My mother never told me I was beautiful. It’s an admission that I make with no need for therapy, or sympathy. But, there it is. I won’t pretend it didn’t affect me growing up, nor that it didn’t have a lasting impact. It’s on my mind more these days because I’ve got two kids of my own, and they’re entering that gawky stage of adolescence, with its hormones and pimples and insecurities and over-awareness of self. It ain’t pretty–but yet, I look at them every day and see their beauty. How does a parent not?
My mother never told any of her children we were beautiful. She said that appearance wasn’t something we could control, so why focus on it? Instead, we were meant to address the characteristics and traits we could control. And I don’t see anything wrong with any of us looking inward and focusing on making ourselves the best people we can be: embracing kindness, compassion, honesty, loyalty, knowledge, empathy. Or looking outward and seeing the world and all of its possibilities; knowing our place within it so that we reach for the stars without getting too big for our britches.
But yet, I recognize beauty in others, in nature, in art. But not in myself.
In high school, I was the “cute” one. The one who people confided in. The one people relied on. The athletic one, the creative one, the smart one. Everything I could control, I controlled, I excelled, I conquered. If beauty was only skin deep, then I made damn sure that everything under that skin was as good as I could make it. My heart is pure. I bleed for others. I take pain personally. I try to understand people and find commonalities before differences. I am a good person, and I know it.
And I married a man who thinks I’m beautiful and tells me so nearly every day.
It should be enough…
I am forever mindful of the damage we can do as parents. Small words can become huge gouges in a shaky confidence that, like a newborn colt, has not yet found its legs. Our words and actions can kick those legs right out from under them, whether we intend it or not.
We should be our child’s biggest fans. There is no point in our lives, once we become parents, that we should put those pom-poms down and stop cheering from the sidelines, worried that our praise will go to their heads. Because praise is only one component of parenting, and discipline and guidance are others.
So, I tell my kids they’re beautiful. Because they are. And they always will be. And because I understand only too well the pain not doing so can cause.
©2016 Rachel L. MacAulay All Rights Reserved