’ve done pretty well. Sadly, it’s not my only regret. It’s just the only one that is relevant to this post.) And, Shira once remarked that she’s surprised that I color my hair because she thought I’d be a woman who’d want to age gracefully. Gracefully! Moi? No, I’m going kicking and screaming… oh and dyeing my hair.

Having said all that, I do work at loving myself the way I am. When I run a few miles, I am grateful for the body that got me through it, despite that body carrying more pounds than I’d like. (Especially lately.) But, can’t I love myself and want to change some things about me? Is there a way to teach daughters that loving yourself is not mutually exclusive to working to better the parts you don’t love?

How can moms set examples that move our girls forward with security but still enable us to be honest with them about our flaws? Carroll girls, how do you feel about you? How did you get that way?

 

 

 

 

Alexis Writes:

I’m not going to pretend that I always liked the way I looked. I had a lot of body issues growing up and it messed with me emotionally. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that those same issues don’t creep up now and then. As a result, I know I am not often in tune with how I look whether it’s positive or negative. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that there are many beauty luxuries that I enjoy that also make me feel good about myself.

I get my hair cut and highlighted every eight weeks and in recent years I started getting manicures. My sisters don’t enjoy these luxuries nearly as much as I do and I think they think it’s a little ridiculous to spend the money I do on my appearance. But I love the way my hair looks and having my nails done makes me feel clean. I think of it this way–I work really hard to have the body that I do. I exercise, eat right, and take needed medication that sometimes makes me sick. I like the way that my body looks now, and I feel like I deserve to have those other things that “highlight” my appearance. Maybe that’s shallow and as my mother would say “Just when I think you’re shallow, you let a little more water out of the pool.” But I think that when I was younger I didn’t want to do things to call attention to myself because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to be looked at. Now, I don’t care what people think of me  because I like the way I look whether it comes out of a bottle or not.

Beauty is about choice and confidence. Help your daughters see themselves the way you do. My mother was always my beauty advocate growing up. She taught me to have confidence in myself and how to take control of it in a healthy way when I got frustrated. My mother taught me about health and food, she taught me how sometimes our insecurities with our physical selves are often more about dealing with our emotional selves and in the traditional of do as I say not as I did I have always used sunscreen (never tanning oil).

 

 

 

 

Shira writes:

I’ve never really liked my hair. It’s very thin and when it’s natural, it’s a pretty dull mousy-ish brown. I use shampoo that claims to add volume and I DIY hair dye every couple of months. If I keep changing it up, I feel like people might not notice how boring it really is.

When I was younger, I was painfully shy, and it probably had a lot to do with how I felt about what I looked like. My mother always made a point to tell me that there was nothing not to like about me. It took a long time for me to believe her, but I think I’ve grown into a relatively confident adult. Yes, I rarely leave the house without make up and tend to put a lot of thought into the outfits I wear every day, because it makes me feel good. Although I sometimes need to be reminded that my difficulty finding a job is not a reflection on me personally, I think for the most part I feel pretty good about myself. I try to do things to make me feel good, and not worry so much about what the people around me think. Honestly, I think I’m pretty darn cute.

 

 

 

 

Tamra writes:

I like the way I look. Of course, there are times when I think I don’t look good in anything I own, or when I get one of Shira’s zit’s cousin’s, that’s always annoying, but for the most part, I feel pretty good about what I look like. I like to buy jeans that I think look nice, and pretty shoes and jewelry. I didn’t always like the way I looked. When I was younger, I hated being little. I mean I wasn’t just little like a child, but really small. I hated it. I felt tiny and it made me uncomfortable. Eventually, my smallness was something Mom and I could bond on, and it also got me out of putting away the dishes since they were too high.

I think it is important for girls (or anyone) to be able to see the positives in the way they look (or the positives in anything). Sure, your hair may not look that great, but then you get to go spend an afternoon at the beauty salon. You’re not always going to like everything about yourself, and that’s okay. Just like mom says, there is nothing wrong with wanting to change things about yourself as long as it is in a healthy way. Also, I don’t see a problem with wanting to improve yourself, again, as long as it is in a healthy way. I also use sunscreen and think I’m pretty darn cute as well – if I don’t think it, who will??

