Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tell me I'm beautiful

Is there a point in life when we no longer need to hear that we’re beautiful?

Would you rather someone comment on how smart you are? Or how accomplished you are? Or how kind, maybe?

Does it matter who it is that’s making the compliment?

I spend a lot of time listening and not saying much. I pay attention sometimes to the ways that my students or my friends interact with one another. Some girls expend an awful lot of energy making themselves beautiful and then wait around for their female friends to notice. Grown women do the same. What’s the point?

Why the constant need for reassurance?


"Female beauty is an important minor sacrament... I am not at all sure that neglect of it does not constitute a sin of some kind." -Robertson Davies

20 comments:

Laurie said...

I prefer that people don't compliment me. It always makes me uncomfortable.

Larry said...

I think most people look for reassurance in some form.

It's part of our culture that a lot of emphasis has been placed on a woman's beauty.-nice flower photo-by the way.

KGMom said...

Oh oh oh--this is one of my big issues. When my daughter was growing up, I kept telling her what she thought was much more important than how she looked. But it was hard to swim against the current--magazines, peers, television--everything tells little girls they have to look pretty.
Then we have the inane examples of Paris Hilton or whatever bimbo who trade on their looks & all the hard work we do to encourage our daughters gets undone!
Told you this was a hot button for me. As for me, I would much rather be smart than pretty. And I would rather be complimented, if at all, for my brains.

MojoMan said...

Maybe compliments are like blog comments. We all want a few, but too many could be a burden or a bore. (Not that I would know about that!)

I've always wondered why (young) women seem to dress for each other. Wouldn't feedback from men be more helpful? Maybe men don't articulate enough compliments, so women have to look to each other for reinforcement. Could a guy get points by speaking up more?

LauraHinNJ said...

Mojoman: I think you've said it exactly that women dress for each other.

I'd imagine that for a certain type of woman, yes, a man could get points for speaking up more often. Presuming that she's looking for men to notice.

KGMom: Maybe because I'm confident in my looks and my brains - I just don't *get* why women would chose to define themselves by someone else's opinion.

Maybe I spend too much time with young people that I see the same shallowness in adults, also.

Not being in that mindset is seen as very strange also, don't you think?

Larry: Yes! We all need that, but I question that professional women so easily use their looks to cover up their inadequacies.

The flower, by the way, is a quince - that has volunteered itself in my little woodland border. I love the bold color!

Laurie: I'm the same - I hate any sort of attention.

Susan Gets Native said...

I used to be really bad at accepting compliments (it made Geoff crazy) but when my self-esteem came back, a nice "Thank you" came pretty easy.
I tell the girls all the time that beauty may get you in the door, but it's brains that will keep you there.
Thank goodness they don't know who Paris Hilton is. How am I supposed to explain that she has no real talent and is only known for an amateur porn video and her habit of dressing in strings held together by sequins?

Liza Lee Miller said...

As a mother of a daughter, this is something I've thought about alot.

Like Susan, I used to have a hard time accepting compliments until I read an article that adviced that simply smiling and saying, "Thank you," is the best way to handle compliments. So, that's what I do now -- whether I think they are deserved or not. :)

Re my daughter, a friend who has a daughter a few months older than mine told me what he does when someone comments on how beautiful his daughter is. He smiles and says, "Thank you -- she's smart, strong, and capable too." Point taken. Defining anyone by any one thing is not a good choice.

I make sure that I tell my kids they are attractive but also that they are smart and hard workers and kind and strong and . . .

I think it's working but we haven't hit that rocky road of adolescence yet.

z said...

The brighter the feathers. The bigger the bird who will be caught.
That's pretty much it.

Dr. Know said...

Well, I'm a little late into this particular fray, but I have to say that I find the current societal norms and expectations for your average women to be rather disingenuous, at best - and ruthfully depressing at worst.

I've been told I was intelligent throughout life, but never heard that I was loved or attractive to others. Take that as you will, but I think most people, especially women, due to the Cinderella syndrome, place far too much emphasis on external beauty, and yet far too little on developing realistic, practical personalities.

But for what it's worth, I think you're quite beautiful, inside and out, and represent what is essentially unavailable in my (red)neck of the woods. As for the quince, it's beautiful as well, and loves a hot and saucy environ... ;-)

Don't mind me, however, I'm just a stupid Southerner who spent too much time at the Liberally Drinking meeting tonight because he is trapped in... well... the backwater south and came home and saw that post heading... ;-) Be careful what you ask for...

