“Mummy, will I look beautiful in this dress?” my 6-year old daughter asked, as she was getting ready for a family lunch on Saturday.
“Yes, darling, you’ll look gorgeous” I answered firmly, hoping that would settle the matter. But I should have known better.
“How do you know?” she replied as she flung her wardrobe door open and pulled out one dress after another.
“Which one is the most beautiful dress, mummy?”
“They’re all beautiful,” I snapped, impatience crawling under my skin.
“But which one should I wear?” she continued.
I pulled a flowery dress out of the wardrobe and said, “This one is lovely. Wear it.”
“Really,” she replied sceptically. “I don’t think that’s the most beautiful dress.”
“Well, choose the one you like best then,” I retorted and made to leave the room but a howling sound stopped me in my tracks.
“Aaaah, but I need to look my most beautiful, mummy!” my daughter cried. “Don’t you understand?”
I took a deep breath and turned to her, “Darling, you look gorgeous no matter what because beauty comes from within.”
She shot me a dirty look before nudging me out of the door. Clearly, I was of no use to her.
Twenty minutes later she emerged from her room triumphantly, dressed in a multicoloured dress that once belonged to her older sister, and adorning her fingers, wrists and neck were a handful of rings, bracelets and necklaces of the cheap plastic kind that often come with girly magazines.
She twirled around in front of my husband and I and said, “Don’t you think I look beautiful?”
Beauty comes from within. It sounds like a tired cliché, but I believe there’s a deep truth to it.
As I wrote in my inaugural blog post, Faces, more than a year ago, the face of a person whose heart is open is naturally illuminated.
The beauty I am talking about is the kind that grows out of kindness, compassion, friendship and acceptance. And it’s got precious little to do with what we wear.
Our children have a natural tendency to model our behaviour and attitudes, so if they continuously see us shopping for expensive designer clothes, and slapping on layers of makeup on our tired faces, the message they’ll absorb is that to look beautiful you must paint your face and wear gorgeous clothes.
As a mother, I have a responsibility to teach my daughters that beauty isn’t just what we see on the surface.
I believe it’s crucial that we learn to talk to our daughters about beauty in a way that helps foster a healthy attitude to appearance.
But to do that, we have to start with ourselves. For how can we teach our daughters to love their bodies and faces if we, their mothers, don’t love our own?