 

 

 

 

Mom writes: I leave it to the readers to decide. Check out the photo at the top of this blog. Do these girls have anything to feel inferior about? Seriously, though, the goal is to empower all of our daughters to feel beautiful. I think talking about how we look and feel openly is a good first step. Begin the dialogue and don’t let up until your girls see that how they feel inside reflects outside. And, it’s okay to pamper yourself once in a while. (or all the time!) Doing things to make yourself feel better doesn’t mean you feel badly about yourself. It may just mean you feel good enough about yourself to take good care of you.

Dad writes:

Hey it’s not just about daughters or women. Guys like to look good as well. They can get away with a lot less than women and now even the unshaved look is cool. But I think guys have trouble dealing with their looks too, albeit not as much difficulty as girls, perhaps. When I was young, I was skinny as a rail, had jagged teeth which are not much better today, and my face got too small for my nose. Not a very pretty picture. But I learned to accept how I look as I moved into my late teens, since there was not much I could do about it. A smile, a good sense of humor, and a pleasant disposition can go a long way to improving your looks. Now that I’m sixty that skinny body is looking pretty good, and combined with a full head of distinguished gray hair, I’m finally out of that awkward stage.

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Responses

  1. None of you girls have ANYTHING to feel inferior about. You are all strikingly gorgeous!
    I think it’s important to show our daughters that we like ourselves despite our imperfections. No one is perfect and we have to embrace those imperfections because they are what make us unique. I totally agree about pampering though. There is nothing wrong with spending a day at the salon. It’s refreshing and fun!

  2. Well, thanks! Of course my girls would be the first to tell you that the photo is from Alexis’ wedding day when each of them had professional help. But, your point about imperfections is wonderful. They do make us unique and the idea of embracing them is wonderful.

  3. I think it is important to show our daughters that everyone isn’t perfect. I remember a trip to a Disney water park with my then teenage and pre-teen daughters. The red-headed teenager was self conscious about her white body and was planning on wearing an over-sized T-shirt to cover up. However, once we got there and she saw the range of people there and what all their bodies’ looked like…off came the shirt. When I asked her why she said something along the lines of, “Seriously Mom have you looked around? Who will remember what I look like in my bathing suit after they get a load of some of these people?!” There’s always safety in numbers.

  4. Yeah, compared to much of the world, we’re not so bad! Your point is a good one, though. We’re so much harder on ourselves than others. Maybe we need to give ourselves a break.

  5. This is a great topic. I have thought about it often since I had my daughter 8 years ago (as I have 3 older sons and we don’t think as much about this with boys). I’ve always felt that I have a great self image and I credit my mom for that. She always instilled in me that I was beautiful, that my body was just right, that we needn’t do anything to change anything about ourselves. I’m not so sure it was anything that she actually said to me, but it was in her own actions, and how she seemed to carry herself with such confidence. Now with my daughter, she seems to be more concerned about how she looks, what others think of her etc. I think a lot of that is just our society and how girls (even really young girls) are inundated with so much stuff and clothing and accesories to make ourselves look different. My kids are bi-racial so my daughter has really curly, gorgeous hair. And of course she would like to straighten it (at 8!!!!!!) Cannot believe it. But I think we often want the opposite of what we have. I would give anything to have her beuatiful curls instead of my stick straight fine hair! But I have come to terms with what I have and have embraced it and I hope that my daughter will too! She told me the other day that people are always telling her how beautiful she is. She seemed to be embarrassed about it (especially when the people were strangers!) I told her that she IS beautiful. But I also tell her as much as possible that she is beautiful INSIDE and OUT!!!! And what’s inside is what really matters most!

