Your daughter is beautiful and she has the right to know it!

Published: September 9, 2012
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I passionately believe we all need to tell our daughters that they are beautiful. Not better than anyone else, but not less than any other either.

Today my daughter and son ran up to me, their eyes dancing with excitement.

“Mama!” Mishaal* spluttered

“I found an acorn! Me and Raami* are going to dig the mud and grow an acorn tree with it.”

With every word, her tongue made an ‘ssssssssss’ sound at the end as the air swished out from the gap where her two front teeth used to be.

She gave me a huge toothless smile.

I laughed and hugged her tight and said

“You are so beautiful”

She smiled wider,

“Mama you always think that”, and then bounced out to grow their acorn tree, with Raami in tow.

It’s funny, ever since she has lost her teeth, whenever I see her smile, my heart melts. I have truly not seen a more beautiful smile as one with gaps in it. When she lost her first tooth, she asked me,

“Do you think I look weird?”

I said NO! Why?

She said,

“I don’t know, but tell me, do you think I look weird?”

I told her she looked even more beautiful than before, and she believed me with the unflinching faith that only a child has in their mother’s words.

Every single day of her life, even before she understood words, I told her she is beautiful.

Someone once told me, on my visit to Lahore that I should not tell my daughter that. She explained that it would put ideas in her head and that girls should not have any ideas in their heads about how good they are, because God knows what kind of husband and in-laws they will find.

So according to that Auntie, girls should be brought up without self-worth? So that if their future family does not give them respect or praise them they don’t know the difference and therefore live in ignorant bliss?

It is strange but even in this day and age, people are more than happy to call their sons ‘chaand’(the moon) and ‘shehzada’ (a prince) without thinking he will actually start believing he is the moon and therefore superior to humans.

But it is not okay to tell your daughter she is beautiful?

We are still raising daughters with this thought in the back of our heads that they exist to please and praise others; and they don’t deserve the same in return.

I passionately believe we all need to tell our daughters that they are beautiful. Not better than anyone else, but not less than any other either. Just beautiful in their own way, exactly the way they are.

I grew up thinking I am ugly.

I hated my nose, my teeth, the two lumps on the sides of my cheeks which later became cheekbones. As I grew older, I hated my figure, my lips and I even hated my index finger. I think all my life there has been one body part at least which I obsessed over and hated until I found fault with another one. I pretty much spent the years growing up wishing I looked like Cinderella.

Once I realised I would never turn blonde I started to pray, not wish, but pray to Allah, that I would start looking like Belle from the Beauty and the Beast or at least Jasmine from Aladdin. I honestly don’t remember when I eventually gave up on that prayer but thankfully at some point, I accepted what I looked like and made peace with it.

Finally one day, I found out that, apparently all my life, my mother thought I was beautiful, just like all mothers do, but rarely said it, as most Pakistani mothers don’t, lest that praise goes to my head! And, this coming from my mother, who was one of the most progressive and friendly mothers of all the other girls’ moms growing up.

The first time I believed I was beautiful was when I married my husband and that really was a long time coming. I do not want my daughter to wait 20 something years to believe she is beautiful.

My daughter is growing up amongst real life Cinderellas. She is one of four brunettes in a class of 15 girls; the rest of them are all blondes, with blue eyes and white skin. She has asked me a few times why her hair is dark and her arms are brown, but her friends are white and their hair is yellow.

I told her because Allah mian has made her that way and that she is different; and different is beautiful. I told her we all want to be different because if we all looked the same, that would not be fun.

That answer seemed to satisfy her. Being six, she usually believes whatever I tell her. Perhaps at the age of 16 it will not be so easy to placate her. That is why I started early. For I wish I had been told all my life that I was beautiful.

Because I am.

Not because of how I look, but because this is who I am and everyone is beautiful in their own way. Everyone has the right to feel beautiful and to know it.

So go ahead, and tell your daughter that she is the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen. She will believe you. And while you are at it, tell your son that too, I started when mine was a day old.

