Beauty vs. Brains

I don’t remember how it first came up this weekend–but Hannah Rose got asked which was more important:  being beautiful or being smart.  She was certain, “Beautiful.” 

She’s four years old.  Only four. 

Even so, she’s bought into one of the biggest myths out there.  We’ve talked about it several times with her since, and we tell her being smart is more important than being beautiful.  We’ve told her how being smart actually makes you more beautiful.  Still she insists that beauty is where it’s at.

I wonder how much of this message she’s gotten from the media and Disney.  I target Disney specifically because she’s so into Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell.  Disney heroines are always beautiful and usually it is their beauty, not their brains, that are highlighted.  Granted, in the movie Mulan you do see a heroine that is more than just beautiful. 

To be fair, I also have to ask: how much of this message has she somehow gotten from us?

In talking to her about this, at one point I started to say how her beauty would one day go away–but then I thought that’s not the message I want to send her.  I don’t want her getting worried about getting older because she would be “less” beautiful.  That and I saw faces of numerous beautiful older women pop in head.  (I think in images, not words….so my brain on that one was bypassing the translation process).  Furthermore, I know that no matter how old she is, she will always be beautiful to me.  Why?  She’s Hannah Rose and I love her.  So I told her I said that wrong.  I told her that her beauty would not go away, but that as she grew her beauty would change.  Which is definitely more than spin–it’s more of a truth that beauty changes than it goes away. 

Still, I’m concerned.  I know there are adults who believe beauty to be more important than brains.  I’m not concerned because Hannah Rose believes something different than I do.  I’m concerned because I know how much damage that particular belief can cause.  I don’t want her to grow up and pursue this illusive idea of beauty at the cost of everything–including and especially her health. 

I want her to know that she is beautiful, but also smart, funny, charming, generous, and loving.  I want her to know that being beautiful is something that truly comes from the inside.  I’ve seen the most gorgeous people on the planet turn into the most unattractive in a moment because of their personalities and what lies within.  I’ve seen it work the other way around, as well.

I want these things for her–and I’m unsure of how to give them to her.  We tell her she is pretty and beautiful, because every little girl needs to hear that growing up.  And she is.  We tell her she is smart, and she is.  I think it’s just going to take some time…time telling her about how being smart is more important than being beautiful and time to find examples of this that she can relate to.  Perhaps maybe even finding a book about it.  (And if I can’t find one-writing one!)