Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Q & A -- girls' self-image

I just spoke to a group of young girls about virtue and purity and I was struck with the pressures they are under with body image, appearance etc. How do you teach your 4 daughters and your young women at church that what they are is enough and they don't need to look to celebrities/society to see what they need to be? I want to teach my daughter that she is beautiful and fight that attitude out there that looks are what is most important...any advice?

This is so tough in a society that needs articles like this to remind us what level of beauty young girls are trying to achieve. It makes me so sad...and even a little bit mad.

I've been thinking about this a lot this last week because the girl from American Idol who presented at Time Out for Girls last week gave a powerful message about beauty. She came all decked-out to give her speech...fake eyelashes, tons of make-up, fancy clothes, etc. Then she asked the girls what they think makes them beautiful. They gave her a bunch of answers (mostly about what makes them beautiful in the world's view). Then she asked if her fancy high-heeled shoes made her beautiful. They answered with a resounding "yes!" So she took them off and asked if her bedazzled belt made her beautiful. This time they were a little unsure, but some still answered with "yes." Then she proceeded to take off her eyelashes, lipstick, make-up, etc. with the same questions and by the end the girls got the point...she was left with only her inner-beauty. And that was what was most important in the long-run.

Sure, it's important to take care of our bodies and try to look nice. One of my wise neighbors with grown, well-adjusted, gorgeous girls used to always tell those girls to spend a little time in the morning getting ready and then leave out the door for their day only thinking about others. That is what will make you beautiful. Because in my opinion inner beauty far outreaches outer beauty.

That's really tough for a teenager to understand, but I figure if we start young and emphasize it over and over again maybe they'll get it.

Are some of your girl’s hair highlighted? Or is their hair naturally blond? At what age can they highlight their hair?

I think the example of a mother is such a huge influence in the lives of girls. My dear mother is my greatest hero and I've always looked up to her. She never spent much time on herself so I never thought a lot about those kinds of things growing up. It helped that she was naturally beautiful, but what makes my mom most beautiful to me is her inner light and the way she loves everyone around her completely unconditionally.

Because of her example I don't think I ever even knew what a "highlight" was until well after I was married. And I hope to follow my mom's example in prioritizing other things over those things. If my girls see me always worrying about make-up or hair appointments or what I wear then that's what they will probably focus on as well. As much as I believe it's important to look nice, I'd rather focus the majority of my time on other things.

I just started getting my hair cut at an actual salon a couple months ago only because the lady who cut my hair out of her friend's house started her own salon, and I get highlights on occasion because I'm old. I have taken Elle to get her hair professionally cut twice and Grace once (the others never). We just keep it simple and I do it myself because that's what I grew up with...that's all I knew.

So, in answer to your question my girls are lucky to have natural highlights which I hope will help them not even think of highlights for a long, long time...not because highlights are bad, but because they'll have plenty of time for that later when they start popping out with their own gray hairs.

I think it's important to take good care of our faces and hair and bodies, but I hope I can help my girls find a good balance there.

Are your kids going to get their teeth bleached as soon as they get their braces off? Is that something you would allow?

This is not a question about girls, but kind of goes together...
Max had pretty yellow teeth when he got his braces off. I didn't notice it until he brought it up and was a little self-conscious about it. I let him use a little of my teeth bleaching gel I got from my dentist friend to remedy the situation.

Again, I want to be like my wise neighbor and let kids feel confident with how they look with little fixes like that, and then be confident enough to go out the front door and think of others rather than their yellow teeth.

And as far as the shaving issue goes (from this post), I was out of town when this posted and got a slew of questions about "when" and "why" that I never had a chance to respond to.

Some examples:

Does a 10-year-old really believe the, "because you have to do it forever" line? I worry mine will say, "good, I want to do it forever!" Is it wrong to use peer pressure for leverage to go my way?!!

The question of the day is, what age is "right?"

I know we all have to decide for ourselves, but in our family, having daughters 2.5 years apart is harder than I thought.

