When Did You Stop Thinking You Are Beautiful?

by Gigi Ross on July 15, 2013

dove camera shy

I watch my daughter, Little CEO, with utter fascination and awe.

Most of the time, she is so innately herself that she doesn’t know how to be anything else.

dove camera shy

She doesn’t know that stripes and plaids can look awful together.

She doesn’t care that smoothly brushed hair looks better than the matted mess that is her mane.

She takes hundreds of pictures herself using her iPad. They’re never posed, she never tries to look “good.” She makes silly, crazy, horrific, weird faces and snaps the picture.

In many of her home movies, she channels Quasimodo with her expressions and posture, all the while squealing and laughing and not being afraid.

Over the last few years, these blotchy white spots have appeared on her torso and stretch down to her upper leg. When she wears a swimsuit or top where her side is exposed, they are obvious.

Our former pediatrician said to just put lotion on them. They haven’t gone away, and her new pediatrician thinks it might be a little fungal infection, easily treated with Lotrimin.

The other night, I walked into her room to put the Lotrimin on her skin.

“Sweetie, let me put this cream on your spots so they go away.”

“Mom, if the spots don’t hurt me, why do we need to put cream on them? They’re not doing anything bad.”

“I know honey, but…”

I stopped here to consider what my response should be. I didn’t want to say “people might tease you” or “so your skin looks better,” even though those are, in part, my motivations for treating her.

“Even if it doesn’t hurt you, it’s a medical condition and we need to just take care of it so it doesn’t get worse.”

That was the best I could come up with.

“But Mom, I kind of like my spots. They’re part of what make me unique.”

I studied her, this girl who is so shy at some things and yet brazen and bold and absolutely embracing of her true self in most ways. You rock, little girl. Where did you get this amazing attitude?

“Little CEO, I can guarantee this. Even if your spots go away, there are a million other things that make you incredibly unique.”

She shrugged her shoulders and readied herself for bed.

I sat for a moment, reflecting on whether or not I was ever that accepting of myself – whether I’ve ever lived so liberated, so carefree, so blissfully unaware of What Other People Think.

I envy her freedom, and wonder what its lifespan is. She is 8. When will she start to put on a heavy coat of insecurity? When will she care that her navy striped top looks horrendous with a tropical flowered skirt and a reindeer antler headband? When will she start hiding from the camera, ducking away instead of running to it?

When will she stop thinking she is beautiful?

dove camera shy
Do you remember the day it happened to you: the day you stopped thinking you are beautiful? The day self-doubt eclipsed self-acceptance?

I’ll never forget the day; the day a high school friend told me my nose was big. It was a revelation, a shock, THE moment that I never looked at my appearance in quite the same way.

Since then, I’ve allowed nothing short of a torrential storm of loathing to rain down on me. Even when my hair is done or I’m in top shape or my skin is zit-free, it never stops pouring.

I saw this video just the other day on YouTube. It’s Dove Camera Shy: their new follow up video to the Real Beauty Sketches campaign. And while I’m still not sure what side of the fence I fall on with the Beauty Sketches campaign, I did love this video, and the question it asks:

When did you stop thinking YOU are beautiful?

I hope our daughters never do.

Note: this post is not sponsored.


Alison July 15, 2013 at 5:09 am

My brother, being the young boy he was, told me once that my nose was big. He also said I had thick legs.

Those two things have stayed with me forever. I am okay with my face now, but I am really self-conscious of my legs. Sigh.

I wish all of us are as confident as your daughter is. I hope that stays with her forever.

thekitchwitch July 15, 2013 at 5:27 am

Alas, it was when puberty showed up. :( Loved this post.

Mary @ A Teachable Mom July 15, 2013 at 5:36 am

I really do love you. Your daughter is spectacular. I love how you handled the lotion interaction. I have tears in my eyes thinking about this – I don’t know when it happened, perhaps when Donald L called me “thunder thighs?” But I cringe at the thought of my daughters going down the same path of self loathing I have. Beautiful post.

