On Reflection and Raising Girls: Getting ready for the RWA conference in San Antonio has made me think about how much I’ve changed from the person I was in my early 20’s. And I can track back to the “Inciting Incident” and the “New Situation” that made this change come about.
In order to pack for the conference, I’ve purchased items like a blow drier and makeup, along with clothes and a little jewelry. I guess you’d say I live a low maintenance life. I wash my hair, comb it and let it air dry. I don’t blow dry it or style it. I only wear make-up for “events” like weddings and graduations. But, I haven’t always been this way.
I used to be quite a girly-girl. Maybe even at the “high maintenance” end of the spectrum. In high school and in my early twenties, I spent plenty of time primping. I blew dry my hair, styled it, curled it, and didn’t leave the house without blush, eye shadow and mascara. Ever. Separating what I looked like from how I felt about myself was an evolution. So, what changed that? Obviously maturity played a part. Just growing older helps you get confident about who you are and helps you see your own self-worth as your actions have a positive ripple in the world. But I can also track my evolution down to three very specific things.
#1 In tenth grade I took advanced algebra with a very respected yet very feared math teacher. She was known to be a great teacher, but she would put students on the spot, calling on you to put problems on the board daily. You had to be prepared everyday, or risk getting sliced and diced by her. I worked hard in that class. Prepared each night to face her with my knowledge but as the year wore on, she rarely called on me. At the end of the year during the parent/teacher conference she told my mother that I looked “like a fragile flower” and she didn’t have the heart to pick on me. I went unchallenged and my confidence waned. That was the last year I was in advanced math.
#2 I had girls of my own. As they grew I didn’t want them to feel that how they looked meant more than who they were on the inside, or how hard they worked or how they treated others. So in the beginning, when my daughters were young, instead of telling them they were beautiful, I told them they had a beautiful soul. And as they got into the upper elementary grades, you bet I told them my math story. I wanted them to know that other people don’t always give you what you need. They needed to be proactive and go after what they needed and wanted. No more “fragile flowers” in our family tree!
#3 When my girls were young and impressionable, maybe around 6-10, somewhere in there, we had someone come visit who said to them, “I have to go put my face on now” meaning go put on her make-up. Ugh. I hate that expression. As if you’re a faceless person without make-up? No. I never wanted my daughters to feel that way. I didn’t want them to feel that they needed make-up to be complete.
For all these reasons, I stopped wearing make-up when my daughters were young. So they could see that I felt beautiful and confident because of who I was on the inside and not what I looked like. Instead of judging people by how they looked, we raised them by the Fred Rogers (of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood) motto: “Find something good in everyone you meet.” So, that’s the evolution of me. I’m not anti-makeup or primping at all. And maybe it’s just me. I can think back now and remember friends and classmates who seemed totally confident in who they were. If I could have a “do-over” I would be one of them. I feel like it took me many years to forge a stronger, wiser version of me. To slip into the space where I just am. To land safely into me. To love myself, and feel confident about myself just the way I am. I may not have eliminated the same evolution for my daughters. I mean, girls still soak up other messages from friends and society (movies, TV, ads) but at the very least, I hope I gave them the tools to make the evolution short and sweet. Did you make certain choices when you raised your children based on your own experiences?