Our 12 year old hasn't shaved and is just asking, but doesn't really need to. Our 9.5 year old wants to and is seriously very hairy but I've told her not yet. How can I be fair? Ahhh--I'm an only daughter with four brothers. I just don't get this sister/fairness stuff sometimes! What would you do? Does it have to be an "age" or should I just let the younger do it earlier than the first since it's going to bother her soon?

I really think open discussion is key. Grace and I have had a few really open conversations about this since her little shaving accident incident a couple weeks ago (click here for more details) and I'm so grateful for the opportunity it has provided to see her point of view and to express mine. I just don't want her to grow up too fast! And shaving is a pain. But I do have to look at her side: she has pretty hairy legs (so does Claire) and it doesn't help that Max was making fun of them.

Girls want to grow up so darn fast these days!! I think the media certainly does not deter this...magazines with kids all dolled up and tv shows with girls with attitude talking back to their parents with cell phones in their back pockets. I loved reading this article I referenced above (sent in by a blog reader) which further proves my point.

It's funny because in so many ways I want my children to see the world...I want them to have their eyes opened that their little pocket here in the desert is NOT the center of the world. But then I want to shelter them and build a little bubble around them so they won't grow up so fast. And I think that's just fine by me.

I don't know that there is a magical age for when they should "start" growing up, but I just think talking about it openly together will give the answer.

As far as life being "fair," I used to hate it when my mom told me "life isn't fair," but I have to admit that she sure was right. The sooner we teach kids this fact the better. If they're always looking for what's "fair" in life they're not going to be trained to look for the good things in their own life and quit comparing to others.


  1. I look forward to your Friday question and answers so much! And I have a question for you since you are a big traveler....
    Does it ever scare you to travel away from your family? How do you feel about airplane rides? Do you ever leave for a Time Out For Women conference and get that fear in the pit of your stomach that something might go wrong and your kids will be left motherless?
    I ask because I am terrified to fly! I don't even want to drive to the temple two hours away for fear that us parents will crash and the kids will be all alone! Is it just me, or do you have those fears too? If so, how have you overcome them?

  2. Love that cnn article...especially pertinent at Halloween time.

  3. This actually reminds me of an article I read about girls trying to grow up too fast {I don't remember for sure where I read the article - I wish I did so I could reference it but it was probably in Parents magazine or something like that}. The article talked about clothing choices being difficult because manufacturers create one line of clothing for teens and then rather than go through the work of creating another line, they just shrink them for younger girls. It's no wonder girls are growing up so fast when the clothes we can find for them are the same things 15 year olds wear {though some of that stuff shouldn't be worn by anyone, no matter the age}.
    I completely agree that there is so much we can do as mothers to help our daughters' images of themselves. I also agree that we need to take care of ourselves, but remember balance is the key. I wear makeup and I feel better about myself when I do - but it isn't so much because I think I look better when I do. It's more because that is one way that I take care of myself and I feel better when I take care of myself. But I also exercise and don't eat too many sweets to take care of myself. I read my scriptures and go to church to take care of myself. Does all that seem selfish? Maybe to some people. But those things help me make sure my well is full. And then when my well is full, I have to give to others. And that's what life is all about, giving to others. Anyway, this is a long comment and maybe not very coherent. Suffice it to say, I agree: balance, example, perspective. :)

  4. thanks for this. I get to teach my miamaids about self image on Sunday and this will help so much. I am on the other side, I grew up thinking looks were so important because that is what was important to my friends. Thank goodness I broke out of those feelings before they became my way of life as an adult!

  5. Wow, those were some tough questions & some great, well-thought out answers! I'm behind you 100%. I'm have four girls, and I can tell you that I think about these issues A LOT. I'm very careful how I discuss my body around them; I've even shut down friends who start slipping into self body bashing. Little ears are always listening.

    Anyway, you said it all so well, but I do have to add: Shawni, you're incredibly gorgeous. In one post you said you took about 20 minutes to get ready. I really wish I could do that. I'd love to not spend much time getting ready, but the sad truth is, makeup is there to help those of us who aren't so genetically blessed. I'm excited to teach my girls to avoid some of the choices I made (laying out, for example) so they can have prettier skin later on. ("You can always get a new dress, but you can't get a new face.")
    The sad truth is, though, how we look affects how others react to us and treat us. I've seen this over and over and over. It is not something that will go away, as much as we hate it. That's why the Church counsels us to be neat and comely. It's a natural, biological factor that we as humans are drawn to the beautiful and healthy.
    So I guess the bottom line is what you said--we teach our girls not to obsess over what they can't change, but that it's important to be clean and attractive overall.

