So, we have two daughters. I've been wondering which of these beliefs about beauty would be healthier to reinforce:

  • That beauty is mostly controlled by things outside of your control (genetics, etc.)
  • That beauty is mostly mostly a function of effort (beautiful people spend a lot of time keeping up with trends, getting yourself "put together" in the morning, exercising, eating right, etc.)

There are several things that got me wondering about this. One is the sometimes-dangerous obsession that some people in our society have with beauty, and the other was this article about "the inverse power of praise". If you follow the lines of reasoning in that article, then you should never tell little girls that "they're beautiful" unless they've obviously put some kind of effort into it (like getting dressed up to go out).

I know some people say that we should tell our daughters that beauty doesn't matter, but it seems like that would be an outright lie. We know that beauty impacts things like your ability to land a job.

Attitudes towards beauty seems like a topic that must have been studied to death. I'm wondering if anyone has any experience, or read anything else informative about this topic.

asked 10 Apr '11, 13:03

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦
accept rate: 10%

I think your question is very valid Scott. Until now I have not felt the need to read or investigate further the notion of beauty with regard to my child ( daughter ) and frankly speaking I have neither had the time. I think my daughter who is almost 7 can distinguish between what is naturally beautiful and isn't.

This didn't happen suddenly but I think over time (with a combination of our input, our own behavioral examples and school) she has come to have quite a good grasp of what is may be classified as self obsessiveness and it's correlation to beauty, and has also started to grasp about greed, kindness, and the importance and unimportance of the exterior shell. In her dialogues with us we have always provided her with honest answers and questions that she answers with her own opinion, and then it becomes a discussion....

'Do you think she looks nice mummy?' 'Actually I don't know, do you think she looks nice?'
'No, I think she looks silly' 'Why do you say that, she looks err a little different that's true...?' 'I think she looks like a christmas tree'.....and so on,

My example above is just for now, but, the level of beauty awareness that you speak about, I think, may change when girls are old enough to question and decide for themselves which stance they will take regarding beauty and the amount of time and effort they will spend towards feeling good...and if this results in them looking good then I would say we'd have all done a great job.

I am guessing that talking, understanding listening and answering questions about self esteem as girls grow is vital. Unfortunately I grew up without that.

Probably not a very helpful answer but I wanted to share my own thoughts with you.


answered 11 Apr '11, 05:06

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%

edited 11 Apr '11, 05:29

I'm not convinced your interpretation of the Po Bronson article is correct. Only praising when they've put in effort will encourage them to put in effort, is the argument, but do you want your daughters to put effort in to looking beautiful? I don't want mine to, I just want them to know that they look great to me regardless (i also have two daughters).


answered 10 Apr '11, 14:54

Meg%20Stephenson's gravatar image

Meg Stephenson
accept rate: 7%

Good question. I do want them to know that there might be a pay-back curve. I don't want them to obsess about it because they base their own self-worth on it. Does that help clarify?

(10 Apr '11, 15:17) Scott ♦♦

From my experience as a woman, the biggest boost to my own confidence about my looks that I can recall is my Mum asking my Dad, in front of me, "She is beautiful isn't she?" and my Dad looking at me for a moment, as though seriously considering his answer and then saying "Yes". I was about 16 at the time, so quite self-conscious.

(11 Apr '11, 04:08) Meg Stephenson
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Asked: 10 Apr '11, 13:03

Seen: 3,344 times

Last updated: 11 Apr '11, 05:29