Nothing is more beautiful than the dancing light of innocence in the eyes of a child. But as children grow and are exposed to the cruelty of our culture, that light slowly fades away. While the light of innocence is still brightly shining in my daughter’s big brown eyes, I recently saw a tiny glimmer of it go dim.
Here’s the story:
One Saturday morning, EC and her cousin were running around in pink tutus and ballet shoes “practicing” for their first dance recital. With the show still a few weeks away, the girls got dressed up in their costumes for pictures.
I had just pulled into the parking lot of the church where pictures were being taken when EC shouted, “Wait Mommy! I need more lipstick. I’m not beautiful enough yet!”
My heart instantly shattered into a million pieces.
Since the day she was born, I have been trying to shield my daughter from the harsh world in which we live – a world that teaches girls to feel unbeautiful, imperfect and inadequate. And when she spoke those five little words, it broke my heart.
I quickly turned around and got close to her precious face saying, “God has already made you beautiful. You don’t need makeup to feel that way.”
“I don’t?” she innocently replied.
“No. Makeup does not make you any more beautiful than you are.”
As a toddler with a million questions, she of course had to ask, “What does it do?”
I frantically racked my brain trying to find a way to explain to my daughter that something she sees me do every day isn’t a necessity. I thank God for the analogy that came to my mind.
“When you get a new princess coloring book, what do you like to do?”
“I like to look at all the princesses on the pages!” she said with a smile.
“And then you get your crayons and start coloring. And after you’ve colored on every page, you still like looking at all the pictures. You love them just as much when they are black and white in a brand-new book as you do once they are decorated with your crayon masterpiece, right?”
As she nodded her head, her petite ballerina bun bounced around.
“That’s what makeup is like. You are absolutely beautiful just the way God made you, and putting makeup on doesn’t change that. It’s just something fun to do for certain occasions. God made you a beautiful princess just as you are and nothing you do – whether it’s putting on makeup, wearing fancy dresses or anything else – nothing will make you as beautiful as the princess God made you to be.”
During that moment, I was so grateful to God for putting the right words into my heart to teach to my daughter a very important lesson. I know there will be times where she will feel insecure, but I hope I am always there to reassure her that makeup doesn’t make you beautiful, God does.
This spring, I had the opportunity to be a part of an amazing project to empower girls of every age to feel beautiful. Naked: A Natural Beauty Portrait Project was created by Kate Dearman – a student at Southern Miss and talented freelance photographer with an inspiring story – to help girls to look at their faces in the mirror and see the same beauty as she sees when photographing them. Kate sought out girls of all ages and invited them to be a part of the project. The only requirement was that you couldn’t wear any makeup.
My goal for this project is for girls to come to know and appreciate how incredible and beautiful their physical beings are. I want girls to look in a mirror and see a breathtaking creation that is capable of incredible things. You were given a physical being by a Creator for a reason. I believe our physical bodies are a gift to be stewarded and cherished.
Kate’s purpose for this project really spoke to my heart, and made it even more meaningful for EC to be a part of it with me.
Growing up, I had my struggles with self-acceptance; and I didn’t fully understand the big picture until God blessed me with a child. Knowing that I was growing another human being who depended on me for shelter, nourishment and well being, helped me realize that my jaded view of what was important was so far off from what God was calling me to do.
As a mommy, I make it my daily mission to teach my daughter that she is a beautiful, wonderfully made child of God. I want her to know that she is enough. But I know that I can’t just teach her to be confident; I have to show her that I see myself as worthy and beautiful, too. With all the pressure moms face today, we often don’t realize we are teaching our daughters that hating your own body is normal.
A few weeks ago, I overheard a mother complaining about how fat she was to her young daughter. With every pair of pants the mom tried on, she would beg and plead, “Please let these pants fit me!” And when they didn’t, she shouted, “Oh well! I guess I am just too fat.”
The daughter innocently replied, “It’s okay, Mommy. We can still find clothes to fit you even though you are fat.”
Even in the simplest of moments, our children develop their own sense of self worth from everything we say and do.
I am raising my daughter to not only believe that she is beautiful just as God made her, but to care for the body God gave her by living a healthy lifestyle. I often take her along with me for a run around the neighborhood, always stopping at the park to swing, jump and play. And when I unroll my yoga mat, she immediately hops on to do “baby yoga” with me. She makes burpees and wall squats so much easier as we giggle together while she mimics the movement alongside me. By teaching her about fitness at such a young age, she views it as something fun to do with Mommy, not something she has to do to fit into a certain mold.
While I cannot shelter my daughter forever, I will continue to be the melody that plays as the light of innocence dances on in her eyes. And when it eventually fades, I pray that I will have taught her to be confident in herself and believe that she is enough.