Today I am participating in Dove Inspired, a campaign to promote self-esteem in young girls. Dove believes that beauty should be a source of confidence in young girls, not a source of anxiety, and that a simple act like starting a conversation about beauty can promote self-esteem in girls. Research shows that 72% of girls between the ages of 10 and 17 feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful, and only 11% feel comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves. While these numbers seem shocking, I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised because I have two teen girls who are both beautiful in many and varied ways, but who don’t feel comfortable using that word to describe themselves. The statistics shouldn’t have surprised me either because I still remember my teen years when I felt like the ugly brown duckling waiting to bloom into the the elegant white swan, complete with blond, flowing locks a la Farah Fawcett. (Remember, it was the early 1980’s.)
Needless to say, I never got the long, blond, flowing Farah hair, but it was not for lack of trying. One disastrous perm and several curling irons later, I resigned myself to the fact that my long straight, dark brown Latina locks would have to do. You can imagine how ironic it was for me when I found myself one day speaking to my younger step-daughter, Erica about the fact that her long, brown, wavy hair was just as beautiful as her older sister Olivia’s long straight, black hair.
Olivia and Erica, have always had a relationship fraught with rivalry. Their early bickering about Bratz dolls has grown into full out yelling matches about clothes, and yes, even hair straighteners. One day Erica was comparing herself to her sister and began characterizing the differences as shortcomings. Olivia, sensing Erica’s vulnerability, moved in for the kill, taunting Erica with a hair straightener and saying her hair looked like Hagrid’s from Harry Potter. Erica was understandably upset. I pulled her aside and we looked in the mirror together. I pointed out the many features she possessed which were beautiful. Her long, wavy hair, her thick eyelashes which frame her deep brown eyes. Then we talked about those other attributes, which are less superficial, but even more important, her energy, her quick wit, her loving affectionate ways. We spoke how beautiful she is on the inside and outside. These things which may seem insignificant or unimportant now, but which she will grow to appreciate. Then I told her about the standard of beauty with which I grew up. The blond, blue-eyed surfer girl, and my feelings of awkwardness as a dark hair, brown eyed Latina. Now, my ethnic appearance makes me feel special, unique. I don’t know if it really sunk in but at least we started the conversation. I hope that it won’t take long before it resonates with her. I hope that it at least will make her to think twice before she gets into an all out yelling match with her sister over a hair straightener.
How do you talk about beauty?
This is a compensated post in collaboration with Latina Bloggers Connect and Dove.