Dehumanizing Our Daughters
As a mom of two beautiful daughters, the topic of beauty materializes often. This article is intended to encourage the validation of the beauty in your daughter and mine. It is imperative that we speak intentionally to the dehumanizing of our daughters by the culture. What are the messages they hear which define beauty?
Being a woman, a wife, a daughter, a mom and a female in this society establishes me on a collision course with conflicting messages of beauty. The secular world rarely admires the qualities of God-likeness which make a female truly beautiful. With photoshop, botox and diet pills presenting an altered view of beauty, we must boldly step forward to speak to true beauty.
So What is BEAUTY in a Girl?
- Is it fresh, clean skin?
- Is it a genuine smile that reaches into the twinkle in her eyes?
- Is it a healthy body bolstered by good eating habits and plenty of water?
- Is it a happy person who is comfortable with herself?
- Is it a girl who is kind always looking for ways to meet the needs of others?
- Is it a girl who serves willingly and demonstrates initiative?
- Is it a girl with a “Pollyanna” approach to life... always looking for the bright side?
- Is it a clean simple look without pretension?
- Is it honesty...no matter what?
- Is it trust and loyalty?
- Is it integrity?
Perhaps BEAUTY is all of these things.
So what is beauty?
- It is not heavy makeup.
- It is not expensive clothes.
- It is not how many friends you have on Facebook.
- It is not how many likes on your last post on Instagram.
- It is not having the perfect body.
However, these are just of some of the false messages validated by our culture and the words our daughters hear about throughout their days.
1 Peter 3:4 (ESV) reminds us that our “...adorning (should) be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, ...”
How can we teach our daughters they are truly beautiful?
Each girl and woman is beautiful because she is made in God's image. This is this the message our daughters should hear. When evaluating the role we play in defining beauty in our daughter’s life, here are some key questions.
1. What do you admire?
Think through what you admire verbally. Do you speak with esteem when you see on a magazine front or a billboard an attractive female dolled up with too much makeup, immodest clothing and with beauty bought with money? Sometimes due to our upbringing or experiences, parents need to correct their own views of beauty. Communicate admiration of true beauty.
One of my friends tells me how her father consistently encouraged her to dress to entice males. His communication promoted the idea that seductive clothing would create power over the men she encountered. This false notion put her in a position to be vulnerable, not strong. Men attracted to her exploited figure used her and then trashed her. This was not beauty or anything that would be treasured. As she developed into a young woman, her father's promiscuous behavior revealed his selfish sexual actions. His own selfish, perverted physical desires overrode his ability to safeguard and protect his little girl. Sadly, he admired sensuality instead of purity. As she matured, Christian girl friends poured into her life. Slowly, she is becoming a true woman of beauty as defined by God’s Word.
2. Are you silent about the messages about false beauty?
Do you look at the false ideas of beauty and fight to work through your own insecurities? Do you notice the messages of sensual clothing along with provocative expressions and turn away? Do you see men with wandering eyes and brush it off as normal? Do you see an erotic scene in a movie and just keep watching? Do you value yourself by dressing modestly when most seem to be wearing less and less?
Truthfully, physical beauty is enhance with proper skin care, lots of water, healthy food choices, exercise along with proper sleep. Discussing these issues adequately would take more than several blogs. Most of us know what to do in these areas to be our best. Not conveying our own body image insecurities is extremely important if our daughters are to grow up with a healthy outlook on themselves physically.
Speak out as you and your daughter do life together. When you notice a photograph or person dressed in a provocative manner, discuss it. Look at a woman with beauty your daughter should imitate. Identify what creates beauty in a girl. How does a girl grow into a beautiful woman? The answers to this question are best given in an on-going conversation as we experience the world around us.
3. Does your daughter understand her vulnerability to flattery?
A dedicated dad or a designated father figure might be best believed when discussing flattery. Females are naturally moved to a favorable response by the flattery of a male. Some of the brightest males know this and use it to their advantage. Compliments drip off the tongues of some fellows. This speech is known as sweet talk, or a snow job. Anything that involves insincere praise used to persuade someone to do something qualifies as flattery.
Has your daughter listened to the speech of males with a goal of identifying sincere compliments versus flattery? Does she observe when boys flirt without asking a girl’s name? Are the words admiring her mind or personality? Are the words aimed at inviting sexual contact with her? If she listens with a parent’s help to filter the intentions, she will grow wiser about the boy’s aim. Watching a movie and talking through the words exchanged between a boy and girl builds her discretion.
