The Value of Inner Beauty

I read the following statistic in a Dove magazine advertisement, “6 in 10 girls stop doing what they love because of anxiety about their looks”.  How sad is that?  To think that girls give up the activities they enjoy, that have nothing to do with looks, because they are insecure about what they perceive as beautiful.   We can’t deny that it is a tough world out there when it comes to physical appearance.  The media focuses on having the ideal figure, the perfect hair, the whitest smile, and flawless skin. But in reality, the real beauty of a person goes far beyond just physical appearances.  Without inner beauty it doesn’t have much value.   Inner beauty is about traits that make you who you are…your personality and your character.   Inner beauty is about challenging yourself and doing what you love regardless of what you look like. 
We live in an image-focused society where children, especially girls, are aware of what is considered attractive as early as nursery school.  It is not uncommon to hear young girls to say that they like a certain teacher or celebrity because they are beautiful.  And insecurities about their own appearance begin just as early, with negative comments that they are too fat, or have bad hair, or too many freckles or just aren’t pretty enough.  Even if outward appearances are not focused on at home, young girls are not immune to the conversations and critiques that take place outside the home. 
So what can we do to build girl’s self-esteem and give them the confidence to do what they love and celebrate who they are?  The Dove “Girls Unstoppable” project is a great example of teaching self-esteem and celebrating real beauty.  But we too can do our part by stopping our own negative self-talk about our bodies and physical appearance.  Children listen to what we are saying, so we need to end the self-criticism and talk less about what we look like and more about our good qualities.  We need to speak about our accomplishments at work, the neighbor we helped out, the committee we offered our time to, as well as other people we value for the good they are doing.  Girls need to know they are valued for attributes beyond physical beauty.  Let your daughter know you admire her sense of adventure, her compassion, her intelligence, her sense of humor…. Inner qualities she can be proud of and qualities that will inspire her to challenge herself and put herself out there in the world. 
When I think of the women I admire the most, it has nothing to do with their physical appearance.  It has everything to do with their intelligence, humor, compassion, trustworthiness, and inner confidence that shines through.  I admire their abilities to work to their full potential, volunteer their time,  stand in the front row of a dance class regardless of their weight,  use their sense of humor, and to build people up when they are down.  I admire their character, their confidence, and their ability to see themselves for more than just what the mirror reflects back. 
It would be amazing if all young people faced each day feeling beautiful for the goals they have set, the challenges they take on, and the confidence they radiate when enjoying their life and all they have to offer from the inside.  I’d really like for that “6 in 10” statistics to change, and see more young women getting involved in the things that excite them and make them feel happy. 

“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical”.  Sophia Loren.