“I wish I was pretty because then everything would be easier”
At 8 years-old my beautiful, intelligent daughter has already worked out how the world works. She is pretty but she feels she isn’t, she feels very much in her younger sister’s shadow when it comes to appearance. Strangers often compliment Youngest on her looks, choosing to ignore Oldest. We have even been stopped by a stranger for Oldest to be told “Isn’t your little sister pretty?”. Even my own Nan has said how pretty Youngest is in front of Oldest. On our recent holiday the issue of being “pretty” reared its head again.
We spent the whole holiday seeing Youngest praised for her looks. The words “cute, beautiful, pretty, angelic” were all used to describe Youngest. Each time Oldest would become increasingly frustrated as she was ignored. Yet, Oldest is equally pretty. Her personality shines through. Oldest is quick witted, fiercely loyal, opinionated and very kind and caring. On a superficial level, Oldest has long, thick hair, and is tall for her age. She is pretty and I know that she will blossom into a beautiful adult. However, Oldest doesn’t like being tall. She feels awkward in her own skin. No matter how many times I reassure, praise her, she still refuses to accept that being tall is a good thing. At 8 years-old, it makes my heart break that she feels like this. I don’t think that she should have these worries at her age.
Star Of The Show
On our latest cruise Oldest was cast in the leading role of the nativity. A role she relished. Oldest delivered her lines with aplomb in front of a packed theatre. On stage she was confident and you would have had no idea that she is plagued by insecurities. Back stage she refused to change in front of the other children and instead chose to hide behind a chair to get changed. I’m not sure how to help her, and I wonder if this is another example of where I have failed my oldest daughter. What should I have done differently?
Is It My Fault?
I remember being Oldest’s age and having no confidence. Unlike Oldest, I wouldn’t have said boo to a goose. I was timid and unhappy as a child. I really believed that I was ugly. I felt that I was too thin and that my nose was too big. So I can understand how it feels to not like yourself. Now an adult, I’m still not happy with my appearance. I wonder, have I passed on these insecurities to Oldest? Is it my fault?
It troubles me that Oldest is already seeing a distinction between her and her sister as she recognises that society judges a female on their looks; that being attractive is considered a really important trait. I have told her that this is not the case. That society isn’t easier for you if you are pretty. Oldest refuses to listen, she believes that life is far easier when you are pretty. This niggles because deep down I wonder if she has a point. Youngest can be rude. We are always having to remind her to say thank you and please. On occasion I found myself apologising to waiters and waitress for Youngest’s behaviour only to be told “But she’s so cute”. What kind of message is that sending to Oldest? In kids’ club on the boat one of the helpers recounted a conversation with Oldest. They had said to Oldest, “Awww, isn’t your sister cute”. I’m told that Oldest rolled her eyes at her and said,
“You are just like all the rest, you have been taken in by her looks. She is actually really naughty”.
What Can We Do?
I understand Oldest’s frustrations. We all remember that child at school who seemed to have it so easy. They breezed through everything, liked by everyone, they were the teacher’s pet, and all because they looked cute. Unfortunately, underneath that cute person was a bit of a bully. I wonder if this is where Youngest is headed. Does she feel like everything should be handed to her on a plate? How will she react when this isn’t the case? How will she behave when she gets further on in her school career? I’m confident that she will survive and right now I can’t imagine her becoming a bully but then no parent wants to face up to the fact that their child could be a bully. Youngest is kind and she too has a very strong sense of justice. However, she is also likes to get things her own way. I guess it’s down to us as parents. We have to ensure that Youngest stays in check.
Trying To Help Oldest
In the meantime, I have assured Oldest that people only think Youngest is cute because of her age and there will come a time when she will have to prove herself. I’ve told Oldest that beauty is subjective and that being considered pretty doesn’t make people more likely to like you. However, I wonder if I am telling a white lie. There have been studies that would suggest I am lying. Studies that show good looking people will use their looks to get ahead in life. That attractive people are considered more intelligent, more persuasive. Then there is the belief that attractive people are considered more trustworthy. This is something that Oldest has already picked up on. I also have to confess that Youngest can lie with remarkable ease. She will look you in the eyes and not flinch. She has the confidence to lie. Youngest is a prime example of the “Halo Effect”. If someone is easy on the eye then we assume that they must be an intelligent and good person.
I’m not sure if I am handling the situation right. I keep reassuring Oldest. I keep reminding her why she is fantastic. However, it’s a harsh lesson to learn early on. I would rather my 8 year-old naively believe that we are all equal. I really wish that she wasn’t already aware of how unfair life can be.