If someone were to ask you, “What makes you beautiful,” what would you say? Would you pick a physical feature? A personality trait? Would you even have an answer?
For most of us, this question isn’t as easy to answer as we’d like it to be. If you can come up with an answer, it probably takes a bit of thought or contemplation. Chances are, that answer is shaped by something other than just you.
As I’ve gotten older, figuring out what makes me feel beautiful has gotten harder. When do we start idolizing the images we see in magazines? When do we start believing we’re beautiful, but only if we could gain or lose ten pounds? So I wondered, would kids respond to the question the same way?
I asked a group of five-year-olds what makes them beautiful. Here are some of their answers:
“When I wear my fancy clothes. My sparkly shoes and stuff.”
“I do dance class and I do beautiful dances.”
“Butterflies are beautiful just like me.”
“I’m cool, not beautiful. And there’s cool stuff inside my heart. Like animals and stuff. And I got some crazy words in my heart.”
“When I’m a silly Billy!”
The best thing about asking kids this question is that they never hesitated with their answers. They don’t have to ponder the question, or ask a friend what they think, or say “well, I’d be beautiful if…” Kids know how to answer with their gut.
Being a grown-up is cool and all, but there is so much we can learn from the small humans who barely clear our waists. Let’s return to a time not when beauty wasn’t defined by what we did or didn’t wear. Let’s return to a time when we didn’t need validation from a person or a magazine to feel a certain way.
It’s ok if putting on your sparkly shoes and a full face of makeup makes you feel beautiful. And it’s ok if shooting free-throws or hitting home runs makes you feel beautiful. And it’s ok if making people laugh and being a goofball makes you feel beautiful. Beauty is not defined by your clothing, or your makeup, or your personality because there is no single definition. You get to choose what makes you feel beautiful and it doesn’t have to include anyone else’s idea of beauty but your own.
So what would your answer be?
“What makes you feel beautiful?”
Clear away every other answer except that singular one that comes from your gut. The one that says you’re gorgeous in your signature cat-eye or when you’re being a “silly-Billy.” Put on your childlike thinking cap, and you may realize the answer is easier to find than you thought.
(Huge shout out to my friend Sarah Martin for volunteering her preschool class to help me out with this project. You and your students are rockstars.)