A lot on my mind this morning.
Top of the heap is the article I read about how to speak to girls. Read it here at Huffington Post. It confirmed my thought that telling someone they are beautiful or pretty is an empty complement. Your looks are something you had no control over and something you didn’t work to get. This quote from Amy Shearn resonated with me. We send our kids the message that the best things about them are the things they can’t help, so they might as well just stop trying to change or do better or be dimensional people.
Eek. I have done it, you have done it, we have all done it but why?
I ain’t never got anywhere with my looks, instead I focussed on being smart, witty, clever and an autodidact. If I want to learn it I will. I have taught myself so many things over the years. I annoy myself with the knowledge in my brain, stored like a hoarder just in case someone one day needs to know how to write, knit, get oil stains from silk and strike a mandevilla and who George Clooney’s ex-wife is now married to, then I’m your gal.
I can’t remember being raised to be told my looks mattered. Not that I was told otherwise but looks were not a big deal in my house. Reading and imagination were big, “play outside” was what we heard and so we did. The games my brother and sister and our next door neighbors invented were magnificent in their vast ambition. Sets were made of tree houses, rope ladders, painted wooden guns, a dress up box that would now be worth a fortune in a vintage shop, giant electrical cables spools and a refrigerator box painted to become the Tardis. These games would bud into sub games with fewer players but the thread of the theme would last weeks.
I was good at these games. I was often the boss and I relished my directorial role as a child, although I’m sure the other kids would just say I was a pain in the ass. This was what I was praised for and as a result I wanted to get better.
This has been my whole life so far. trying to improve myself in every area. Not to be better than anyone else but just to be better than I was last time I tried the task at hand. Sure, it’s nice to be told you look lovely in what you’re wearing, a compliment on your fashion or style is always appreciated but saying you have gorgeous eyes doesn’t mean a thing to me. I have no choice in that happy accident. Tell me you think my writing is getting better and I’ll take the compliment with pride.
I look in the mirror and I don’t judge what stares back at me. If I started to critique, I would never stop. When I look at my behaviour and skills, I am my harshest critic. This is what I can control and improve.
The hours I might have spent worrying about my looks growing up were hours I spent doing other things. I am so glad I didn’t look in the mirror often and instead looked outwards or inwards. Not being born beautiful was a gift. It released me from the idea chains of expectation. I can surprise people with my mind and my green thumb. I am well read in both the classics and tawdry gossip columns. I can cook and I can read a spreadsheet. I can strategise a marketing campaign and offer sound fashion advice. I am yin and yang.
This is what I hope to hand to my daughter. Sure, make yourself look nice but only because you want to feel good. Look after what you were born with but the colour of your skin, hair or the size of your clothes does not define you. Improve the natural talent you were given and if you aren’t any good at something that you want to be better at, then practise. Ask question of yourself and those around you, be the advocate for those who can’t be for themselves and if you have an idea to improve something then speak up. Be heard.
And finally; pretty is bullshit. Happy is better. Contentment is perfection.
*climbs off soapbox*