How to Tell Your Beautiful Teen She’s Not Ugly.


September 9, 2013 by jeliwobble

I wish, sometimes, there was a manual.

I have always subscribed to the sort of parenting that is fairly reactive, rather than proactive, with the thought that ‘We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it’ is largely better than ‘Here’s a shovel, dig a ravine so we have to build a bridge’. I’m a great believer in praise for things well done but not for things that come naturally. I praise effort, not smarts. I praise practice, not ability. I praise determination in adversity, not cruising because you can’t be bothered to give up.

I praise how well you dressed yourself, not how you look.

The last one has come back to bite me on the bum. I just don’t value what someone looks like. I can see the beauty in pretty much everything, even things that most people would see as shockingly ugly and so placing value on it makes no sense to me. If you’re pretty, well done for having great genes, but don’t expect me to place you above your less pretty counterpart, because she’s amazing at playing the bassoon, and the fat girl you’re currently laughing at has three children who she’s amazingly supporting by doing three jobs.

I am also pathologically opposed to all social ‘norms’ of what women are supposed to look like. I dress quite conservatively but for my size in that I like to have well fitting clothes but my choices aren’t going to shake the world of fashion. That said, I have no opinion on what other people ‘should’ wear, just whether or not the aesthetics of what you’re wearing suits you.

Because I don’t value what’s on the outside, I don’t really think about it. So, I have never really told Eldest that she’s beautiful. And she is very much so. Not in a particularly conventional way, but she has a handsome face, a cracking figure and exceptionally nice eyes and hair. I have complimented her on her outfits, when they have suited her, but am afraid I have, more often, complained at the constant hoodie and jeans combo that she hides it all behind. (Yes, I am aware how much of a double standard that is; it doesn’t matter what you look like, so long as you wear nice clothes?!)

Even the few occasions I have responded to her assertion that she’s ugly with a ‘Don’t be ridiculous, you’re beautiful!’ she’s shot back immediately that I’m ‘supposed to say that’ because I’m her ‘mum’.

I am trying hard to hold onto the fact that I never really thought I was pretty as a teen, and still don’t. I am quite nicely put together, but that’s just down to good genes. The difference is, I don’t place any value on it. I don’t care that I’m not pretty, because it’s not important to me. I can’t remember when it became unimportant to me. I suspect it was somewhere in my late teens, early twenties, when I realised that I wasn’t going to change people’s opinions of me by being what they expected me to be, judging from the outside. So I started being true to myself, rather than kow-towing to other peoples expectations of me, and I learned, gradually, not to care about what other people thought about me. Which doesn’t help her right now, because I am being me from here and she’s being her from there.

She also has a pretty awesome personality, with a very dry sense of humour and a penchant for the macabre. She is someone that does the right thing in most instances, often rails against the injustices that the world likes to parade in front of us, and feels her own impotence in changing that world more than most do at her age.

I do place value on that. Maybe that’s what I should just concentrate on, and ignore the desperate look in her eye when she calls herself ‘ugly’.


7 thoughts on “How to Tell Your Beautiful Teen She’s Not Ugly.

  1. Tracey says:

    As the parent of a soon to be 15 year old girl I completely understand where you’re coming from. It’s such a tricky time for them. My daughter is actually quite similar to you, in that she likes to search for the beauty, rather than look to the obvious. However, this doesn’t help her when she’s wailing that she’s so much uglier than her friends. Like you, I praise her nicely put together outfits, or the way she has styled her hair. I even marvelled at her eyeliner application yesterday!
    I don’t know if it’s working. I have noticed her asking for advice a bit more, and we have been discussing personalities a bit recently. She’s just changed schools, which I think is helping. Trying to make new friends at 14 means she needs to look at more than just outward appearances, and this is, I think, making her realise, a little, how meaningless they are.
    I am sure it won’t be long before your daughter works out for herself where her values are. She has a good role model.

  2. teddzbear says:

    If you ever find a solution, I’d love the answer. No1 is at a horrible stage that I can’t get right. It horrifies me, quite frankly.

    Our beautiful daughters, outside as well as in, will be miserable for much longer than I would like and it is getting harder to keep smiling when what I want to do is shake my belief in her worth into her very bones.

    • jeliwobble says:

      With you 100%. It’s so hard. The more I think on it, the more I feel that it’s just about keeping open the lines of communication and constant outpouring of love into the self esteem void.

  3. Heather says:

    Thank you for a beautifully written post.

    I’m a Guide leader so have seen plenty of 10+ yr old girls come through my group, each battling with her own demons in this vicious arena of what is thrust into their face as being beautiful and comparing themselves to it, generally in an unfavourable light. The majority who stick around (instead of deciding that Guides isn’t cool) get through it and blossom into confident young women.
    From what I’ve seen, its all about having the right support, and you sound like a brilliant role model, but I suspect there’ll be a bit more of the “but you’re meant to say I’m beautiful, you’re my mum!” to come.
    I can’t comment on personal experience, my daughter is only 15 months, but I really do hope that I can support her through her teenage years particularly, and give her more confidence in herself than I had at that age.

    No idea if this will be of any interest, but I’ve found some useful exercises on there, some might be things you can slip into conversation to get her thinking about things differently?

  4. […] ← How to Tell Your Beautiful Teen She’s Not Ugly. […]

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