Many, many years ago, when I was in high school, I had the opportunity of going to the motherland of Korea to help teach in a 2-week English language immersion program. I had the youngest class, seven adorable little 5- and 6-year-olds who barely knew their ABCs. Since they were learning the very basics it wasn’t as stressful as trying to teach the older kids whose parents were concerned about the quality of education their kids were getting. We had a blast.
One of the girls was a bit young to be in our program. I don’t think she had even gone to kindergarten yet. She was so cute. Her mom owned a very trendy clothing store so she came to class everyday dressed in her best and her hair was always done super cute. Teachers from other classrooms would come to my classroom during lunch just to fawn over her.
The one other girl was kind of cute, actually kind of plain, really. Her hair was a simple bob with bangs cut straight across her forehead. She sat there next to her other female comrade, watching her. She didn’t seem to be jealous or upset that her friend was getting all the attention. She just smiled in an incredibly sweet, innocent, and almost indifferent way. My heart always went out to her and I tried to make sure that when those other teachers came, I gave her extra positive attention.
Growing up I was usually the teacher’s favorite. I started school late (my birthday is in September and I turned 6 in kindergarten), which kind of meant I was usually the most mature and I caught on fast. When I wasn’t the teacher’s favorite, I felt it. It was disappointing. I think this is why I always notice when certain children are not as noticed as their cuter peers. When I see people give extra attention to one sibling, I try to match it to the other. My older sister said that’s weird because I was always the favorite one. Also, that makes sense why I get this strange jealousy over the one sister who is younger than me (kind of embarrassing, but she is 15 years younger than me).
These days there are so many people trying to empower girls to be all they can be. We tell them that being a girl is AMAZING, regardless of what others say (that link to the above video almost brings me to tears every time). We tell them, “It doesn’t matter how pretty or sexy you are,” but it always seems like the pretty girls are the ones that “make” it, are the favorite ones of society. Like my sister wrote in the previous post, pretty people get special attention. Now, I’m not saying that’s unfair, but it’s easy for the “plain” people to get shafted because that other person competing for the promotion was a bit more attractive. It’s like girls have to be both attractive and smart to get noticed. Girls can be anything and do anything they want, but you don’t have to look far to know that appearance (beauty, race, body type) has a huge effect on how people react to you.
I know a beautiful young lady who told me that she wished people told her she was smart when she was young. “When I was a kid, people told me, ‘You’re so pretty,’ so I thought that was important. I know I’m pretty, but I’m not very smart.” She didn’t realize it was important to be smart until she was in college because everyone around her focused on her looks. We were both laughing so hard when we were talking about this. I love honest people.
As I watch my daughter grow, I want her to know that it’s very important to take care of herself. Watch your health, practice good hygiene, be up-to-date in fashion, but don’t let these things consume you to the point that you forget that it’s more important to have and practice good values, to be smart, to be kind and forgiving and humble. I want her to watch these girl empowerment videos and realize that she has huge potential and that she has something incredible to offer society.
But what’s more important to me? Making sure my son grows up valuing women for more than their looks. I want him to be able to look past a pretty face and see the beauty of character or lack thereof. Let’s face it. Most of the women I deal with have great self-esteem and are incredible people. But the world has more men than women. Men are the majority in management positions which means that if a woman wants a raise, a man will most likely determine if she gets that raise or promotion. Our girls need to continue to watch those videos, but men need to be trained to think with their heads and not with their hormones. While we need to continue empowering our daughters, we need focused attention on our sons. We need our sons to value brains, values, character and talent over sexiness. We need them to be making decisions in their work life and love life that go beyond the superficial.
I am lucky I married a guy who valued me for my looks. Everyone I went to college with can testify that it wasn’t for my looks that he liked me. Seriously. But I have never really been insecure about my looks. I never considered myself ugly, but neither did I consider myself pretty. I just am. If you don’t like what you see, then don’t look at me. While I am so lucky my hubby fell in love with me for something beyond my appearances, he is also actually the reason for the beginning of my insecurity about my appearances. When I saw pictures of some of the girls he has liked in the past I was like, “WHAT?! I am in THAT category!” Seriously, honey, way to break down my confidence. I have to admit though, the girls were all really nice and high quality girls. Sigh. Beauty of heart, right?
That really cute girl in my class, she wasn’t very smart. But the plain girl was incredibly bright. I don’t know what happened to them, but I hope that both of them are happy and healthy. Girls, remember the world will always judge you, whether or not you are beautiful, so do what you need to do to be all you can be. Boys, practice looking beyond the superficial to the depths of what a girl has to offer. Parents, let’s raise our kids to be all that they can be.
(Wow, I’m totally an army brat.)
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