Monday, December 6, 2010

Own Your Beauty, My Babies! Starting My Girls Early :) came out with a campaign to change the way conversation goes when beauty is the subject. I blog about it too at Living Lusciousness. It sits so close to my heart because I'm on a personal journey to claim my own beauty from low self-esteem, bad body image and a lifetime of distorted beauty concepts. Usually, conversation centers around stereotypical concepts of beauty: "Am I pretty enough?", "Am I white or tanned enough?", "Am I skinny enough?", "Are my breasts/butt/waist/nose/height/weight/etc okay?"...

Ah, the perception of perfection. Isn't it about time we stop measuring ourselves against other people's perception of beauty?

It helps to know I'm not alone and that women all over the world are learning that it's never too late to love oneself and touch other people's lives in beautiful, positive ways. It's so heartening to note that some beauty products in the market are taking note of this surging campaign where the emphasis is on celebrating YOU, your successes, dreams and your authentic self regardless of age or ethnicity.

I know, they're trying to sell beauty in a bottle, but the message emphasis is at least on healthier living, taking care of yourself and appreciating yourself. (Let's not delve deeper than that into marketing and sales strategies, okay?) At least they're not hard-selling (that much) anymore.

On the issue of personal beauty, I've long established myself the guardian against shackling my kids to stereotypical perceptions of beauty that culture inadvertently inflicts on young minds. I don't dress them up in age-inappropriate clothes or shoes for the sake of looking trendy. Revealing tube tops, miniskirts and backless blouses?! They might catch cold or dengue. Or worse, the eye of some pedophile. Heels on kids damage their developing legs and hips, people! Unless they really need it, medically speaking! Grown women can't tolerate heels all that well either, what makes you think your toddler can?!

On that note, have you seen Toddlers and Tiaras? It's a reality-based show where beauty pageant kids are featured with their parents and the lengths they go to win. Some are as young as two years old. They are made-up, primped, bleached, put on diets and pressured to perform. The kids' baby voices asking if they're pretty enough would break your heart! The parents say that it's what the kids want, but are they even old enough to decide that? Or are they merely convinced that it's what they want because their parents have drilled it into their heads? I don't want to judge but there has to be a line somewhere. You don't just project your illusions on your kids. It's just plain wrong. Childhood is fleeting enough without you speeding it up for them!

I also steer the conversations around them AWAY from meaning-laden comments that imply sexiness or comparison with other kids ("You're so sexy!" or "You're prettier than her!"). I could get really obnoxious especially with negative stereotyping comments ("Her bridge is not high enough!" or "You're too brown!") that usually come from other people outside our usual circle. I try being polite but I'd rather be called sensitive than have ideas put into my kids' heads as tabula rasa as they are. I mean, come on, Oona's three years old and Olly's 9 months old, do we have to impose perceptions of adulthood and sexiness this early? They're only just starting gender identification, for crying out loud!

I want my kids to be proud of their strong, healthy bodies that they own and use to celebrate the life they choose with joy. I want them to be happy that they can sing, dance and play. I want them to be confident and brave enough to face the world in the healthy skin they're in, with bright shining eyes, tossing their hair, straight or curly, in the breeze, breathing through functional noses, laughing and smiling, secure in their uniqueness.

I want them to be able to focus on character rather than physical characteristics, on intellect and emotional maturity rather than if they can join beauty pageants. Sure, many would say I'm only saying this because I already know my kids have an edge over others since they're pretty, lively and bright as new pennies (Imma proud momma!). All the more should any parent be vigilant lest misplaced values go to their heads and we'll be sorry for it when they're older.

The world we live in judges by looks, that's true. But that only goes so far. You can't pretend to be more than just a face or a body for long. Sooner or later, the face value fades and bodies sag and if there's no substance to hold who you are up, it's a sad day for you.

Let's teach the kids that they better have something else to sustain them through anything that comes their way after wrinkles or an intellectual challenge appears!

And if joining a beauty pageant comes to be part of their personal journey, let it be for the right reasons and their choice rather than my own projections of frustrated dreams.

In the meantime, let's let them be kids and cherish their childhood as it should be cherished, teaching them to own their unique beauty and individual perfection!