As I went to see the acorn tree, which had apparently already started to grow tiny branches in the mud where my kids had buried it 20 minutes ago, my son brought a rolly polly to me. His face streaked with mud and his hair sticking up with sweat, the last rays of sun lighting up his excited face, he squealed,

“Wolly polly mama”

“Mama…,”Mishaal breathed,

“Isn’t Raami the most cutest son you ever had”

“Yes he is jaan…yes he is.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Read more by Tayyaba here.

T Hassan

T Hassan

The author is a writer, dreamer, social activist and a Communications Major at California State University. She does Social Media and Marketing for various non-profit organizations and blogs at tabzy.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Very true and very nice and stick firmly to the same line even when your kids are in their twenties plus and you may think otherwise at times.Recommend

  • Vikram

    Author “I hated my nose, my teeth, the two lumps on the sides of my cheeks which later became cheekbones. As I grew older, I hated my figure, my lips and I even hated my index finger. I think all my life there has been one body part at least which I obsessed over and hated until I found fault with another one ”

    She is young, but wants to know if she looks weird without a teeth. A girl so young should not be concerned with her looks.

    You felt ugly..I bet people told you “you look beautiful”, some how you did not accept it. You are over doing it now with your daughter Your daughter may think physical beauty is the only thing in this world. In the long run you may create a girl obsessed with physical beauty who will spend all her time in front of the mirror.

    I hope you will focus more on her creativity, intelligence and other things too. Don’t let she is any way feel less then her brother.Recommend

  • F.A

    I don’t think telling your daughter how beautiful she is could ever have a downside to it. Each of us need to be assured that we’re loved and if this is how you show her how much she means to you and your family, then this is the perfect way to go about it.
    And just because someone is beautiful or thinks they are beautiful does not class them as vain. If we can’t to get rid of the stereotypes, it has to begin with little instances like these.
    Also, being confident in your skin could do wonders to one’s personality. Great parenting! Stay blessed.Recommend

  • Sasha

    The most beautiful article I could have ever come across :)

    Without self worth,survival is crucial.No wonder we are not proceeding as a nation,because at the back of our head we have never been told that we are worthy.People will only accept you as who you are,if you accept and love yourself and are proud of it!Recommend

  • Munawar

    what is disturbing is the fact that you are perpetuating that girls only have worth if they are good looking. Recommend

  • MonsieurCritique

    Better to tell her she is smart than beautiful. Recommend

  • Anum

    Rather than telling your daughter that she is beautiful all the time, why not remind her that you love her. Love begets love, and if your daughter really loves you she wouldn’t ever let you down!Recommend

  • Eiman Ali.

    I think you’re beautiful. :)Recommend

  • Tehseen

    @Vikram: I am so glad you said that. Thanks for pointing that out.Recommend

  • Ayesha

    @vikram i think your comment completely misses the gist of this article.It says ”Not because of how I look, but because this is who I am and everyone is beautiful in their own way. Everyone has the right to feel beautiful and to know it” is the key.
    Girls everywhere need to be told sincerely and passionately that they are beautiful.
    Being a girl I can completely understand every sentiment the writer has expressed because we girls grow up with so much pressure to look and act a certain way and we spend our whole lives living up to all the ‘aunty’s’ expectations of criteria of beauty. And really for a mother as progressive and smart as this one seems to be, I doubt you and I need to tell her she needs to teach her daughter about being smart etc. I am sure she does not need our advice.
    More power to you Miss Tayyaba.
    People in the entire world and specifically in our culture put SO much importance on beauty yet, they are unable to digest a mother wanting to assure her daughter that she is beautiful. And yet they will continue to call their sons ‘chaand’ and ‘prince’. Very well written!!!! All parents need to read this!Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Tayyeba- It depends on whether you are trying to raise a human being who will be a survivor or a human being who can make a difference in others lives. Telling her she is beautiful will make her go through life with strong self-esteem to survive. On the other hand, if you were to alter her value structure altogether by saying that not only you but everyone is beautiful like you and their are other dimensions of beauty, you will end up raising a strong human being who can think on her own and would be able to look at things from a deeper perspective. Just my humble view. Recommend

  • Red

    Little girls are often told how cute they are and how pretty they look. What they tend to lack is someone telling them how smart, capable and resourceful they are, and how they can do anything and be anything they want to. Still, I understand what you mean. Ours is not a culture in which people give compliments easily. Recommend