Ciao!

Jayne said...

I'd much prefer to hear that I am thought to be beautiful on the inside. :c)

Riana - healthy! said...

I'd rather people compliment me for my attitude instead of 'beauty'

vicki said...

The comments to this are as interesting as the post- although the post is also beautiful, compliments of that apple blossom.

The importance of appearances is pressed early and hard with the sorts of toys and media information our daughters see- but I think, historically, it has always been highly valued in human cultures.

The interesting thing is that I think of my daughter as absolutely stunning and I'll often say, "she's beautiful!" but this post made me reflect on that and realize that I am commenting on the whole package, ninety percent of it inside and ten percent spilling out in the light and twinkle of her green eyes. In any case, by the time you hit your fifties you had better find a different definition of beauty or you're in trouble.

Lynne said...

I'm going to jump in with Jayne on this one. I too would rather be complimented for thoughtfulnes than anything else. I make a special effort with both my son and daughter to comment on their kindnesses toward others, more than smarts. Compassion, empathy, respect, these make for a good human being.

That said, I DO brighten when Art compliments my appearance...

mon@rch said...

Okey Dokey< You are Beautiful, I just love your photography, your writing, happyness and your love for nature! You are beautiful!

Dorothy said...

Because of the way I was raised, I think positive feedback, no matter what variety, is a good thing.
When I was little, I was raised by parents who gave very few compliments about anything, the thinking was..it would cause conceit. As a result, my self esteem suffered. So I'm for all kinds of compliments now..LOL.
Just a different point of view...

Julie Zickefoose said...

Dear Laura,

I always stop myself before saying or writing that I have two "beautiful" children. Beauty is as beauty does. I go back then, and revise, and say that they're good citizens, interesting people, and kind.
Phoebe doesn't yet know how lovely she is. I hope she never figures it out. Right now she thinks she needs to make her way in the world with intelligence and grace. May she never be dissuaded from that. Every time I look in the mirror I'm glad I don't have to rely on my looks for a living. How much more dismal growing older would be if that were the case.
This is a thought-provoking post, LHINNJ. Nice quince, too.

Cathy said...

One of the main advantages to aging is that I care far less about other's perceptions of my 'physical' self.

LauraHinNJ said...

Susan: Strings held together by sequins - ha! Yea she's a dope, who's famous for being famous.

Liza: I like your friend's way of handling it. Raising kids is such hard work - telling them they're beautiful or attractive is a good thing, but there's plenty more important things to worry over!

Z: Ha! I guess we could look at it that way.

dr. know: I like your idea of realistic, practical women. There isn't a thing wrong with looking good and being proud of it, but soomer or later there ought to be something more, right?

Oh and I didn't mean to ask for it, but thank you.

;-)

Jayne: Yes of course, but there has to be something on the inside to be beautiful.

I've heard more than a few of my students say all that want out of life is to find some rich guy to marry. So long as they're beautiful they seem to figure it's a given. Yea - then what?

I thought girls going to college to find a husband went out of vogue in my mother's day.

Riana: Hi - attitude is a part of it, I think.

Vicki: I don't know, there's plenty of pretty 50 somethings!

;-)

Lynne: Of course - I do too, when the DH happens to notice that I've combed my hair for a change!

Do you notice a difference with your son and daughter with how they talk with their friends? Probably they're still too young.

Monarch: I made you say that so it doesn't count.

;-)

Dorothy: I think we may have had a similar upbringing. My dad would hardly ever say a nice thing to me, but I might be lucky enough to overhear his praise for me shared with someone else.

Good behavior (or good grades) or whatever was just EXPECTED, not something to be made note of, or praised.

The opposite, however, was always noted. Usually loudly and with stomping of feet!

Julie: Hi - the quince is a nice surprise - not sure how it found itself in my garden.

I hope that your Phoebe will remain innocent of her lovliness, for a while at least!

NatureWoman said...

I'd rather have beauty that comes from the inside out than be some bimbo that nobody can get their eyes off of. And I don't dress for anyone - I wear what I like and what's comfortable. I don't care what people want to compliment me for, I don't need reassurance, I just constantly trying to improve my brain and I like having smart and kind friends like you.

Mary said...

Oh, gosh, I'm so sorry I missed this post. It's quite possibly my favorite from you. No...there are too many from you too mention as favorites.

Please accept this compliment. I haven't seen you in person but I think you are one beautiful lady - inside and out.

I think we all need to hear it and accept it gracefully. Beautiful post, Laura.