4. Are people looking for what your daughter is saying and thinking or what she looks like on the outside?
Considering the intention or end goal of communication greatly increases a girl’s safety. Encourage your daughters to be sincere in their speech. Teach them to compliment a person by saying things like
“Red is such a great color on you.” instead of “I love that red sweater.” Convey that your friend is attractive in the sweater versus the sweater is attractive.
“You are one of my favorite people because you are so kind and thoughtful” instead of “You are one of my favorite people because you are attractive.” Or any other comment that indicates acceptance for their outside.
Express admiration for character and integrity instead of outward appearance. Listen to the exchange of verbiage around you. You might hear empty compliments directed at shallow approval of external beauty. Help your daughter hear these as she goes about her everyday life.
5. Are those in her life respecting her inner beauty or her sex appeal?
Does your daughter see women respected for important skills or are they instead promoting a show-me-some-eye-candy-entertainment. Does she witness sexism by teasing that refers to peripheral beauty? Is approval on her body or her personality? Do others care about as relationship with her or what they can take from her?
As you teach your daughter to value the true goodness and spiritual depth in people, she will likely value herself in that way. Developing skills brings self confidence. As she grows in abilities that allow her to contribute, she will increase in her contentment and happiness. Most importantly, if she grasps God’s perception and value in her, the worth she knows to be true will keep her steady.
Obviously, the use of our time indicates what we value. For example, if a girl is spending a great deal of time on outward beauty, she is placing significant value on the worth she feels is defined through outward appearance. To her, her outside defines her beauty.
So often a woman has to work harder in business to secure a sale or her job by being more physically attractive than her competition. This truth exists. While fighting against this fact in the world around her, counter the teaching with being your best outwardly second to becoming a person of integrity.
6. Are you instilling confidence in your daughter?
Compliment your daughter’s heart, her kindness, and her pursuit of God-pleasing activities. Encourage her to surround herself with positive people as opposed to negative, gossipy, regularly discontent people. Teach her to properly praise people.
Teach her to develop her relationship with Jesus Christ. A young child raised in a Christian home often follows her parent’s lead until she reaches junior high years. Owning her faith is the next phase of Christian growth. My relationship with Jesus started when I was just four years old. Although simple, my belief was genuine. Over the years, I grew to love Him in more mature ways. One theme throughout my teen years was to know deeply His character. I remember hearing a song “When You Can’t See His Hand, Trust His Heart.” As I deepened in my knowledge and experience of drawing close to God, my confidence in His love for me broadened.
My parents encouraged me to appreciate that I was an image-bearer for Christ. My worth is Christ reinforced my security and self worth. While unkind remarks would sting and hurt, they never punctured deeply. Other’s approval never proved as important as God’s value for me. I certainly had my share of bullies and cruel kids. Growing up in a foreign country and then returning to the United States periodically created many opportunities for ridicule from other children. Being different is usually unpopular. Knowing the confidence that comes from God and encouraging parents kept me upright.
- Build confidence in your girl by helping her grow in her relationship with God.
- Build confidence in your girl by directing her to healthy friendships with other girls.
- Build confidence in your girl by reminding her of her true value....every day.
7. Regularly name women who are beautiful by these standards.
Check yourself when you fall into the desire to admire someone just based on outward beauty. We all do this. Sometimes we admire others from a distance. Some people are just naturally beautiful. As you consciously grow your daughter in a proper view of beauty, verbally notice people for genuine beauty marked by integrity and kindness.
In conclusion, I distinctly remember feeling that one of my older friends was one of the most beautiful women I had ever known. At her 80th birthday luncheon party, her grandsons served about fifty of her family and friends. These handsome young men just loved her and enjoyed her conversation. I marveled at her age because she just seemed so alive and so beautiful. Her beauty flowed from her intense love for Jesus that exploded in her kind words toward all that she encountered. When I asked my nine year old one day if she thought Miss Dottie was pretty, she emphatically agreed with a yes. Fortunately, I was loved by her and called her friend.
Her beauty is timeless.
Own the need for your daughter to know she is beautiful! Don’t take a careless, come-what-may approach. If you don’t own this cause, she may grow up admiring unbelieving women who are only outwardly attractive or successful but lack true, lasting beauty. Grasping a hollow beauty results in empty results. Photoshopped women are everywhere. Point out naturally healthy beauty.
Walk in the truth. Admire people who walk in Christ-likeness and exemplify the beauty that comes from inside. Look for beauty where others do not see it. Some of the most valuable people are ordinary outside with stunning appeal from their inner loveliness.
Defend the beauty of your daughter by not allowing her to be dehumanized, but treasured for her inner glow which radiates with true beauty.