Soul Deep

By Melissa Face

Soul Deep

“Well good morning, cutie,” the receptionist says to my daughter, Delaney, as we sign in for our appointment. She continues to compliment my daughter’s looks, so I smile appreciatively and prompt Delaney to respond.

“Thank you,” Delaney says on cue, and we find a seat in the waiting room where she continues to receive compliments and kind remarks.

My daughter is beautiful. She has porcelain skin, a perfect pout, bright blue eyes and blonde hair that curls at the ends. She epitomizes the idealistic beauty that we have been exposed to in movies and magazines. She is only three years old, and I am a little worried for her.

I’m her mom, so naturally, I believe she is pretty. But this is more than a case of maternal prejudice. Store employees and businessmen frequently stop to chat with her. “You’ve got a future Miss America on your hands there,” one man told my husband.

Ladies stop us at the grocery store and in the mall to tell her how attractive she is. “Aren’t you just beautiful!” one lady exclaimed. “Come here,” she said. “I have something for you in my purse.” And the lady gave Delaney five dollars and told her to buy herself something nice.

Delaney has an incredible personality in addition to her good looks. She is very verbal, musical and sarcastic. She is witty, clever and catches on quickly to new concepts. But she gets noticed and receives attention because she is pretty. She is offered money, treats and compliments based upon her physical appearance.

I cannot help but wonder how she is processing this attention. What will she do with it as she grows older? Will she equate beauty to self-worth?

Because I teach teenagers, I have a little window into a world that could be my daughter’s future. Some of my students have cosmetic bags larger than my suitcase. They perfectly apply liquid eyeliner, mascara and false lashes. They paint their faces and nails, dye their hair and tan their flesh. And they are only sixteen and seventeen years old. But somebody, at some point in time, sent them the message that these products would make them more beautiful. So that is what they do.

A few years ago, I returned to my classroom from lunch and found one of my students crying at her desk. The boy she was dating had dumped her. “He doesn’t like that I cut my hair short,” she sobbed into her notebook. “He doesn’t think I’m pretty anymore.”

I listened and told her that was not the case, and even if it were, it didn’t matter what he thought. It was such a futile attempt at repairing her damaged self-esteem, and I knew it even as I uttered the words.

Of course it matters what people think and say about our appearance. It hurts when people make negative comments about our clothing, a new hairstyle, or our weight. It stings when others hint that we must be “expecting” because we have gained a little around the middle. Those comments are hurtful to an adult, so certainly they can be injurious to a teenager.

In the past year, I have lost quite a bit of weight. It was a change that I needed to make for myself in order to feel more comfortable, fully enjoy my life and get back to the old me. I have received a lot of compliments since I began this journey, most of them from people who would love me no matter my size. Those are the ones that matter most. But one individual told me that I looked “great, really skinny.” And a part of me, perhaps the teenage girl within, couldn’t help but wonder if those two adjectives had the same meaning.

In reality, I know better. I know that I am so much more than how I look. I know that real beauty comes from a place deep inside of me, and that weight loss, hair color, and makeup matter very little. That’s what I want my daughter to understand. I want her to see herself as beautiful, regardless of what others see or say. I want her to accept compliments graciously, but realize deep down in her soul that only what she thinks is of real significance.

Today Delaney has decided to wear a hot pink tutu over her corduroy pants. “How does this look, Mom?” she asks. She stretches her hands toward the sky and twirls across her bedroom floor. “Am I beautiful?”

Instead of responding the way I usually do, I instead ask her how she feels. “I feel great!” she says. I admire her toddler confidence and wish I could bottle it up and store it for a time when she needs it most. “You are great,” I remind her. “And I’m glad that you feel that way.”

And as her mom, I hope that she always will.

About this writer

  • Melissa Face

    Melissa Face

    Melissa Face lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband and two children. She teaches English, writes essays, and spends a little too much time on Facebook. Email Melissa at writermsface@yahoo.com.

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2 Responses to “Soul Deep”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Watching Delaney grow and learn and reading about her has been a delight. Our worth should come from within, and your story illustrates just that. Delaney has what it takes, and so does her mama.

    • Melissa Face says:

      Linda, thank you so much for this comment. I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner, but you are absolutely right!

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