Why All of Our Daughters are Beautiful

When you tell your daughter she is beautiful, what do you mean? Are you commenting on her physical appearance? How good her hair looks? What shape she’s in? No. When you tell your daughter she’s beautiful, you are commenting on her inner beauty. You’re referring to all the things that make her her—who she is, what she likes, and what she believes. Your daughter’s beauty comes from within.

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I remember being a teenager standing in front of the mirror in my room (me pictured front with my cousin). I’d examine my thighs and feel like they were too big. I didn’t like the flab on my stomach. My legs were too short. I didn’t like my straight hair because big, luscious waves were in vogue.

I was obsessed with fashion magazines as a teen. I pored over the pictures of beautiful women and taped them all along that mirror in my room. Beautiful women that set impossible and unrealistic standards of beauty. On top of not being tall or skinny enough, I also hated my dark hair and the shape of my eyes. I hated who I was because I didn’t see women of Asian descent among those standards of beauty. It didn’t matter that I was rail thin or had beautiful shiny, full hair. It didn’t matter what I looked like because teenage girls have warped self-perceptions.

There are so many pressures on our girls. Compared to when I was growing up, there are many more role models, positive messages, books, etc. today. But they are still inundated with messages about how they should look, behave and feel from the internet, social media, school dress codes, peers, etc… We have a long way to go before we value girls for who they are. Before we value and appreciate girls for their unique and undeniable beauty. Too often, their egos are under-developed and fragile and they need reassurances.

When I think of what makes a girl beautiful, I’m reminded of a passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned:

She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines.
She was beautiful, for the way she thought.
She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved.
She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad.
No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks.
She was beautiful, deep down to her soul.
She is beautiful.

These profound words accurately illustrate and epitomize my feelings about teen portraits. I made a video of Olivia’s portrait session to communicate that. Her session wasn’t just about capturing a pretty picture of her. It was about capturing her essence. Of capturing the sparkle in her eyes that conveys who she is inside. When you see a girl’s inner beauty, you can’t help but see and feel she is beautiful. Just as every parent feels her daughter is beautiful.

I can only imagine how having a portrait session at that fragile age would have made me feel. It would have made me feel special. It would have made me feel important. It would have made me feel beautiful. It would have made me realize that I too was worthy of those pages in the magazines. As an adult, I would cherish seeing myself that way. I would want my children to see who I was. I would look forward to showing them again when they are adults and capable of appreciating it.

I believe that ALL of our daughters are beautiful. And I believe that all of them should have the opportunity to see that and feel that way.