Well yeah…you, as an adult, know this to be true.
A little girl told over and over again that she’s beautiful may not realize that she’s many other things too. Especially if she’s not told otherwise. I’ve seen this image pop up a few times on Facebook recently:
I don’t think people that tell little girls they’re beautiful are meaning actual harm by it. I don’t think they’re bad people. I think it’s an *okay* compliment.
The thing is, it’s most people’s default compliment. You know what that means? That means that most little girls are hearing over and over again (for years) that they’re beautiful, over anything else. That what their face looks like is good, valued and what people care about. On top of people telling them in person, they’re also seeing it all around them. Advertisements of all sorts, social media, tv/movies, news, magazines, books, articles online. The pressure to be beautiful is consuming for little girls. There isn’t pressure put on them for things like leadership, bravery or trustworthiness.
While a family friend or acquaintance telling you you’re beautiful every time they see you is not inherently bad, is it actually doing anything good? I’d argue that when their parents or guardians tell them, or even their best friends, it’s much more useful than when an acquaintance or random person on the street says it. These are the people that know them. Really, really know them. They know their heart and soul as well as their looks. So being beautiful to these people is what matters because It’s not really just your looks being complimented, it’s what you do and who you are combined with your cute face that makes you beautiful.
On top of this, we’ve already tried this for years – complimenting girls on their looks alone. From that we’ve ended up with a ton of women who are desperately trying to be beautiful to gain the approval of others instead of just wanting to be beautiful for themselves. What if we tried something new? What would happen if we started complimenting girls on how unique they are? Or how strong they are? Maybe if we made an effort to point out that they’re smart, brave, creative and kind – they’d grow up believing these things as well.