Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Virtues to Vanity

I'm reading a book that has really made me stop and think. In, "Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter," Vicki Courtney articulates how our daughters' views of themselves have changed over the centuries. Specifically, she argues that young teens these days typically have a poor self-image, low self-esteem, and are generally overly consumed with their appearance. Although these sentiments are nothing new or revolutionary, they should make us ponder just what we as moms and women can do to help our daughters feel good about themselves, just the way they are. The way that God made them to be.

Here's something that I found fascinating. The author notes that if we looked at journal entries of young girls, let's say those written more than a century ago circa 1880, the young women often described themselves as being deficient regarding certain aspects of their internal character. For example, they might write about how they will strive to be more patient, or to remember to think before speaking. They might also focus on how they could reach out and help others more consistently.

On the other hand, what do the diaries of today's girls demonstrate? I'll bet that an entirely different perspective pops out. Thanks to skinny models, beautiful women portrayed in movies, and a plethora of teen magazines such as Seventeen, girls probably write about their appearance, such as their weight or their complexion. Much of their concerns most likely relate to their popularity. Virtues? Are they even mentioned?

Why the shift in focus from virtues to vanity? According to the author, one major reason for this paradigm shift can be attributed to an important invention: the mirror.

The mirror has changed the way we see ourselves. Literally. And I am as guilty as the next woman - or man. I hated the way I looked when I was bald. Back then, I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. I remember loathing walking past a glass storefront because one slight turn of my head in that direction, and my reflection would once again remind me of my ugliness. Even with the wig or scarf intact upon my head, I knew that underneath it all, the real "me" was bald. Vanity. It sticks to you like gum on the bottom of your shoe in August.

Yesterday, I heard my thirteen-year-old daughter commenting - albeit, somewhat jokingly - about how a particular pair of pants makes her look fat. She's about 5'6" and weighs 115 pounds! Where have we failed as a society? Or am I to share some of the blame for her negative perception? Possibly.

As moms, as friends, let's try to see beyond that superficial mirror and focus instead on what's deep inside our hearts. Then, let's look into the hearts of our girls. They need us to be their cheerleaders, to let them know that they are beautiful, just the way God made them to be. Let's hope that we ultimately reflect attributes of God, not those of vanity.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

I was nodding my head in agreement the whole time I was reading this post.

I have a son and I do think this can apply to guys as well, but I especially relate when it comes to girls. I have two daughters and I've seen how they have (and still do) struggled with physical self-esteem. I'm guilty of it myself more than I care to admit.