She Talks: Raising Ugly Daughters

Photo via Davia Roberts

Photo via Davia Roberts

#bossbabesATX note: This is our second guest post in the #bossbabesATX series, "She Talks." "She Talks" is a blogging series, featuring the work and thoughts of self-identifying women in #bossbabesATX community. Would you like to submit something to "She Talks?" Please email blog@bossbabes.org.

This "She Talks" post is written by Davia Roberts, a counselor who specializes in women's issues, career exploration and alcohol/drug abuse. She regularly blogs on her own website, and the following was published in two separate posts there:

“Honey, take that dress off, you look like a boy. Face it, you’re flat chested.” 
She lowers her head and slowly walks back to the dressing room. She disrobes the silky red dress, runs her hand across the gown one more time, taking in every detail, replaying the surreal feeling when it draped her body... and slowly returns it to the hanger. 

We tell our girls how pretty they are as we dress them in frilly dresses and lace socks. We dote on them when each hair has been straightened or curled to perfection. We take dozens of photos when we deem them beautiful enough.  She’s called “cute, precious, and pretty” when relatives meet her for the first time... but she knows they’re just saying it to be polite. 

The words that will stain her memory will be found in the moment she stands in front of the mirror and tries on clothes for a school dance, only to have her mother tell her that her body doesn’t look “right." It will be in the moment she sits down for dinner when her father laughs and says, “Do you really need to eat all of that?" 

You see, these are the memories that will be pressed on her heart.  The off-the-cuff remarks that were “just” jokes…

These words will follow her.

The way she felt in those moments will reappear when she undresses in the locker room, compares her body to other girls or dresses to appease the opinions of others. Those feelings will leave her questioning if she’s desirable. Fear will begin to feed her insecurities as she consumes the idea that she is indeed unattractive, defective and ugly. 

Eventually, these insecure girls grow into insecure women—the women who are drop-dead gorgeous, yet completely oblivious of their own beauty. I’m not referring to a sense of humility. I’m speaking about the woman who can’t seem to accept a compliment or refuses to leave the house without lashes and lipstick.  She has been raised to believe that she is not pretty enough.

We tell girls and women that a “womanly” body is composed of large breasts, hips and a big butt, yet criticize them for gaining weight. We ridicule them for doing the Kylie Jenner challenge as if society doesn’t glorify these features (I’ll leave the multicultural lesson for another blog *side eye*). We send so many minimizing messages to our girls when they fail to meet the current European standards of beauty, then act surprised when they begin to believe such thoughts. We can blame the media for pushing skinny models with perfect butts, breasts, legs and lips... but we have to accept our role and the influence we have on our girls.

Now that we can recognize our power, how do we use our influence to #RedefineEnough for our young girls?

You shaped her with the insecurities you held since your childhood. Sculpted her with fear and self-doubt. Hand fed her lies about beauty and had the nerve to question why she was broken.

You are to blame for this. You are responsible.

She was born into this world free of care or insecurity. It is our presence, and sometimes our absence, that will influence the way she interacts with the world. How we live our lives will greatly impact the way she treats others, make decisions, but more importantly, how she views herself and her worth.

She will look to you as her teacher.

She will watch you as you make yourself smaller to satisfy the egos of others. She’ll learn that she is considered less than those.

She will watch you as you get dressed in the mirror, rip off the fourth dress you’ve tried on and gripe about how “fat” you are.  She will take notice when you criticize other women for their body, facial features, hair or weight. She will aspire to become everything those women are not, because she has learned that certain standards must be met to be considered beautiful. These are her first introductions to beauty, body image and self-esteem.

What are you teaching her her?

In my time working with young children, I’ve learned that they are mere reflections of their parents. If children use profanity at school, more than likely their parents curse at home. Ask a child who’d they vote for as President and you’re bound to hear their parents' political views. The child simply mirrors the thoughts of their parents. The same can be said for our girls and their views of beauty. The habitual glorification of long legs, light eyes and curvy figures will remain until we make a deliberate effort to deliver a different message and redefine beauty.

The definition of beauty changes when we compliment random women on the street. The definition of beauty changes when we stand up for women who are belittled for their body type. The definition of beauty changes when we remind our girls how beautiful they are without “enhancements” from makeup, push-up bras, or spanks. The definition of beauty changes when girls cease to hear us degrade our own bodies with comments like “I’m too fat” or “I need a nose job.”  

Our girls learn to be compassionate toward their bodies when we begin to model it for them. 

You are her teacher. Ask yourself, what lesson are you teaching her?

Redefine Enough. Redefine Beauty.

Photo via Davia Roberts

Photo via Davia Roberts

About the author: Davia Roberts

"When my kindergarten teacher asked, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' I was thinking along the lines of a singer, not a therapist.  Thankfully, I realized that I had other talents and enjoyed helping students.

After working in the public school system, I decided to pursue a counseling degree in hopes of helping my students with more personal concerns.  As a licensed therapist, my interests have widenedfrom school age children to adults, with a strong focus on women.

While collaborating with women, I'venoticed a common theme of perfectionism... the desire to be the perfect mother, wife, daughter, employee, or student.  It is my hope for women to redefine what it means to 'be enough' in their lives."

Jane Claire HerveyComment