  • Nobody

    @Munawar:
    The author doesn’t mean necessarily physically beautiful (meaning you don’t have to look like Angelina Jolie to be beautiful) but despite physical “imperfections” (I don’t like calling them that because personally I think flaws make us all different and flaws are human), people can be beautiful. It’s about creating an attitude of self worth. Finding a balance between high self esteem and confidence but not arrogant and narcissistic.
    Lovely article and very true; I plan to do the very same with my kids if and when I ever have them! It’s what my parents did with me. Recommend

  • Haleema Hassaan

    lovely! Recommend

  • https://ambiography.wordpress.com Simba

    very nice articleRecommend

  • http://www.coachoutletfr.com/#11078 coach outlet

    I truly enjoy reading through on this web site , it holds great articles . “Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.” by Carl Sandburg.Recommend

  • WahWah Khan

    You got a problem…Recommend

  • Sara

    Beautifully written all mothers should read this article. Completely agree with comments above that the writer is not just talking about skin deep beauty but about being ‘beautiful’ in your skin. With mud on your face or gaps in your teeth. Inside and out. Tayyaba your love for your child can be felt in every word. Great piece!Recommend

  • HBA

    Very nice article indeed,parents must read this.Recommend

  • Ayesha Ahmad

    Amazing, loved it!Recommend

  • Ayesha Khan

    What about our sons?Recommend

  • Rafay

    @WahWah Khan:

    I agree, the author has had unusual complexes throughout her early life….Recommend

  • Sara

    LOL at all the men commenting away.Growing up in Pakistan’s male worshipping society you men can not imagine the unusual comlpexes most pakistani girls have throughout their lives!!! Loved every word. Lived every word. Very well written!Recommend

  • Intelektual

    That is a real nice thing to say and i firmly believe that parents should always be verbally supportive of their children but still a realistic and balanced approach be it praise or any other thing is the right way to go by. To much praise can give your child “Pride & prejudice” also toughening up your children for the big bad world is also very helpfull for them.Recommend

  • Rafay

    @Sara:

    The complexes she had were about her physical attributes… The “male worshiping society” may cause other type of complexes but not this type.Recommend

  • http://www.myfrequentranting.wordpress.com Farwa

    To all the people who are uneasy with the fact that she emphasises physical beauty means a lot: the way you look matters a lot, it contributes a lot to your confidence level. The author is right, children must be told they are just as beautiful as others so they can be just as competent instead of feeling unsure about themselves.Recommend

  • AYesha Pervez

    I praise my children a lot…. I tell them they are beautiful and good children … because I want them to be strong and confident in themselves… Incidentally my son happens to be extremely handsome mashaALLAH… anyway @author u are very beautiful :) and nice blog!Recommend

  • Mydah Tariq

    I think everybody’s beautiful in the way they’re created. Everybody’s special, unique. Its all Allah’s way. If only one looks at it in that manner. :)Recommend

  • Baba g

    What if girl is not beautiful.but she is smart and intelligent.then how would rate this thing ??? Because u r just portraying that physical beauty is everything.Recommend

  • Pavan

    @Munawar:
    You mistook beautiful in her own way as ‘good looking’Recommend

  • northern lights

    I don’t think my mother ever said those words to me and I agree that this is really not necessary. Confidence is not neccessarily bestowed upon someone by telling them positive things over and over again. In fact, I think it is quite pointless, as the compliment will lose its value over time. The best thing you can give to your kids is the assurance that your love for them is unconditional and that you will support them through good and bad times. That kind of knowledge builds a very strong foundation in confidence in any person for life.

