Menu

My daughter is so much more than ‘pretty’

How do I teach her that self-worth isn’t sealed into pretty?

My daughter is so much more than ‘pretty’

My mother tells a story of the very early years of my life. I was not yet two-years-old and all I wanted was real earrings. She ultimately gave in and had my ears pierced. I loved my pretty earrings.


That’s when I started chasing pretty–before my second birthday.

Every stranger that I met noticed my pretty earrings. In the line at the grocery store. At the zoo. My earrings and I got so many compliments. I was a pretty baby with pretty earrings and pretty dresses.

I grew into a little girl who loved being pretty. I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to hear compliments on my appearance. My self-worth became enmeshed in those compliments. This was the beginning of a lifetime spent chasing pretty.

By the time I was 10, I thought I needed to lose weight. Because skinny is pretty. For a 4th-grader, I spent far too much time in my bedroom trying to curl my bangs, because I wanted to look pretty.

I wanted people to tell me I was pretty because this is how I came to measure my self-worth.

Long before high school I developed an unhealthy perception of my body. This led to diet pills and crash diets. Because skinny is pretty and pretty is everything.

I accumulated all the necessary (and much of the unnecessary) beautifying equipment. This included a closet stuffed with clothes and drawers full of make-up and hair supplies. These things helped in the chase. They helped make me pretty. Really pretty. Or at least that’s what I heard from strangers.

But despite a lifetime of chasing pretty, I never felt pretty.

Pretty was a moving target that I never could quite seem to catch.

No matter how much I dieted, how much make up I wore, or how cute my outfit was on any given day—pretty seemed to escape me. Each time I looked in the mirror or saw a photo of myself, I questioned.

Do I look pretty?

I am now 33-years-old. I am a wife and mother of two. Last year I finished a Ph.D. I accomplished great heights in my career—accumulating accolades and recognition for contributions to my field of work. These days, I have surrendered to the chase.

I no longer have the time and energy to chase pretty. Because frankly, it’s exhausting.

I never was going to catch it anyways.

Somewhere in these major life changes I saw a photo that changed everything. For the first time, I saw a photo of myself that took my breathe away.

As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Although this photograph is the same-old-me, I am now looking at it through a different lens.

When I saw this photo, I didn’t see “pretty.” I saw something better.

I saw happy.

I saw intelligent.

I saw loving.

Once I stopped chasing pretty, I started to see everything that really mattered.

I have found a sense of self-worth that I never found in my pursuit of pretty. Now, I feel lighter. The moving target of beauty is one that I am not chasing any longer.

I feel relief.

But at the same time—I feel fear.

Because I have a baby girl. A baby girl that is told she is pretty all the time.

I cringe. Because I don’t want her to chase pretty. She’s nearly the age that I was when the chase started for me. How do I teach my daughter to value her inner-beauty? How do I teach her that self-worth isn’t sealed into pretty?

I will try my best.

I will teach her that strangers can’t see the beautiful stuff on the inside. However, out of some bizarre cultural norm she will find that these strangers constantly praise and discuss her external appearance.

World, please hear me. I need your help.

I am trying to raise a daughter to chase kindness, education, and compassion for humanity. With all that on her plate, she doesn’t have time to chase pretty.

The next time you see us at the grocery store, say hello. If you want to talk with her–please go ahead. Ask her the name of her favorite book. Ask her about her beloved puppy.

Just stop making a little girl’s physical appearance her stand-out quality.

For the love of all things good, please stop telling my baby that she is pretty. Because she’s so much more than that.

Join Motherly

In This Article

    Is the BabyBjörn portable travel crib worth it?

    100% unequivocally yes.

    I have this weird brown birthmark on the bottom of my right foot near my pinkie toe and my mother always said, "That means you'll never stay still. You'll travel everywhere." (She's full of interesting superstitions like that.) I'm not sure if it was a self-fulfilling prophecy or what but I've always had a love for travel, and before we had a child (in those glorious pre-pandemic times), my husband and I traveled all over Europe, did two road trips across different parts of the United States and even flew all the way around the world to visit my family in the Philippines.

    I had this weird idea that I had to get all my traveling in before I became a mom. Because once you become a mom, you just become content sitting at home with the kids, right?

    Eh, wrong.

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop

    Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

    So, what's new this week?

    Happiest Baby: Baby sleep solutions designed by the experts

    Created by renowned pediatrician, baby sleep expert and (as some might say) lifesaver Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby has been helping new parents understand and nurture their infants for close to two decades. Building on the success of his celebrated books and video The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block he's developed groundbreaking, science-based product solutions that conquer a new parent's top stressor—exhaustion.

    WSEL Bags: Dad-designed diaper bags that think of everything

    WSEL stands for work smart, enjoy life—an ethos we couldn't agree with more. Founded by a stay at home dad who struggled to find a diaper bag that he not only wanted to use, but one that would last far beyond the baby years, these premium, adventure-ready backpacks are ideal for everything from errands to week-long getaways.

    Codex Beauty: Exceptionally effective sustainable skin care

    Codex Beauty's line of sustainable plant-based skin care blends the science of plant biology with biotech innovations, to create clinically proven, state-of-the-art products for all skin types. They're all vegan, EWG and Leaping Bunny verified and created in collaboration with Herbal Scientist Tracy Ryan who uses concepts dating back to the 8th century leveraging plants like sea buckthorn and calendula flower. Not only are we totally crushing on the innovative formulas that are in the packaging but we're in love with the sustainable sugarcane-derived tubes as well.

    Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop

    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.

    Mama,

    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

    Keep reading Show less
    Life