Mama, am I beautiful?

Alice through the looking mirror

I never leave the house without my trusted little notebook. No fancy apps for me, thank you very much. I like it old school when it comes to jotting down thoughts, ideas, and lists. I carry the little notebook everywhere because I never know when I’m going to be inspired by something I see, smell, taste, touch, or hear. But I digress.

This morning, whilst standing in a line at the supermarket, I found myself digging through my purse. My fingers swiftly searching for its weathered spine and bent corners. I say swiftly because inspiration is a fickle lady who arrives unexpectedly in the unlikeliest of places and dances out as quickly as she dances in. The scene in front of me continued to unfold.

“Mama, am I beautiful?” asked the girl for the second time. Irritated, the mother replied, “Stop being so vain and hand me the milk.” I swiftly jotted down an idea for a post.

Stop being so vain.
Four words that regress me in time. I am 14 years old and standing in front of a mirror, silently contemplating my reflection.

“Bella, stop being so vain and finish your chores,” I hear my grandmother say.
“Don’t waste your time, mamá,” replies my mother. “Bella will learn soon enough that God punishes vanity.”

“Ma’am, are you ready to pay for your items?” The cashier’s question brings me out of my reverie. Walking home, all I can think about is why the mother thought her daughter’s question was prompted by vanity.

On the one hand, I admit there is such a thing as a narcissistic personality. After all, we’ve all come across individuals so conceited, they believe themselves to be better than others. On the other hand, I wonder if there is anything wrong with thinking one is beautiful.

I am beautiful.
Something I think all women should say to themselves every day.

Are these words spoken in vanity or are they an affirmation of self love?

Had nana been right in thinking I was vain for looking in the mirror, or was it acceptable for me to be mesmerized by the reflection that stared back at me and whispered, “You are perfect just the way you are”?

Does a woman suffer from a Narcissus complex when she chants the words, “I am beautiful,” or do these simply reaffirm her self worth?

Was my mother right in thinking vanity is a sin or am I right in believing pride in one’s appearance is a sign of healthy self esteem?

My mind wanders back to the young girl and her question. Had she asked me, my answer would have been, “Yes, yes you are.”

While vanity may reside in many who are fixated with their physical appearance, I find that in moderation, it can also help us believe in ourselves and our abilities. In other words, vanity can be used as a means for self love and acceptance.

In a world where society, culture, and the media dictate the standards of beauty, I’m under the impression vanity may be the only tool we have left to battle false ideals. After all, who better to tell us we’re beautiful than ourselves?

What’s your take on vanity?


24 thoughts on “Mama, am I beautiful?

  1. I think our culture makes it hard to be realistic about one’s appearance. Sure, there are vain women who seem to never get enough compliments and never tire of looking at their reflections, but I think the majority suffer from almost-debilitating lack of self-esteem. Pride, of course, is a sin, but it seems equally sinful to dismiss one’s worth. I’ve always heard that God doesn’t make junk, so thinking we’re not worthwhile is a slap in His Face! Perhaps every little girl should be reassured by her parents — BOTH of them — that she’s beautiful, inside and out … because she’s the image of God!

    1. Debbie, my mother used to tell me that pride and sin were synonymous and to a point, I agree. However, like you mention, there’s a grade of importance to building one’s self worth. Like I said, the key is moderation. I’m with you on children being reassured by both parents if that is the case. I’m certain that you can relate to having to work doubly hard when one is a single parent. Thank you for your ever thought provoking comments, my friend! :)

  2. I have mixed feelings about this. I’ve never heard a little boy ask his mother if he’s handsome. From an early age, girls are conditioned to care about how they look, and I think that’s a problem. However, I also think the label of “vanity” is a harsh and judgmental way of looking at the situation.

    No doubt that mother, trying to pay for groceries and who probably had a thousand things on her to-do list for the day, might have offered a different response if the question hadn’t come at such an inopportune time. She might have asked her daughter why she wanted to know, which could have opened up an interesting conversation. She could have queried her daughter about what makes someone beautiful (such as kindness, intelligence, a sense of self-worth). There are many ways of having this conversation, and the shorthand word of “vanity” is not one of them. However, I would love to see young girls build their self-esteem from what’s inside of them.

    1. Nadine, the daughter always had the knack for asking the most difficult of questions at the most difficult of times. Like you mention, we’re not always emotionally available to provide an appropriate reply or one that invites our children to self reflect. That said, how true that boys are hardly ever in this situation! When I use the term “vanity” in this post, I use it as a means to point out the need for self love and acceptance. I agree with you that there are more worthy traits than physical attributes. Yet when people first see us, or when we gaze at ourselves in the mirror, the image that looks back at us is firstly the physical one. In the world we leave in, sadly it takes a lot of maturity and experience to understand how we’re more than just a pretty face. In spite of that, I’m glad many are taking a stand against societal norms and the pressure it places not only on the young, but on all of us! :)

  3. My daughters (and now my granddaughters) have all asked me this question. And my answer has been variations of: You ARE beautiful! Inside and out!
    I keep thinking of that little girl. Her mother missed a glorious chance . . .

