Why We Should Stop Praising Pretty

As (probably) the last installation the the lies we tell girls series, I have a fantastic guest post from my friend Lauren. I love her perspective on what she wants her two young girls to learn about true beauty.

Here’s Lauren . . .

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“What does ‘pretty’ mean?” I ask my just turned 4-year-old.

“I don’t know.”

“Are you pretty?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, how do you know you’re pretty if you don’t know what it means?”

“I look in the mirror and see I’m pretty.”

She’s right.

Pretty is in the mirror. Pretty is surface and fleeting.

Have you ever looked up the meaning of the word “pretty” in the dictionary?

Pret-ty — attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful or handsome.

The truth is, the words we choose matter, especially when we’re talking to children, and “pretty” is an inadequate compliment.

Sure, I’ve said it. We all say it: “Oh, what a pretty baby!” “You look so pretty!” “She is just too pretty.”

But let’s be honest, folks.

People aren’t “pretty.”

Stuff is pretty. Dresses and headbands and Disney princesses and flowers and makeup are pretty. Living, breathing people with hearts and minds and talents are not pretty.

Praising little girls for being pretty prioritizes their appearance over their heart. Praising little girls for being pretty teaches them to seek approval and self worth in the wrong things–in having the right jewelry, the right clothing, the right hairstyle, the right body–and, inevitably, sets them up for failure.

Praising little girls for being ‘pretty’ ignores their true value as daughters of the King.

You are worth far more than rubies. — Proverbs 31.30

R1-06007-020AThere are two primary definitions for “beautiful” in the dictionary.

beau-ti-ful — 1)pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically.

2) of a very high standard; excellent.

Let’s get one thing straight.

God didn’t create “pretty” things in His own image. He doesn’t create a people who are “attractive with being truly beautiful.” His work is perfect and beautiful, and “of  a very high standard; excellent.” Always.

You are beautiful for you are fearfully and wonderfully made. — Psalm 139.14

When we think of princesses, we think of pretty-frilly dresses and tiaras and flowing locks.

Strong is beautiful

My 4-year-old isn’t into pretty princesses. She wants to be Batman when she grows up.

The Dark Knight is, by no stretch of the imagination, pretty. Batman is strong and courageous and philanthropic and just–not a terrible role model, if you ask me. As I told reporters regarding last summer’s #texasstrong flood relief fundraiser, I want both of my daughters to know that strong is beautiful.

We get so worried about being pretty. Let’s be pretty kind. Pretty funny. Pretty smart. Pretty strong. — Britt Nicole

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Let’s stop using “pretty” as an adjective for people. Let’s stop limiting little girls to pretty.

I love photographer Kate T. Parker’s “Strong is the New Pretty” project (and upcoming book), which challenges stereotypes with stunning and empowering images of her daughters, ages 5 and 8, in their element.  Kate wants little girls to know, “You don’t need to be pretty, perfect or compliant to be loved.”

“Pretty” won’t get them too far

Let’s stop elevating pretty and, instead, elevate strength and courage and kindness. Let’s teach our daughters that God didn’t create them to be “pretty.” Let’s make sure they know where their true value lies.

Because when they’re 15 and their face is covered in acne, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

When they’re 30 and their hips and belly are covered in stretchmarks, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

When they’re 50 and their hair is gray and they’re drenched in sweat from hot flashes, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

And when they’re 80 and their hair is white and their face is wrinkled, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

Let’s stop praising little girls for being pretty. Let’s teach them to praise the One who made them beautiful instead.

A version of this post originally appeared at loveofdixie.com.

img_5004-2Lauren Flake is an artist, author and advocate near her native Austin, Texas, at LaurenFlake.com. You can follow her adventures as a wife, mom, Alzheimer’s daughter and #TexasStrong blogger at For the Love of Dixie on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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