Lea Ann July 15, 2013 at 5:55 am

And just as easily as someone can suddenly take your sense of beauty away from you as a child, someone else can give it back to you as an adult with an unexpected “You’re beautiful.” I am grateful for THOSE people.

Alison July 15, 2013 at 6:24 am

I think some of us are born self-conscious, or at least develop it early. Maybe it’s because I was shy and an easy target for bullies as early as preschool. I remember being concerned about looking a way that would get me picked on by kindergarten. And my oldest daughter is like me, she’s only in pre-k (starts kindergarten in the fall!) but she is very self-conscious. Not about her nose or her belly. But if her hair gets staticy after I take off her winter hat, she won’t go into the classroom where her friends can see her until it’s all smoothed down. And when I forgot that it was pajama day at school she hid in the bathroom until I went back home and fetched her nightgown. It’s a tough road to travel, but hopefully like me she’ll actually get *less* self-conscious as she gets older.

Chris Carter July 15, 2013 at 8:01 am

Ah… what a beautiful post Gigi! I love love that your daughter is so accepting and loving of herself and so innocently unaware of self criticism…
Funny that you post about this- because I have been going through some transformation… Once again- I am giving you my post! Just have to… cause it speaks so much to this topic. :)
And my follow up devotional:

Jessica July 15, 2013 at 8:50 am

I distinctly remember one time in middle school that another girl said, “Your eyes are huge!” When she said it, it was in a mean, thisissupposedtohurtyourfeelings, youshouldgetthosefixed kind of way. It was ugly.

I don’t remember that being *the moment* necessarily, but it’s obviously something I’ve never forgotten. I get a lot of compliments on my eye color, but because of her words that day (even though we’re polite acquaintances now), I’m ALWAYS worried about how large my eyes appear in pictures and in person.

I have an (almost) ten year old sister. I know she already sees her flaws. She thinks that she’s “fat.” It’s difficult to hear and see how hard she is on herself about it. I wish with all my heart she still viewed herself as innocently as Little CEO.

Carla July 15, 2013 at 8:59 am

my daughter is 7.5 and simply ADORES HERSELF.
Im treasuring each day of this—and terrified it will end.

Christine @ Love, Life, Surf July 15, 2013 at 8:59 am

I really love this and your daughter’s confidence. It amazes me how quickly and easily things change. I remember my brother, who was older, made some comment about my legs that has stuck with me. I’m still pretty self-conscious about it despite feeling and being strong and healthy and active.

I think about this a lot in that I don’t want to put my own reflections and self-consciousness on my kids and how I can help them to preserve their confidence. I know that there are things that kids will likely tease my son about but it’s me that’s so worried about it and he doesn’t perceive any of it. I do love how you handled the lotion interaction too.

Jennifer July 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm

This is going to sound awful, but… never. Are there parts of me that I would like to change or improve upon? Of course. But do I think that makes me unattractive? No. Maybe because I have so many people in my life tell me that I’m beautiful, and even though some days it is hard, I believe them. I may have went through a brief period where I didn’t believe it, but now I do. Not just for me, but for Cady. Because I need her to believe forever that she is, and the best way for me to ensure that happens is to believe it about myself.

Leigh Ann July 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I remember my aunt giving me a bikini and an incredibly young age – gingham with little eyelet lace trim. I shoved it in a drawer because I already believed I was too hefty for that swimsuit. I was YOUNG.

debi July 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I was 12. My dad told me that I needed to run more, I remember it like it was yesterday. I know my father adored me, but with those words, the feeling of if you were only a little better, I would love you a little more and from then on out, I have never looked in a mirror and felt confident in how I’ve looked. That is when my body dysmorphic disorder started and then it escalated to eating disorders, I had those for 8 years ( ages 17-25) and I have been recovering from those eating disorders for 15 years. I will always suffer from body dysmorphic disorder and I will never be completely satisfied with this skin I am in. I am working on accepting and loving my body. Slowly but surely, I don’t hate it anymore.
I never want my girls to know that feeling. They both think they are wonderful and I agree and I will never let them think otherwise, not ever.

