How To Make Your Daughter Feel Beautiful

Written on May 2, 2013 at 11:30 am , by

I will never forget letting go of my then-toddler daughter’s chubby hand to pick up a gorgeous Barbie doll at a toy store. With brown skin and cascading black hair, she looked radiant and regal in her cardboard home. But my daughter shook her head, excitedly and defiantly pointed at another doll. It happened to be white with blond hair.

“Oh no!” I thought—and said. Holding out my brown arm next to my original choice, I explained: “See, her skin is just like Mommy’s.”

She left the toy store with a board game. No doll. I left the store determined to only buy books and dolls that had faces, hair and skin color that reflected that of my four African-American daughters.

My thought process did not emerge from a negative worldview of other ethnic groups. It came from the realization that my daughters’ self-concept and sense of inner-beauty would be impacted by many factors—some under my control but many not.

That being said, I consciously avoided self-critical remarks about my own physical flaws and theirs. I was very fortunate because my four daughters were jocks who were certainly attuned to and influenced by popular culture but also had healthy body images of girls and women.

Flash forward to last week when I picked up a recent issue of People magazine. I saw it featured the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” and I had the same sinking feeling that I did in that toy store years ago. It wasn’t anything personal against the choice, but once again reminded me of the importance of our daughters having a strong self-image and being aware of the significance of their own inner beauty. (Especially given the amount of criticism the cover subject received).

As the mother of young women now, I am just as conscious of zingers in the world that may damage their self-esteem as I was in their formative years. The necessity of balancing media, peer and family influences on their sense of self will always be present.

In an ideal world, beauty would not be measured by external characteristics but internal character. Until that happens, maybe the Most Beautiful Person in the World wouldn’t be an actual picture of a person but simply a mirrored pane that reflects the image of the viewer.

Janet Taylor, M.D., M.P.H., is a mother of four, a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.



6 Responses to “How To Make Your Daughter Feel Beautiful”

  1. I have a problem with this. I normally stand by a mom against media on issues of what has a woman should look like, but this upsets me. It sounds like YOU,not the media, will give your child a complex! I am white (I guess some would say) and so is my daughter. I would NEVER discourage her from the(color) of a doll! In fact, one of her first dolls had bronze tan skin! I didn’t think a thing of it! Get over it lady…sounds like you are passively aggressively teaching HATE! Isn’t that what it would be called if I had told my kid no to the brown doll?

  2. No matter what a Mother does, someone finds fault with it. I’m sure you did a good job with your daughters. My mother always bought me baby dolls that had a specific shade of honey blonde hair – just like mine. Mama is half Greek and half Mexican and I got along better with her side of the family. I wanted to be dark like my sisters but instead I took after Daddy.
    My dd is an only child and I let her pick out any doll she wanted – and she picked a vast array.

  3. I had the same thought when I read your response, “oh no”… My Caucasian daughter has baby dolls and barbies of all colors because I want her to learn all colors are beautiful. I appreciate you wanting to instill confidence in your child, but I’m trying to instill appreciation in mine.

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