Beyond Photoshop: Talking to Kids About Beauty Standards

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Raising a daughter in this day and age is invigorating as much as it is terrifying. We’re in the midst of a female revolution. Women are choosing to set their own beauty standards and those standards range anywhere from refusing to shave their armpits, all the way to cosmetic enhancements and tattooed freckles. So, yes, while this is definitely an era for women to take ownership over what we deem “beautiful,” it’s also a really, really confusing one. I think often about the types of conversations I may have with my daughter as she gets older. As an educator who works with pre-teens, I recognize the value in having open dialogue about the images we see and the language we hear regarding women and their physical appearances.beauty standardsAs I was scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day, I noticed an actress’s beautiful selfie, to which she captioned #nomakeup. As I looked closer, it was clear to me that she had eyelash extensions and there was an extremely high likelihood that her brows had been microbladed. If I had been a teenager, that image coupled with the words “no makeup” could potentially impact me in the same way that a photoshopped waistline/arms/thighs on the cover of a magazine would. It’s confusing to adolescents. They see an image and they hear the message that this is what no makeup looks like and immediately judge themselves against it… but it’s not entirely the truth.

Nowadays, there may be some pushback around photoshopping images of women in various publications, but we also live in a time where women routinely enhance their physical appearances with non-invasive routines like eyelash extensions and microblading, but also with use of botox, plastic surgery, and even tattoos. Women reserve the right to choose how to express their beauty – be it through cosmetic surgery or completely all natural – but it can certainly make for a really confusing “reality” for young girls.

So how do we reconcile these images with our own ideas about beauty? And more importantly, how do we talk to our children about it?

Be honest. Be honest about all of these things. Have a conversation about how girls and women get to choose how they represent themselves. That may mean that on some days, you want to wear makeup because it makes you feel alive and beautiful, but that you also recognize that your beauty and your worth doesn’t RELY on that makeup. Talk about how beauty encompasses so much more than just your physical appearance. Discuss how we have to be cognizant of all the ways women are able to change their look; even if the words “makeup free” appear, it isn’t entirely accurate all the time. Teach them self-love. And that self-love looks different for different people.

While the reality of beauty in this day in age is insanely confusing, we can focus the conversation toward healthy body image, self-love, and confidence. We can teach our children to love who they are and what they’ve been born with. We just have to focus the conversation inward.

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Born and raised in Phoenix, Felicia married her high school sweetheart and became a mother to a beautiful baby girl in March of 2016. An experienced educator, she graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Elementary Education, a M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction: Language and Literacy and spent seven incredible years teaching in the heart of South Phoenix. Known to be a total sap, Felicia has no shame in admitting that she cries at just about anything: movies, sentimental commercials, and yes, even sporting events when she is overcome with happiness for a complete stranger’s accomplishments. She’s a serial creator, constantly dreaming up new ideas and ventures. Exploring the outdoors is a family value, so you may find her and the family hiking local trails, planning adventures, and soaking in the sunshine while the weather is still cool. When she’s not relishing in family time, you can catch her teaching Literacy for Littles at Modern Milk.

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