Rachael July 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

My oldest, 7, is a lot like little CEO…she has an amazing spirit and could care less what other people think. I hope we can convince them to always be that way.
For me, it was a difficult journey. I’ve always been a confident free spirit but as with many young girls, as I entered junior high, and high school I was bullied. I was made to feel inadequate. It was confusing. On the one hand my personality was strong and I did feel beautiful. On the other, I was being told otherwise. As I grew older, into my twenties, it became even more confusing…I would look in the mirror and think to myself that I was pretty, I drew a lot of attention from the opposite sex, but again, the words of others stuck with me and I wondered….It makes me so sad to know that it is probably only a matter of time before my own daughter feels the same and I can only hope that I am able to make her feel otherwise.

Shell July 16, 2013 at 5:49 am

I love Little CEO’s attitude! I hope she keeps it forever.

I was in junior high and my mom told me not to worry, it was better to be smart than pretty anyway. We weren’t having a conversation about the subject, I was just looking in the mirror admiring my outfit, getting ready for school.

Poppy July 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm

This reminded me of my parenting fail the other day. My beautiful 15 year old just started some new acne medication and it left her skin really dry. She was getting ready for a party and staring in the mirror. I assumed she was feeling self conscious and I said “it doesn’t look that bad” and she said with a wounded look “I never thought it did until now….” I felt horrible.

Miya Goodrich July 16, 2013 at 8:45 am

A boy called me a dog in the 4th grade. From that point on I was hyper critical of myself, always worrying about how I appeared to other people. I stressed about weight and looks all through my 20’s. It took having cancer to take the focus off the things I can’t control and put importance on the things that really mattered. I think getting older is helping too, I care less and less about what other people think of me.

Andrea B (@goodgirlgonered) July 16, 2013 at 9:21 am

Aw, hell. Bawling internally.

Yes. Yes. I have this same post bubbling up inside of me. Yesterday we spent the whole day with a friend and her daughter. Mine wore a BIKINI. She’s beautiful. But still. I worry. Worried. Sigh. So well said. Thank you. For sharing. Thank you. I hope they hold onto it forever and always.

poppy July 16, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I have 2 daughters. One who is a lot like yours and one who has always cared about her appearance. I admire the confidence of my youngest daughter who doesn’t care if she wears her brother’s shorts in public, but I do hope she will make it to high school without me following her out the door with a hairbrush.

Gigi Ross July 17, 2013 at 10:38 am

I am a card carrying hairbrush chaser.

Arnebya July 17, 2013 at 8:43 am

My 12 yr old is already there. I wish I knew who’d done it. But she is self conscious about acne and has already commented that she absolutely NEEDS braces. It is saddening. I do my best to lift her back up, but I feel like I fall short because I’ve never overcome my own instance of being told I was too skinny. I will never be adequate. I will never have breasts like I want (hers are already bigger than mine). I will keep talking to her, I will. But honestly? I wish there was someone, not then, but now, who would talk to me about me. Make me accept me. Because that day the comment was made to me? It’s still with me. (Also, that asshole tried to friend me on Facebook. Blankest stare ever).

