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There’s more to beauty than being ‘pretty’

Posted: October 27, 2011 10:42 a.m.
Updated: October 28, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Several years ago, I visited a plastic surgeon’s office to find out what kinds of “work” I needed to have done in order to look my best.

Not that I ever seriously considered getting plastic surgery. I only visited the office because my final grade in a communication class that semester hinged on a personal, in-depth look at what society deemed to be the “perfect person.”

An hour after walking into the office, I learned that in order to be a “really pretty girl,” I needed not only a rhinoplasty, but also liposuction. (Mind you, at the time I was only 105 pounds.)

But if I wanted to look like a drop-dead gorgeous model -- or as close to a model as a 5-foot-tall person could get -- I was told that I would have to get even more work done. A lot more work.

I needed cheek reduction and chin sculpting procedures, as well as a brow lift.

Something about my shoulders weren’t completely right, and my eyes would never be doe-eyed enough. And for the love of God, my calves certainly didn’t look like Beyonce’s calves.

By the time I walked out of the office, it became hard to shake the nagging insecure feeling that I had been traipsing around campus blissfully unaware that, apparently, I looked like Shrek.

It was the same nagging insecure feeling that one of my classmates said she had before finally deciding to get a breast augmentation and rhinoplasty during her senior year of high school and freshman year of college.

The fact that she had a nearly 4.0 grade point average didn’t really mean much, she told me, because guys don’t like to talk about what books she’s reading or how well she’s doing in her classes. She’d rather be called pretty than intelligent.

And now, that same nagging insecure feeling has trickled down to toddlers -- as nearly half of the 3- to 5-year-old girls in a 2009 University of Central Florida study said they worried about being overweight.

It’d be nice to blame little girls’ desire to reach such an unattainable standard of beauty on a pint-sized, yet voluptuous piece of plastic. After all, isn’t Barbie always the reason why young girls have such a warped body image?

But I’d venture to say that maybe we’re one of the reasons some girls are so obsessed with their looks -- because on some level, we still subconsciously teach them that beauty is more important than anything else.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with telling a little girl she is pretty. For most people, it’s just an icebreaker that also makes a little girl feel good about herself.

But if that’s the only thing people say to a little girl, even as she grows up, then she’ll eventually begin to think that people will care more about her looks than anything else. 

Shouldn’t young girls also be told they’re intelligent, kind, hard workers and important?

And with extremely thin celebrities on the cover of every magazine in the grocery store, wouldn’t it make sense for us to help girls realize how unrealistic these images are? We’re all not going to grow up to look like the airbrushed models on the cover of Vogue or InStyle magazines, and that’s perfectly OK.

The best thing that we can do for a young girl is to teach her to love herself -- to love her imperfect physical flaws and to value her mind.

No one should aspire to be just another pretty face. It’s time to let young girls know they have a lot more going for them.

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