    As far as being beautiful is concerned, most people aren’t beautiful. Most are somewhere in the middle – myself included. In any case, it is something that you do not earn, it is unfairly distributed and it will fade anyway. Perhaps you should praise your daughter for exhibiting qualities that she does have control over, such as kindness, patience, courage or diligence. Recommend

  • Sara H

    This article should be titled Beautiful just the way you are.Love it and love the message!
    @northern lights that is exactly what author is saying….reassure your child and love them unconditionally, it is not simply about physical beauty.Everyone is beautiful in their own way.Plz learn to look beyond the amount of prettiness or good looks that have been distributed in the world. EVERYONE is beautiful. Not lesser not better as the author says.Recommend

  • Zahra Haroon

    Kids are truly a blessing. Some want to have a boy as a first child others are happy having a girl. But My Dadi Jaan use to say that its important to pray for a healthy child. Love the way you’ve expressed this.Recommend

  • Need Unconditional Love

    The best thing you can give to your kids is the assurance that your love for them is unconditional and that you will support them through good and bad times.

    What love means to kids? How do you explain unconditional love, good and bad times to kids?Recommend

  • sherrry

    @Vikram:
    m shocked,
    you talk sense man,Recommend

  • Morning Glory

    Beautiful piece!
    And as my favorite quote goes: Life is 90% how you take it and only 10% how you make it
    So if you believe you are beautiful, you are beautiful and it will show as self confidence in whatever you do. Its just a matter of how you see yourself.Recommend

  • http://www.itblabbers.blogspot.com/ Missing Light

    All self esteem I have regarding my looks comes from what my mother told me about me…. mothers should do it more often :)Recommend

  • Ammar

    good piece sisterRecommend

  • Khurram

    As an article, indeed beautiful as written. Good job author.
    but sorry it was not so mature….
    I believe the author is more towards fantasy living..
    .
    First of all I liked what @Vikram said and I recommend it.
    Second the article was purely, like biased towards girls or something. Moms, who call their sons as “chaand” or “shehzada”, sure call their daughters as “chanda” – “shehzadi” – “raani (queen)” – “gurya (a doll, barbie, etc)”…… Unlike the author questioned for not telling the same to daughters.
    .
    Purpose of telling is exactly not that there are not such parents as the author had experience with – of course there would be who do not treat equally their son and daughter, there could be any reason. But this article is mostly focusing the fantasy living within girls. There were more preferable topics the author could use for the purpose instead of telling a daughter that she looks beautiful.
    .
    Many earlier comments seem to be justifying the article’s sense by saying that the author was referring about the beauty in all aspects rather than only being physically beautiful. Well. No! The article has expressed in every of its line about consciousness of a young girl who was very possessive about “How does she look”.
    .
    Last but not the least. Those words like “chaand” “shehzada” or any other word, are just terms parents use for “calling” their children. Dont take them as “telling”. It never tells that they exactly are. What they need to know is that they are smart, quick, confident. They do not need to know if they are beautiful. In fact they really do not need to be beautiful to do beautiful and better things.
    .
    Tell them that you love them the most and will be there for them all the way long, instead of giving them just a pleasurable thoughts of being beautiful which they will loose when others won’t tell them the same… Hope you understand what I meant here…Recommend

  • Sara

    khurram I must say your english is too poor to be writing such a long dissertation about this article!Secondly, I wonder why, it is mostly men who seem to be so unaccepting of the fact that girls need to be reassured that they are beautiful despite toothless smiles, blue eyes and other typical attributes associated with beauty. You also need to have more imagination like the author and instead of saying this is all just talk about fantasy world inside a girl’s head,maybe ask your sister,daughter or mother or wife if growing up they had self esteem issues related with pyhsical appearance or how society judged them. In every line I felt the writer’s love for her child, I am not sure if it is a real story or creative writing, just because some one says “I” does not mean the piece is autobiographical.Also dont take every line literally as someone said above ”You mistook beautiful in her own way as ‘good looking’” she says again and again, ‘beautiful just how you are’, ‘not better not lesser’ ‘Not because of how I look, but because this is who I am and everyone is beautiful in their own way. Everyone has the right to feel beautiful and to know it.’ that line itself should tell you, she is saying beautiful is not always about appearance but about who you are and how you feel about yourself.Again, dont take every line literally when she mentions chaand and shehzada, she is obviously being sarcastic my cousin and I read this article together and laughed at that line!
    I simply find it jarring that men can not understand these emotions of a girl.Recommend

  • Khurram

    Wow,,, It’s really great know that, Sara. thanksRecommend