I’ve had a complicated relationship with my self-esteem. It’s ebbed and flowed over the years, and I’ve struggled with body confidence, going make-up free, and loving the skin I’m in. I’ve dedicated the better part of my adulthood to improving my confidence, accepting myself for all of my strengths and flaws, and attempting to shape old habits that no longer serve me.
And particularly, in the last few months, I’ve gone through quite the soul-searching journey as I prepare to not only become a mom for the first time — but a mother to a daughter.
As an entrepreneur and feminist, I knew from the moment I was having a girl that I wanted to instill a better and more balanced mindset toward her appearance and health than I had growing up. While there are many challenges (and moments of wonder) ahead of me as I navigate motherhood, I hope to teach her these truths about beauty:
Foods aren’t good or bad — they’re just food.
While I’ve always been relatively fit and active (albeit, at nine months pregnant, it’s harder to move these days), I’ve also battled periods of weight gain and extreme weight loss. I was so addicted to fitness and so fearful of carbs that my diet was incredibly restrictive for a while. I often had negative and positive connotations with food, but food is just food in reality. It took a trip around the world, being introduced to all sorts of cuisine, and then marrying a wonderful Danish man who baked delicious bread from scratch for me to let go of these limiting thoughts.
I’ll keep our kitchen full of fresh vegetables and fruits, and her chef dad will whip up a collection of dishes (including carbs). We want her palette to be as adventurous as ours, and to do that, she can’t be afraid of food. I want her to understand how some meal choices give us energy and others leave us deprived, but not to be scared to enjoy the culinary goodies she loves.
Care for your skin first.
I started having acne breakouts when I was around 13 years old. At first, they were mild, but my mom took me to the beauty counter for makeup rather than seeing a dermatologist. For her, this was the way to handle zits: cover them up and move on. Later in life, once I had a job with my own insurance, I finally saw a dermatologist who helped me heal my hormonal imbalance and thus, find clearer skin. It took me the better part of a decade to get comfortable going out in public without wearing a full face of makeup. Even at the gym, I was anxious to show my imperfections.
Now, I have fewer blemishes, and I invest in my skin health with quality products, regular facials, and derm visits. If my daughter follows my genetic footsteps and develops acne, I’ll first encourage her to care for her pores. And I’ll help her learn from my mistakes.
Wear makeup (or not) for yourself (not others).
Even though I’m now mostly acne-free, I still wear makeup daily. Yep: I work remotely from home, and I don’t see many people (other than my husband), but I enjoy the process of getting ready in the morning. It makes me feel energized and prepped for the day — while wearing pajamas doesn’t do much for my productivity. I also style my hair and put on “real clothes” — even if it’s just leggings and a sweater. It isn’t to ensure my husband is attracted to me — it’s just for me. It’s what makes me feel happy and confident in my skin.
While makeup is fun for me, if it’s not for my daughter, she doesn’t have to wear it. And if she wants to experiment with blush and lipstick, and someone tells her “natural is better”? Well, that’s up for her to decide.
Bottom line: Wear makeup or don’t. But let it be her choice.
Strength and health are more important than weight.
Because people will make many comments when you’re pregnant — most of which are inappropriate — I’ve been asked several times how much weight I’ve gained. They’re always surprised when I say, ‘I have no idea.’ Many years ago, I decided to stop focusing on the number on the scale since it only gave me anxiety and made me desperate to stick to a specific range. Instead, I started paying attention to how strong I felt, how easily I could go through my day-to-day tasks, and how my clothes fit me. This shift was life-changing, and it helped my self-esteem so much.
There’s no way to prevent my daughter from what the outside world will tell her — but in our home, I want her to know that her weight doesn’t define who she is, how attractive she is, or how much she’s worth. It’s one single metric that can rob her of joy, so why give it unnecessary attention?
Beauty is so much more than your reflection.
“Beauty only runs skin deep” is an overused sentiment, but it’s also true. I’ve had the privilege of traveling to some of the most beautiful corners of the world and meeting captivating, interesting people. I’ve also developed and invested in friendships that have lasted 10, 15, and 20 years — and counting. And the most gorgeous humans I know aren’t classically defined as “pretty.” Their beauty comes from their generous heart, zealous brain, and aptitude for adventure, learning, and growing.
While, in my eyes, there will be no one more beautiful than my daughter, I hope to teach her how important it is to be a good, kind person. To care about others. To love her neighbor and the planet. To do everything she can with what she has. That’s where we get the sparkle in our eyes that makes everyone else around us see us as magnetic.
Beauty will always be part of the discussion around females, but perhaps it can be less about her reflection in my daughter’s generation. And more about the dynamic, inspiring, and loving person she will grow into. At least, this mother can hope. And teach. And illustrate what makes us beautiful is so much more than the face we show the world.