Coming at you today with another Real Talk post – how we speak to little girls and why you should keep telling young girls they’re pretty. If you follow me on instagram you likely know that one of the biggest joys in my life is being an aunt. I have seven nieces and nephews. Two of my nieces, Maia & Grace, are now entering that tricky pre-teen phase (they are 9 and almost 11, respectively) and this has had me thinking a lot lately about how we speak to young girls.
I have built my career against the “a lawyer must be X, Y and Z” mold and created LegalLee Blonde specifically to inspire women to take on the corporate world without hiding who they are. (Don’t miss my “Be an “And” Person” post for more on this topic). As such, I think a lot about how I can help ensure my nieces grow into women who are empowered. Women who are confident in all aspects of who they are and to that end we need to keep telling young girls they’re pretty.
(Yes, Maia and I do have matching jackets on. She wanted to twin with me *cue my heart melting*. Here is my white denim jacket and here is Maia’s matching girl’s white denim jacket)
Over the past decade I have seen more and more articles advocating against telling young girls they are pretty. All these articles stem from the same underlying premise- that by complimenting girls looks you’re teaching them their appearance matters above all else and that you are setting them up for self-esteem issues.
Woah. There is a lot to deconstruct in that. When I first read this viral article on not telling girls they are pretty I was hook-line-and-sinker all for it. I remember having a chat about it with my sister and both of us excitedly agreeing that we would not call Maia & Grace cute when we see them, but rather find other things to compliment.
Here’s the deal though: that doesn’t always work.
You try having a 7 year old come running into a room excited to show you her favorite summer dress and not telling her she looks beautiful (or pretty, or cute). Not only do you think she is cute, but so does she.
While it may be entirely true that society/the beauty industry negatively impacts self-esteem of young girls and causes them to question their beauty, by trying to ignore the issue of looks/beauty we aren’t doing young girls any favors. Simply avoiding talking about their looks does no good for them as they prepare to enter a world in which their looks are something they consider and something they may feel shy about. I want that same little girl who feels beautiful in her summer dress, to be a confident 13 year old who feels beautiful heading to school. We need to keep telling young girls they’re pretty.
I want my nieces to enter into their teen years having been told by me at every possible occasion that they are smart, that they are kind, that they are creative, and that they are pretty. My niece Grace has the most gorgeous blue eyes – I love to tell her that. My niece Maia has the cutest little smile. I love to tell her that. Whatever struggles they may have in fitting into whatever society’s latest definition of ‘beautiful’ is, I want them to go up against that struggle with an inner voice telling them that they are beautiful.
Since the notion that we shouldn’t call girls cute or pretty went viral, I would like to hope we as a society have realized that we missed the mark. We swung the pendulum too far, so to speak. I could not be more supportive of the idea that we compliment young girls more on their courage, their tenacity, their creativeness, etc. But, that does not mean that we should stop complimenting their beauty.
I firmly believe that the best way to help the next generation of women be at the forefront of developments in science, technology and medicine while still being true to all of their passions and who they are, is to make sure they know it’s okay to want to be a doctor… but to also love playing with makeup. Or to want to be an astronaut.. but also care about styling their hair.
So, let’s stop trying to force ourselves to ignore little girls cuteness shall we? Let’s just remind ourselves to compliment young girls on everything from how damn cute they are, to how smart they are. Let’s keep telling young girls they’re pretty.
For the record: Maia currently wants to be a veterinarian pop singer and Gracie wants to be an olympic skiing- baker- esthetician. I could not be more proud.
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