  6. My girls are litte (3 & 1) heaven help me when shaving becomes a concern. On the "fair" issue. I'm the 7th of 9 kids and my parents used to tell us that "fair" was not the goal; it was about making the best choice for THAT child at THAT time. Different kid, different time= different choice and that meant different answers. I sometimes hated that answer, but even as a teen (later teens) it made some sense and I didn't argue it too much.

  7. "Beauty" is just an opinion of what people think they see on the outside. For my Girl Scout gold award I'm having a lock-in at my high school for 9-12 grade girls which will feature speakers from different aspects of female health. Nutritional and emotional speakers will be featured who have interactive demonstrations to support the girls' bonding. I'm excited and I think it will be a hit!

  8. I thought for sure you would reference this article in your post when answering these questions about how to teach girls about real beauty in the age we live in. It is called "Redefining Beauty" and was in LDS Living Magazine in the January/February 2011 issue. I wish I had a link for you, but google it. You will LOVE IT! I tore it out of the actual magazine and saved it (I NEVER do that with mag. articles!). Try to find it, every girl and woman needs to read it!

  9. I'm totally with you, Jessica and Rachel...make-up and trying to look beautiful is something that we should certainly strive for. I think that is part of having confidence and in many ways it helps take care of our husbands :) Our bodies and our faces are precious gifts from God that we should definitely take time to care for. And we have make-up for a reason, right?? But I'm just thankful for examples in my life of people who do not obsess about that stuff. And as my sister always talks about at her motherhood retreats, we need to be sure to take care of the "person within the mom." Otherwise, our "well" will certainly, as you said, get dried up and we will not have anything more to give. And that wouldn't be good for anyone!

    I think you can go wrong either way...obsessing too much AND not caring enough. We just need to find the balance between the two.

  10. And Toni, what a great project you are doing!! Good luck with that!

  11. This topic of women's & girls' self-image has really been on my mind lately, ever since I saw the documentary "MissRepresentation" on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

    I had never realized how much I hang my self-confidence on how I look. And I realized how much the media and society in general emphasizes the power of women only through their outer beauty. I mean, there's all this girl-power-inner-beauty stuff being said out there, but the people saying it are certainly easy on the eyes themselves.

    I'm glad people are beginning to talk about it more seriously now, and I'm glad that I've become more aware. I've tried to compliment my girls less on how they look and more on things they accomplish and other positive attributes, like their kindness and generosity.

    Thanks for your inspiring answers!

  12. Great answers that I will keep in mind as my daughters grow up! I have a question- how did you put Dave first when you had really young kids? I have a 4 week old and almost 2 year old and they are obviously SO demanding! For example my husband wanted to go on a day trip just us last weekend but I couldn't bare the thought of leaving my breast fed 3 week old for a whole day. I want my husband to feel he is my number one priority but sometimes these kiddos take almost all my time and energy!

  13. I actually heard that line in general conference years ago. I don't remember the exact quote but she said (and I wish I could remember who) spend time in the morning making yourself look presentable then walk out the door and forget about yourself. I've always remembered that and hope to pass it onto my 4 daughters. Thank you for this message.
    As for the shaving, growing up too fast, I allowed my daughter to start shaving early (8) because she was hairy and VERY self conscious about it, but as soon as she did it once or twice, she forgot about it. As an eleven year old, she maybe shaves twice a year. I think she just had to get it out of her system and become comfortable with herself, and she realized afterward that it wasn't that big of a deal to begin with.

  14. I was hesitant to comment on your other post about shaving because I'm sure I will be quickly criticized by some, but . . .

    I have two daughters, eight years old and seven years old, and I shave their legs for them every so often. (Maybe once every three months.) They happen to have fairly hairy legs and one of them happens to be really bothered by certain things, so why not?

