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Mummy, Are You Beautiful? - What Would You Say?

By Megan Blandford - 12th September 2011

"Mummy, am I beautiful?"

"Yes, you are so beautiful!"

"Mummy, are you beautiful?"


Children don’t realise how confronting, or how relevant, their questions can be. When my three-year-old daughter posed the question, "Are you beautiful?" to me, I hesitated. And I gave her the answer I knew I should give: "Yes. Yes, I am."

This is a question that, once upon a time, I would have laughed at. Maybe I would have jokingly said yes, and then quickly followed it up with a "No, seriously, I’m really not’" and pointed out a series of perceived flaws. Just to make sure that everyone understood I wasn’t conceited or above myself.

It’s what many of us do best; put ourselves down, don’t dare to say we’re good at something or that we love ourselves, and definitely not that we think of ourselves as beautiful. Sometimes it’s like a competition among women: "My thighs are too big", "My skin is terrible’", "You all look great, but me? I’m having such a fat day."

Think back to the last time you received a compliment. Did you argue with it? Or did you simply say, "Thank you"? To do the latter takes some courage. It takes a thought process that goes against what we think is our instinct but is actually a programmed denial of self worth. Tall poppy syndrome, if you will – don’t stand out from the crowd, deny your strengths so that no one notices them.

This is not instinct; it’s likely we weren’t all like that as children.

Look at my young daughter, for example. Ask her if she’s clever or funny or beautiful or happy and she will answer affirmatively with complete and utter confidence. Without the shadow of a doubt, she knows she is all of those things. When I tell her she is beautiful, she simply agrees. Her instinct tells her to trust that which she knows to be true, and it tells her to answer honestly and directly.

I doubt she’ll be that way in twenty years time. And that saddens me more than I can say.

But is that a fait accompli? This denial of ourselves is a learned behaviour - so, from whom do we learn it? Who can show us that it doesn’t have to be that way? Parents are a good start, I think.

Perhaps I can influence my daughter in a more positive way. Maybe, just maybe, if I learn to trust in my own instincts, I can change the pattern of a society for her. I imagine she will falter and doubt herself over time, but if at the end of it all she remembers that it’s okay to trust in herself, she will be armed with the ultimate life skill: self confidence.

I have much to learn, however. The problem with my response to her question was not in the words, it was in my initial hesitation. And if I really observe my response, I suspect I’ll detect a hint of embarrassment in my tone at saying yes to such a question. Children pick up on everything, whether it’s spoken aloud or not - perhaps especially if it’s not.

It’s going to take some getting used to, but next time my daughter asks a question like that – "Mummy, are you beautiful?" – I’m going to say yes, and I’m going to say it loudly and confidently and proudly.

Because in years to come, I want to hear her being asked that same question, and I want to hear her answer without hesitation.

And there’s only one way she’s going to learn that that is an acceptable response.

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