    1. Diane, the world would be such a wonderful place if there were more mothers and grandmothers like you! Sending hugs your way! :)

  4. I think all young girls need to know that they are beautiful, not just on the outside, but on the inside, too. Asking the question, “Am I beautiful?” could also be that girl’s way of desiring the reassurance, “Am I loved?” And if that’s the bottom line, all of us need to hear a resounding “YES!”
    Blessings, Bella!

    1. Martha, most definitely this young girl’s questions could have been prompted by the need for reassurance. God knows I’ve felt like this many times. Love conquers all–even the most deep seeded insecurities! Blessings to you my lovely friend! :)

  5. Bella, this post is thought provoking. I think affirmations are important and I have to admit I practice self love by talking and encouraging myself while looking in the mirror. I also use this technique to talk myself out of doing things. Glad to see another post by you!

    1. Mindy, nice to read your comment on my wee blog! Affirmations are a great way to start any day! Thank you for reminding me! It’s been a while since I’ve done any! :)

  6. First, I love how a seemingly mundane task of being in line for your groceries can lead to such a poignant and important blog post. Such a wonderful thing about being a writer! And on to the question you pose, I think that whether we want it to be this way or not, we are judged and assessed by our physical appearance (especially women, but I think men deal with this too), so I believe there is a natural “vanity” that will develop as a result of this.

    1. Caryn, this is one of the reasons I’m never without my little notebook! I’m grateful for being present in the vast array of situations that lead to blog fodder! hee hee! Though men are not as pressured by society to look their best on a constant basis, I think they too are affected by the pressure of society to look a certain way. Women are pressured to look beautiful and fit whilst men are pressured to have hair growth and six pack abs. Oh, the dilemma of being human! :)

  7. I think the right answer was, “You are SO beautiful, my darling, inside and out!” That mom could be starting her little girl down a pathway that she can’t take back. It is never wrong to compliment your children. It is always wrong to be impatient with them. How busy was she that she couldn’t take less than 25 seconds to speak correctly to her daughter? My son asked me, “Do you think I am beautiful?” He was little. He was an unbelievably beautiful little boy. I said, “You are just like God made you. You are so beautiful, inside and out!” That little girl’s question, asked in a grocery store, was not vanity – I tend to agree with marthajaneorlando. I think sometimes they just need assurance they are loved by the most important person in their life.

    1. Nan, your answer is perfect! Were all mothers to provide such a reply, a lot of children would feel more secure. It’s funny how certain questions tend to search for non related answers. This could have been such a case. I also want to point out that this fast paced life we live many times leads us to ignore situations that seem trivial to us but that to a child mean the world. Your son is one of the lucky ones, my friend! Hugs and kisses! :)

    2. It’s funny you mention that about your son because this is also true for mine! hee hee! We must have done something right!

  8. Bella, good post! Personally sometimes I think vanity is overrated. This with all the youngsters making selfies with so many filters you can’t recognize them. Also I wonder a lot of times that beautiful outside is not always the same as beauty inside, of course I’m not referring to you but others.

    1. Walt, you’re so right–we are a currently living in a society consumed with selfie taking! I’m guilty of doing this at times! I think with young people, it’s a way of making themselves present. Sadly, physicality has taken on way too much importance and many times, a back seat to qualities that really matter, like kindness and compassion. Thank you for chiming in! :)

  9. Great post as usual! A long time ago I remember reading an article and I could be wrong but I think it was Lynda Carter (she was Wonder Woman to me so you know I was young lol) who said that a woman should tell herself and repeat it every day “I am beautiful” and believe it. I still remember that article and as a scrawny crooked teeth no self confidence kid, it made me feel beautiful inside and out. So vanity be damned….. yes we ARE beautiful (except I take horrible selfies) and should continue to affirm it. Excuse any typos, doing this on my phone with my fat ass fingers.

    1. Eve, they don’t call her “Wonder Woman” for nothing! hee hee! And I’m certain you do NOT take horrible selfies! :)

  10. Vanity amuses me. Cats are incredibly vain, and yet they manage to make it look adorable.

    That being said, I think that asking “Mama, am I beautiful?” is, in most cases, not vanity, but simply asking for reassurance, and another way of asking “Mama, do you love me?”, or “Mama, do you think that I am lovable?”. And I guess we all know what the answer to that one should be, always.

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