  6. And say it and say it some more that she’s beautiful the way she is. I’ve said it to my girls since birth. (Of course, always having a feminist leaning, even when they were babies I’d add that it was equally important to be smart and strong women!) I thought they’d hear me when they were teens, but, alas, they didn’t. It’s almost impossible to overcome the horror of teen peers and how they make a girl feel. But, finally, they did hear me and although their feelings are still tentative, they have grown up strong. It is so hard to balance ego with confidence but it’s a battle worth fighting. And, if you struggle, as I have sometimes, with your own insecurities, I think sharing that with your daughter may also have value. Or, you might be one of the lucky ones who knows she’s fabulous just as she is!

    • I agree, it helps them understand that we are all human and not perfect, as some other posters wrote. I think it’s good for them to hear some of our own struggles as we were growing up. I find as my daughter gets older, she asks more and more questions about how it was for me. Your daughters have become amazing women. I just love this blog!

      • We just love having you love us! Please tell everyone you know about the blog. We’d be thrilled to share the love!

  7. I love that picture at the top of the blog. Even though they may have been “made up” professionally for that moment, nothing could disguise the similarity in eye color and shape that marks them as siblings. That being said, I can also see the individuality in the picture as well; they still stand out for who they are.

    Bravo to you for raising such strong and brave girls, sharing their thoughts and experiences here.

    • Thanks for this. We appreciate your kind thoughts.

  8. Whew…This is a real kick in the pants for me. I really need to check in with my girls on this. I have been neglecting my appearance. I am trying to teach my girls, who are naturally ravishing, not to place their value as a human in their appearance, but I have been letting circs interfere with putting my best foot forward. Actions speak louder than words. I have a lot of excuses, but everyone in the house knows I get more done when I put myself together first.

    Oh, and by the way, Shira, the shampoos only claim to add volume.

    • I can still shudder just remembering how I let myself look when the girls were little and I was crazy busy trying to balance the life of work and home. In looking back, I wish I had set a better example. I agree that we shouldn’t value ourselves based on how we look but there is something to your point that we function better when we put ourselves together. It’s not that it takes so much time to look (and therefore feel) better, it’s really more about valuing ourselves enough to make sure we look decent, rather than putting everyone else first. Thanks for sharing. Your words are very powerful.

  9. I’d like to talk to you about syndicating this post on BlogHer.com, but I can’t find your e-mail address. Can you drop me a line at rita@blogher.com? thanks!

  10. Of my 3 beautiful, amazing daughters, 2 had body issues. One was borderline anorexic because of merciless teasing in high school. The other one had a horrible boyfriend who constantly criticized her body. My point is that even if we are supportive at home, we can’t control the people they socialize with. This story ends happily and they are in good places in their lives!

    • You are so right. It’s all the more reason we have to work so hard at home to balance the negativity that comes at them from the rest of the world. Clearly, as your girls have happy endings to that high school torture, you did something (probably many things) right. Thanks for sharing with us. I think it’s really important for moms of young girls to know that it can all work out because watching our daughters suffer is so painful.

  11. Peers are very tough. My middle daughter had a horrible time in high school, so much that she and another girl (both bright and talented but overweight) pleaded to skip their junior year and get out of high school early. When they did that and got away from that environment and to college, they were accepted for who they were.

    She is a very beautiful, compassionate person and I think it is partly because she doesn’t want to see anyone treated like she was for any reason.

    Debbie, I look back now and I wish I had done more to help boost her confidence when she was younger. Kudos for the great job you did with your girls.

    (And Ned – you do have distinquished gray hair. I’m proud of mine and tell everyone I’ve earned every single one of them!)

  12. It’s such a rough ride for young girls. As my girls noted, if it’s not weight, it’s hair, or size or acne or whatever. It’s just the age, I think, and the pressure to be perfect. I’m so glad it worked out for your daughter. You may not think so but, clearly, if she bounced back at all, it was thanks, in part, to the core you built for her. And, yes, gray hair is distinguished!

  13. This was a great piece. I hadn’t heard of the Sesame Street song and it’s yet another reason why i love that show and wish they’d bring it back to the UK.

    All three daughters are beautiful in their own way and their inner confidence is a reflection of the security and love they had from both parents. Your family rocks!

  14. Thank you so very much for the support and kind words. We really appreciate your taking the time to read and especially to write!


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