    I was concerned that my eight year old would try to shave on her own, so I told them both that our deal was that I will shave their legs for them, as long as they don't try to do it without me. Now I don't worry about them cutting themselves, and it's not like it's so frequent that it's taking over our lives or anything. . .

    At first, I was embarrassed that I was shaving my girls' legs so young, but really, why not? My daughters are being taught that the way you treat people is more important than the way you look, and at this point, I really don't worry about shaving leading to other things. I am low maintenance when it comes to beauty and grooming, and my daughters have never wanted to wear makeup or dress "older", they just don't like hairy legs.

    Is there anything wrong with that???

  15. I am not a mother yet, but I'm very concerned about this because I've suffered the same, and still am sometimes! And I'm almost 25. I feel like I have to go on with the rest of the world, the fashion market and all that! and it's tiring. I recently decided that I wouldn't buy any clothes until next year, unless I REALLY REALLY needed them. I just go two pairs of "fall" shoes, as I call them (don't know the word in English, meh). Because I'm tired of the need of buying the latest trend on the showcase...but about make up and shaving... peer pressure was strong and I started when most of my friends did (although my group was one of "good girls" that always got late to all this stuff, luckily!).

  16. I thought I was going to have the 12 rule for shaving but recalled a ward friend who's mom had that rule and would do it at other homes - sharing a razor is NOT something I want my girls resorting to. I think an general age is good to shoot for, I think 10 is when my daughter started talking about it and not that she pestered but she just commented enough that I knew it was becoming a concern to her so I purchased nair and smooth away.
    It's hard to make some rules and expect all kids to fit it so I think you've got to adjust to the child - something you do so well Shawni. If they dance or swim a lot they may notice it earlier, or younger girls seeing older sisters may notice earlier. I don't remember a rule at our home but I think it was entering jr high and part of that reason was we couldn't wear shorts to school in elementary so it wasn't a concern. There is just so much to consider but I really believe the Spirit will guide you in all things even seeming little things like when it's right for that child to shave.

  17. I have a Q or two!
    Christmas is coming, How do you do all your shopping for 5 children? DO you do it alone, you and Dave together? where do you stash it all LOL

    Also, do you have a dollor limit per child, or a numeral amount of gifts?

    Do you worry that all the 'Entitlement' goes out of the window on christmas morning?

    also have your children made lists at all what were on them this year.. i'm looking for ideas ! ahahah

  18. Thanks for answering my question. For Halloween my 4 yr old daughter is being a princess (on saturday she was rapunzel and today she'll be belle, good thing we have them both on hand!). I asked her if she wanted some lipstick on to be a princess and she looked at me, put her hand on her hip gave me her best sassy look and said, "No Mommy, I pretty as I is!" If only I can keep that attitude for her!

  19. You are a wonderful mom and YW leader to teach your girls about true beauty, virtue and purity.

    It's so true that girls look up to you as an example and will value whatever you value.

    This is a beautiful quote from Audrey Hepburn:

    “For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

    For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

    For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

    For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

    For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

    People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

    Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of each of your arms.

    As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

    The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair.

    The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

    The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”
    ― Audrey Hepburn

    Last of all here is a Dove commercial on true beauty. It has a good message for girls in there and puts things in to perspective:

  20. I check your blog every now and then and I thought I would comment on this post because I was a 2nd daughter, and a very hairy child. My sister was 2 years older than me and my mom finally let her shave when she was 12 years old. The same time she looked at me and handed me a razor too because honestly I needed it! :) My sister says she didn't mind too much, and she got over it pretty quickly, she said she would have been more upset if I had been allowed to and she wasn't, but since she was excited to be able to shave too she didn't really care. I also have really hairy arms, and as a low maintenence person I don't want to have to shave them a lot and I don't like stubbly arms, so I started "trimming" them and I love it! I use my husbands hair clippers with the shortest guard, and I just buzz them, and I only do it about every other month. I have decided this will be a great idea for my daughter when she is first wanting to shave her legs--to kind of tide her over until I think she is ready to do it more often.


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