Do I Look Pretty?


A little girl putting lipstick on in the mirror. “Do I look pretty?” my nine-year-old asked as she looked at herself in the mirror. A simple question, but it took me a minute to reply. Not because I would have said anything other than “of course,” but because I was surprised by her even asking.

I’ve spent all nine years of her life making sure she knew she was smart, and strong, and brave, but did I forget to mention how beautiful she was? And is that something I wanted her to focus her value on?

From the moment I knew my first child would be a girl, I immediately turned on “girl power” mode. I didn’t want her to focus on her looks. I wanted her to know she could be a scientist, or an engineer, or anything she wanted to be. I scoffed at dress-up clothes, high heels, and makeup. And I repeated the mantra, ad nauseum, that she was “smart, and strong, and brave.”

I wanted her to know she was beyond what society thought of as “girly clothes” and pink toys. Of course, there was plenty of that as well, but I genuinely feared raising a child that would be solely focused on what was on the outside, so I dug in on making sure to build up what was on the inside. 

That day, when she asked if she looked pretty, I suddenly wondered if I should have also been more focused on letting her know she was beautiful. This is a new phase for my girl, for sure. Whether it was nature or nurture, she’s been a rough and tumble kid all her life.

She prefers bike shorts to skirts and oversized t-shirts to sundresses. I can’t get her to brush that beautiful wavy mane of hair, and she flat out refused to pierce her ears.

But as we rapidly approach her tenth birthday, I see the shift starting. She’s still the same book-loving, comfy, clothes-wearing, brilliant girl she’s always been. But I see the future peeking in. A quick brush through the hair, a brief peek in the mirror before we leave the house.

And that important question, “Do I look pretty?” when she puts an actual dress on before an event. 

I hope that as she grows into an amazing woman, she keeps the balance of both worlds, the confidence in herself, both inside and out.

But just so she knows, if she ever asks me if she looks pretty, the answer will always remain the same, “Yes, of course. You’re the most beautiful girl in the world.”


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