Beauty - An Innate Feeling

When I was 8 years old one of my cousins was working on our family tree for her school project. As part of the project she had to write the occupation of each adult and the ambition(s) of each kid. She asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I told her with excitement, "I want to be a model!" Of course, along the years I've changed my ambition many times from dreaming of becoming an architect, a florist, perfume maker, doctor, lawyer, you name it.

But let's just pause for a second. Why would an innocent 8 year old girl who loves watching Pocahontas over and over again and playing 'pretend chef' with the other neighbourhood kids aspire to become a fashion model? What would a young child find so appealing about them and what they do for a living? I realised that my mum's occupation as a fashion design lecturer could have somehow influenced my decision at the time. I'd listen to my mum talk about fabric and designs as I wait in her office after school and I'd attend fashion shows that my mum was involved in but what could this all mean to the 8 year old version of myself?

It struck me a few years ago that it wasn't my dream to strut down catwalks or appear in fashion magazines. I just wanted to be beautiful. On top of that, I was and I still am very close to my mum. As a child, I admired her beauty and the way she carried herself. She was always so busy and creative. She never spoke too much and wore the prettiest dresses. She also collected jewellery and bottles of perfumes. I wanted so much to be like her. I think we learn to appreciate beauty and to emulate what is beautiful at a young age. The desire to be pretty is simply an innate feeling even for little girls.

Today this desire has become an obsession for many young girls, young women and not-so-young women. It's come to a point where we want to become someone we just weren't meant to be and most importantly, someone we don't have to be. I'm glad I didn't turn out to be a so-called model and that my family saw a different kind of potential in me. You know the saying 'Charity begins at home'? It's so true... except that I think everything starts from home. Values, habits, education, culture (including the way we perceive the world), love, trust. Even as adults we are careful with whom we surround ourselves with because people have such great impact on our lives. Now can you imagine how amplified the impact would be on a child or adolescent who is still absorbing, learning and trying to understand what she observes?

My point is, if you have a daughter, sister, female cousin or friend tell her that she's beautiful and that she doesn't have to look a certain way to be happy. Tell her that she can count on her intelligence more than anything else because there are thousands of girls out there who are so beautiful on the outside but they're still unhappy inside because they don't believe in themselves. They're always seeking approval from all the wrong people, people who take advantage of their vulnerability. If you have a mother, an aunt or even a grandmother tell her what an amazing woman she is. Express your appreciation and tell her how much she means to you.

As the famous Dr. Maya Angelou said, "If you mean to demean a person, to make her or him feel less than whole, anybody could say it." Well it works both ways. Never underestimate the power of your words and encouragement. It could save a life. It could've saved her life.

EDIT:I find the role of a father is extremely crucial. I noticed that girls who felt loved and protected by their father felt less or no need to search for love outside her home, such as by having many boyfriends.They have a higher sense of self-esteem and self-respect.

"What to expect from a male-female relationship". Daughters learn about marriage from watching Mom and Dad. If parents treat each other well, this becomes the expectation. If Dad is a tyrant, then men are regarded as essentially bad. If Dad is alcoholic or abusive, men are considered to be people who are allowed to get out of control and be hurtful. The unconscious conclusion is... "If Dad treats me well, I am a worthwhile individual. If Dad rejects me or criticizes me, I am no good."

Usually, mothers serve as role models for their daughters. They provide examples of how to be an individual, a mother and a wife. Fathers, however, teach their daughters how to regard themselves, what kinds of relationships are healthy, what to look for in a partner, and what to expect of men in co-parenting relationships.

an excerpt from Father-Daughter Relationships


Anonymous said…
Assalamu alaikum Shahirah Elaiza :),

thank you for visiting my blog and giving me so the possibility to discover your nice writings.
First of all,let me tell you that you really are beautiful.I saw some pictures on here and I like very much your style and your hair is amazing :).
I enjoyed very much this post and thank you for posting a video with Mrs Angelou.I adore her and I could only wish to become one day a real lady like she is!
You are right when you say that girls need to hear more often that they are beautiful.A good,positive word can do miracles indeed!
I send you a hug and I wish you all good with your studies and with finding new shoes ;)...
Shahirah Elaiza said…
Walaykummusalam Jasmina, thank YOU for reading my blog =) I'm happy that you enjoyed the post. I really admire Dr. Angelou too... she is a woman with much wisdom and we need more people like her in this world.

Yes, us women need to support our children, family and friends a lot more. Some women tend to get catty and we need to change that sort of mentality. If we can't rely on our 'sisters', does it mean we have to rely on men??? Men who may have ulterior motives and intend to take advantage of vulnerable women. No thank you! A compliment from a girlfriend is all I need.

So thank you for your lovely words. You made my day!
Anonymous said…
I also think this is an excellent thing to ponder before deciding to become a mother ourselves. For if we have low self-esteem or are too caught up in materialism or thinking ourselves worthless, what will that say to our daughters?

All women have something beautiful inside them, as future mother's of little girls, we have to truly embrace and believe in that.
Maryam said…

Awesome post. You wrote about one of my passions.

I feel that there is nothing wrong one wanting to feel beautiful; it's natural. However, there is so much talk of beauty around us today, I feel that people focus too much on outer appearance.

I actually just gave a speech about the negative effects the media is having on young girls, resulting in eating disorders, low self esteem etc.

I better stop myself now before I write an essay :)

And Dr. Angelou IS amazing.

I really enjoyed this post!
Shahirah Elaiza said…
Sarah: You got it... that's exactly it. We live in a patriarchal society where women are commonly used and exploited. Therefore the role of a mother, aunt, family, etc. is becoming more and more important to ensure young girls grow up with a healthy level of self-esteem.

Maryam: Thank you! Btw what was the occassion for you to write such a speech? Maybe post it up on your blog? Would love to read your p.o.v. =)
Maryam said…
I'm taking a general communications class in college and we were required to give speeches on any topic.

And I think I might post my speech on my blog.