I worry a lot about this. I try* not to tell little girls I like their dresses or that they are beautiful. Because I know it’s important that they are much, much more than the sum of their attractiveness.
But I can of course see beauty and particularly in my own children (awkward to write but every parent recognises what I’m saying). It takes my breath away.
And it is true that attractive people get more breaks. Look at the mug-shot-man all over social media recently, being offered modelling contracts, reality tv and a chance to completely change his life. Being given lots of positive feedback despite/because of being arrested on firearms charges.
Beauty has a certain social currency. Good looks help you to get along in life. I don’t mean fashion or thinness. I mean true beauty – smiles, health and clear skin.
This is massively unfair. But it is true and we all do it. It’s something wired deep into us. We favour the beautiful.
But of course that’s not the important stuff. It can’t make you happy and if you haven’t got it, there’s little you can do change that. (Although I honestly believe that looking after your health and eating well can go a long way).
And then theres the phenomenon of getting to know someone and suddenly seeing beauty in the turn of their neck or the curve of their wrist that you never noticed before. Somebody becoming more physically beautiful as you start to love them for qualities other than their looks. Which of course, works in the opposite direction too.
So we know there is currency and value in looks in our culture but we don’t like it. We tell our children it’s wrong to value it and that being kind and thoughtful and smart and mindful is much more important.
And that’s how it should be. But is it honest?
Beauty is fleeting. And often when we are at our most beautiful we imagine we are ugly. I look back at my beautiful unmarked, slim self in my teens and can’t believe I really felt so insecure about my appearance.
So perhaps beauty is not the thing at all. It’s all about how we perceive ourselves. That which gives us the confidence to smile. To present ourselves with courage and brio. Perhaps that’s the thing.
If I can grow happy, welcoming, courageous women. Women able to talk to friends and strangers with confidence then I’ll be pretty pleased with myself.
*I try, but sometimes I just go all out and tell someone they’re gorgous irrespective of age or gender, and you know what? That’s okay too.