Is it time we tell our children that looks do matter?

By Sabrina Almeida

Ever seen a face that made you turn? It was not necessarily a pretty or handsome one. Both attractive and not-so-nice faces can get you attention though not in the same way. So what happens when you have child who will have to compensate for his/her looks in a big way. Do you just come outright and say it… that they are plain unattractive… or do you continue with the rhetoric that looks don’t
While you might not have the heart to tell them the truth, making them believe otherwise can be just as hurtful. The world is not about to care about their feelings and they will be made to feel the difference for a better part of their lives.
The Ugly Duckling story does not play out for everyone. So even if you want to shield your offspring from the harsh reality don’t give them false hopes. How they deal with it often depends on what you’ve told them.
The world can be pretty cruel even too children. The cute are always favoured and get all the attention. This can be terrible to stomach especially if you have a better looking sibling. In some families, one or both parents might even show a preference for the attractive one or overcompensate by making excuses for children who don’t make it in the looks department. Complexes, bitterness and jealousy takes root right here. This can manifest in two ways, with the not-so-attractive one being depressed and withdrawn or demanding the first pick of everything as it happened in the case of two sisters I know closely. Here it was the good looking one who felt marginalized because she had to give her sister the first choice of gifts. Her sister’s excuse was “she’d look good in anything”. Worse still her parents made her do it.
I’m not suggesting you tell your child that they are ugly just that you don’t lie and say they are beautiful either. One girl friend told me that she hated her parents for telling her how beautiful she was when the world told her otherwise. It had the opposite effect. She was traumatised more by their false statements as it made her feel that she was not-good-enough and that they were actually saying things to account for their disappointment.
Helping children deal with their weaknesses in a positive manner is what makes all the difference. It’s like dealing with any other disability. You can’t tell them looks don’t matter when they do. Rather you teach them how their personalities can far outshine their looks. I’ve met more than one couple where one is absolutely gorgeous and the other was not even passable. However they were confident individuals who acknowledged their limitations (in appearance) but weren’t defined by them.
Let’s face it some people will always be better looking than the rest, that’s the ugly truth. What’s more important is to help your child deal with the fact that they are not model material and that it’s perfectly okay.
Does it hurt to have an unattractive child? In more ways than one. Parents who are favoured with good looks might especially have a hard time accepting it. Dealing with comparisons is equally painful whether it is with your parents, siblings, friends or neighbours.
For the most part the world does judge you by the way you look. You can almost expect the better looking person to grab all the attention, even the job. But knowing what you’re dealing with is what gives you a fighting chance rather than being deluded.
So let’s not lie to our children about their looks. It reminds me of the American Idol auditions with people who have no business being there except to be insulted with the judges. They are totally deluded about their talents.
Perhaps it would be better to help them find ways to improve their appearance. Being well-groomed and well-spoken can go a long way. (Being witty and charming for instance can be almost as effective as good looks.) It builds character and relationships.
Acknowledging the truth and helping your child deal with it will hopefully also eliminate or reduce any self-esteem issues.

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