We need to redefine ‘beauty’ for the benefit of our kids

We need to redefine ‘beauty’ for the benefit of our kids

By KORAL DASGUPTA | | 16 April, 2016
We are a society hooked on appearances, and our children are instilled quite early on in their lives with conventional ideas of what’s beautiful and what’s not. This can have very negative implications.

The other day I was reading reports on a research that said beautiful people have their series of advantages; but there are disadvantages as well, which scaringly aren’t as obvious. The disadvantages of having a beautiful face can actually slow poison the beholder, and no one would apparently know where the complications came from!

Fine, let’s approach this head on. First let’s nail the concerns and then try to find probable solutions.

Research claims that when an individual has a pretty face, it is assumed that she would be equally beautiful in all other departments of her being. This is unfair for the concerned person as well as for others around. But because of this assumption and the resultant hype, the person might unknowingly pick up a superiority complex embedded somewhere in her subconscious. Often people get so badly trapped in this psychological illusion, they feel they would champion on things that they may not have even tried their hands on ever. Appreciation gets into their head and over-confidence eventually leads to depression, when they fail.

Other than depression, there are other behavioural issues that crop out of this. One of them being, when they can’t achieve by merits, they try to charm it out. If the charm works, that’s where the corruption begins. If it doesn’t, they sometimes get desperate. I have known many such beautiful and handsome people, some of them being friends, who have turned hostile and abusive in their personal relationships when their partners quite humanly appreciated others. An ex-classmate who had recently suffered a break-up told me about his lady, “How could she even be close friends with anyone else, when she had me as her benchmark!” He didn’t forget to mention how handsome he was and how mediocre were the other guys who were friends with the girl. As weird as it might sound, it is true that beautiful faces need constant reassurance. Lack of assurance or any threat to it can bring down their wall of conviction. You would find social media flooded with selfies and photographs posted on a daily basis, inviting people to react to those. The uploaders don’t realise that they are much more than a pretty face!

Returning to parenting, the research study and my personal experiences supporting the truth behind it got me thinking. Are we giving ourchildren the correct upbringing? If the facial features become the foundation of confidence for an individual, then isn’t it some kind of parenting failure? Every child is magic, a blessing of God. We as parents often lovingly tell our children that they are the most beautiful beings on earth. Where should we stop, lest that gets misinterpreted by their tender brains and a wrong message is reinforced into their system?

There is a thin line between boosting the confidence of our children by pointing at their strengths and overdoing it by focussing on stuff that isn’t really their credit or merit. When a child is chubby or fair or pretty, they are naturally cuddled more by the onlookers. We can’t change this most normal human sentiment. What we can rather do is, approach this issue collectively instead of individually restricting to our own offsprings.

First, stop crediting your child for being fair. If your child has a darker complexion, be vocal against anyone who demeans him because of that.  Firmly explain that such comments, even if passed on a lighter note, cast the person who makes them in a bad light. They reflect very poorly on their thought process and lay bare the prejudices they hold close to himself. Speak out and raise awareness. Shame them. Whether or not you are the parent to the child who has been bullied on that count, protest against such behaviour and stand by her. Pass the inspiration to your children. Let them learn and get the message from the examples that you have set for them.

Pretty faces get more attention. Hence, often they are cornered as less people want to walk with them. No one likes to be in a situation where one person in the group is celebrated more than the others. Such people have many admirers but less friends. The power equation starts setting in from a very early stage. We as parents need to break that. We need to level it out for our children and help them find support within their age groups. If you spot such trends, please don’t take it casually. Invite their classmates at home, plan get-togethers, make friends with other parents, and incorporate the values of sharing, to ensure that your child doesn’t ever suffer that isolation.

It is also important for us as parents, to help our children identify the natural goodness among others. We must teach them to channelize their focus away from the faces and find beauty in life and living beings. Many people have told me that having pets at home does wonders to children, inspiring them to grow up with compassion and value life beyond the structural and anatomical requirements of their own. While I am yet to adopt and incorporate this advice in my own family, I do accept the logic behind it. But what I do personally, is that I never encourage when my child complains about his friends. I hear each of his complains carefully and then, I rather tell him nice things about the people within his immediate zone of reference. I tell him about the achievements of his father and uncles and aunties and grandparents and teachers. I encourage him to share with me the good things about his classmates. He is still too small, but as he grows up, I plan to make it a rule where every night he’ll recollect all the good things he has done in the day and all the good gestures among the people around that inspired him in some way or the other. Maybe that’s one way of routing his attention away from the faces and ensuring that he values such simple qualities among people that we often take for granted!

First, stop crediting your child for being fair.  If your child has a darker complexion, be vocal against anyone who demeans him because of that.  Firmly explain that such comments, even if passed on a lighter note, cast the person who makes them in a bad light. They reflect very poorly on their thought process and lay bare the prejudices they hold close to themselves. Speak out and raise awareness. Shame them.

Beauty is a state of mind. We must wear it like our uniform. That doesn’t mean that we won’t step out without our mascara. But, maybe we should exercise. We must eat, drink and think healthy. External beauty is temporary, and it will fade with time. Our children must be strong enough, by the time they grow up, to withstand the changing effects of beauty and the modifications it brings upon the physicality.  A study in the U.S. sometime back announced scary statistics on how youngsters, barely thirteen years old, were going for cosmetological treatments to “perfect” their nose and lips and eye brows. India isn’t standing too far away, given that we have allowed ourselves to be objectified in more ways than one. By the time our children grow up, they will have to battle more severe temptations and we as parents would have tough times to explain the point. Why not start the process early as a precautionary measure?

Let’s redefine “beauty” for them and for ourselves. With our children in tow, let’s together find logical reasons for being called beautiful. Let values like forgiveness, love, care, humility, respect, support, education and empathy be the new foundation on which stands the concept of beauty! Let’s focus on happiness and sustenance rather than chasing something that will eventually go.

Wishing beauty. Wishing tranquillity. Happy parenting.

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