The busy-ness of getting through a day can cause all of us forget about the brave and difficult work that so many women have made in the past to make it possible for us all to achieve more out of life.
It is easy for us now to enjoy the privileges that we have, like the right for women to vote, the freedom for women to work in almost any career they choose, and the opportunity for women to earn a decent living for themselves or for their family.
We often forget that there is still work to do in this regard. If we are slacking and lazy, we might lose the freedoms that we have won.
When my preschool aged daughter described to me her friendships at school this way, “Today, I belonged to Serena, yesterday I belonged to Seth, before that I belonged to Mathew,” I knew I had to wake up and make a good game plan and think about how I want to convey to her what it means to be a healthy woman in today’s world.
Of course I told my daughter she belonged to herself, she didn’t belong to anyone else.
But, overall, I started to think hard – how can I raise my daughter to be a strong, independent, kind and powerful woman in these modern times that are so confusing for us all when it comes to the relationships between power, beauty, age, compassion and finance?
And so I ponder, define and write so that I have something clear to tell her.
In this post I will tackle my feelings of the relationship between beauty and power, love and nature as these things can greatly shape character. I hope in future posts to explore other subjects such as leadership, success, nurturing and compassion.
Beauty and Power
Anyone put on “beauty armor” before they go out into the world?
I had a friend who swore by her lip gloss before going onto the sales floor.
I always wear Valentino perfume and mascara before a big performance. Nowhere else.
I think that this sort of behavior has some to do with looking good in general. But mainly, this has to do with a ritual that makes us feel a little powerful. It is a lucky charm. We know that the way we look has an affect on those around us and we are trying to get the world on our side. This ritual reminds us that we have some power in this effect.
The scary thing is though, we don’t, and won’t ever know exactly what effect our beauty has on others. It is impossible. No one can know exactly what anyone else is thinking.
I think one thing to watch out for is thinking that you, using your appearance, ever have complete control over how the people around you feel. I think that while wearing something that gives us a secret little boost is a good thing, because it helps us relax and focus on the world around us, there is always a danger in believing that full manipulation is possible. The very idea of manipulating any person is wrong. But sometimes seeing the possibility that power may have can lead you to a slippery slope.
And of course, the impossibility of the belief that you can manipulate someone through your beauty will only lead to pain when your plan fails. The pain might be devastating if you’ve put your self esteem on the line. You might even forget the things you like and value because you are focusing so narrowly on who you are manipulating. You can lose your way in the world completely; you can either become completely enmeshed in the vanity of your grooviness and miss out the details going on around you due to sleepwalking through life, or you can become overly self conscious and worry so much about what everyone thinks of you that you end up deafening yourself with your insecure mental chatter.
I will tell my daughter that her beauty is innate and that it is powerful but never to dwell too much in it. It will detract from the world she loves.
Beauty and Love
Why do we chose to dress and adorn ourselves the way we do?
How much of it is about what we love? About who we love? About loving ourselves?
- On that first warm day of spring, do you wear something that reminds you of the life teeming around you? A pale green, a flower print, a bright lil’ silk scarf?
- When you are out for a special night with your love, do you dress just to impress this one person? The sweater that is cut just right, or the shoes that kill your feet but you know make him smile?
- When you are feeling sad on a rainy Sunday afternoon, do you wear fuzzy slippers and a warm sweater? Or maybe you wear your PJs all day.
I don’t think any of these things are wrong. They are all vital to our happiness. But, out of balance, you get this:
- Wearing those cute strappy sandals that remind you of the beach even though it is October and you almost get frostbite.
- Having a closet full of beautiful clothes that have become a uniform to you and bring you absolutely no joy whatsoever.
- Going grocery shopping in PJs and house slippers.
I think your beauty and your love must include all three of these things in balance. Balanced, these things will all work for you. Expressing what you love in the world will bring energy and inspiration to those around you. Showing who you love that you are paying attention to them will deepen your relationship. Taking care of yourself will help you heal and rejuvenate. Out of balance you have foolishness, identity problems, and a diminishing of your self respect.
I will tell my daughter that it is wise to dress herself for a day in the world thinking about what she loves, to dress herself for an occasion thinking about who she loves and to dress herself when she is alone thinking about how she wants to feel.
Beauty and Nature
I believe our current cultural definitions of beauty are all about the babies and about our reproductive health. We find different aspects to focus on from time to time and from culture to culture; some beauty memes prefer curves that make us think of fertility and new mothers. Other memes prefer toned athletes that remind us that it takes health and strength to birth a baby. All of the definitions of beauty celebrate some aspect of a healthy lady who can have children.
Even if we don’t want to have babies, we still tend to celebrate the physical beauty of motherhood because it so deeply a part of our culture. I think that it was just for so long, human survival meant having a large and healthy family. It meant more human connections and a safer, more prosperous life.
But really, is that all there is to it?
I say of course not!
By the grace of technology and progress, we live a lot of our lifetime outside of this time frame of motherhood (16-45). What do we do when we aren’t there yet? How do we feel when we aren’t there anymore?
Well, I can tell you how I feel, and I think a lot of people feel the same way, even when our media saturated reproduction obsessed culture seems to say otherwise.
Reproduction is wonderful, but it isn’t everything. I just know this. I see the beauty beyond it and if you cannot, then I don’t know how you can live on this earth with such narrow sight.
I see an eleven year old girl and see the convictions she has in her life right before she starts worrying about boys. She has just gotten her head around who she is. She loves animals and loves to volunteer at the animal shelter. She has a strong sense of right and wrong. She is not naive. She is herself, fully, at this rare time of life. This stage is precious. This young lady is so very beautiful.
I have an eighty five year old friend who looks at herself in the mirror and is angry. Aging is difficult, period. But my friend is fighting, fighting, fighting. She is fighting to be on this earth for as long as possible. She loves it so much. She loves all of the work she did and the cultures she explored and the discoveries she made. She wants to learn more. She wants to publish more. She wants more time. She fought through two years of debilitating pain, an infection that almost killed her, a stay in managed care and three years later is back in her own house. On her terms, near her books. She is fierce and she has a powerful grasp on this life of hers. This lady is so very beautiful.
I will tell my daughter there is beauty in every aspect of life and to courageously find it, even if it means looking in the wings, beyond the center stage of fertility.
So, will my daughter listen to me when I share these words of wisdom? I know she must make her own way though this world, so it is hard to say. But I know it will be helpful to have this in writing to refer back, when I am at my wits’ end and it seems that the world is stacked against her being a strong and healthy individual. I will remember that I thought this through because I want her to have some good ground to stand on when she is facing the challenges of growing up.