Stephanie @ Hugs, Kisses and Snot July 17, 2013 at 9:54 am

That Dove video just made me cry. When did we start questioning how beautiful and unique we are? When does the need to start comparing ourselves to our peers and celebs start? My guess is right around the time all the hormones start flooding our system and it takes years to understand that we are all unique and beautiful in our own way.

r/band July 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Never. Never again. This is my view not really advice I can only hope it is useful to someone. DO NOT ALLOW media that photoshops and presents unreal versions of women that do not exist. Introduce kids to TED talks. Let them make stuff in the back yard mud and in the kitchen. Allow them to decorate themselves freely and celebrate their “ME-NESS.”
I grew up very hard, and it was told to me later in life that people who knew me were surprised I wasn’t dead by 19…people who do not know my history never would guess what I came from. Hold your head high, laugh, avoid people who thrive on drama, wear stripes with plaid and rock it if you so wish. DO NOT LET your kids worship celebs and media expectations for them. Show them people like this woman…http://www.ted.com/speakers/aimee_mullins.html

show them win and bravery and gratitude. Show them you love YOURSELF and don’t down grade yourself in front of them. Please show your daughters and sons joy and forgiveness and LAUGHTER. Play tag in the yard with glow sticks at 9 p.m…..make cookies and eat them while watching the sky on the back of the car. Do anything except buy into the idea you are WHAT you look like, and you can only look like what media tells you.

Laura @ Mommy Run Fast July 19, 2013 at 4:26 am

Beautiful post! My daughter is 3 and expresses the same kind of confidence and spirit. It makes me sad to think she’ll lose that freedom some day. I’d like to think by setting up a strong enough base that phase will be shorter or less intense than for some girls, but I know it’s really out of my hands!

Caitlin July 19, 2013 at 6:23 am

this post is beautiful. i am so envious of this little girl and the confidence she has in herself and the knowledge she possesses that she is beautiful. i hope she never loses it, but sadly i’m afraid she will because of the world we live in. i still remember when i was in high school and i started hanging out with friends who engaged in constant “fat talk”. all i could do was look at them and say, “guys, we are all skinny, what are you talking about?” eventually i unfortunately caught the fat talk bug and started truly thinking there was something wrong with me. i’ve been to hell and back with eating issues and still fight the battle daily. i wish i possessed your daughter’s knowledge of her beauty. a great mom like you who recognizes how precious that is will only help her not lose the knowledge.

Bryanna July 19, 2013 at 9:48 am

I love this post!! It’s something we all struggle with at times. I know that some days are better than others for me. We need to embrace the gifts and talents and beauty we do have and learn to trully love ourselves.

Bianca @ Track Pants and a Tot July 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I love your posts because it does make me think back to a time when things were easy, there were no labels and what not.
The day my self esteem took a nosedive was in sixth grade. The boys would call me ugly & bark at me. NONE of my teachers did anything except one & I am truly grateful for her all these years later. I don’t know why kids can be so mean. It took a long time for me to feel pretty again.

Kammie @ Sensual Appeal July 22, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Wow this is an incredibly strong post… and a great question. I have no idea when I stopped thinking I was beautiful. When I stopped thinking I was not good enough. I was like your darling daughter when I was younger – carefree, doing whatever the heck I wanted to do, I was different, I liked different things from ANYONE else in my town (seriously, I was really into anime and manga and I was like a HUGE fan of it. I was the only person I knew that was. Then I met someone else who was too whom I became good friends with, but until then — it was just me and I didn’t give a crap). I miss those days. I really do.

I try to remind myself I am fine the way I am. I am beautiful. It is so hard though. It really is. I envy those who always are bright and positive and they never bring their heads down, no matter what. I envy those women who smile through insults that are thrown at her because she TRULY doesn’t care what other people think as long as she is happy. I wish I was that strong.

When did I stop thinking I was good enough? I have no idea. It was probably a combination of little things. I think It happened when I was 14. I was chubby but I never really cared until I saw the preferential treatment that the pretty and skinny girls got. I wanted that attention and acceptance. Especially then more than ever since I was in a brand new town, brand new country. I was seeking acceptance. I might have associated it with beauty rather than personality. That’s probably how it started.

Great post.

Kammie @ Sensual Appeal July 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

PS. the tweet button on the top… I can’t click it because the Pin It button appears over it cause it’s so close to the image. Just wanted to let you know :/

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