No one has to be reminded when it’s swimsuit season. Imperfections become obsessions and the pressure to look photo-shop perfect is almost unbearable. It is tough to instill a “character counts” mindset in our children when they are surrounded by the societal message “looks matter.” Unfortunately and often unknowingly, we (parents) play into a culture placing great value on beauty and sex appeal.

Recently I was visiting older relatives in another state. As a child, I vacationed many summers and holidays with these same family members. Wandering through the home of a now aging great aunt, I noticed the particular family pictures she chose to display. One wall showcased the formal portrait of an exceptionally photogenic cousin. Another room exhibited a well-framed press photo of an aunt winning a local beauty pageant. As I perused the house, I pondered the pictures my great aunt had chosen to keep through the years and the ones retired. Sadly, photos of her less camera-friendly sister and nieces who physically care for her were missing.

Suddenly, I understood why I had struggled with a life-long unhealthy preoccupation with my own appearance. Early on, I subconsciously processed the idea that being pretty generated recognition and self-worth.

I left my family trip sorting through rekindled memories with a fresh view. Now the parent of a young child, I felt compelled to make a conscious effort to instill strong self esteem and reward character over camera appeal. While it is wise to maintain appearances for a good first impression, there is a fine line between taking pride in oneself and idolizing beauty.

I will be the first to admit that this is a struggle for me. Several years ago a close friend pointed out that I was quick to share facts about someone’s appearance or social status, rather than personality or character.  While their insight stung at the time, thankfully it spawned much needed personal growth. As we seek to create an accepting and encouraging environment for our children it is important to reflect on our own value of appearance. Making deliberate choices in our relationships and outward expressions ultimately defines the message we send others.

Look Inward:

  • Ask yourself, do the people in my life represent a variety of color, shapes and sizes?
  • Reflect on personal self worth when around others of varying looks.  Is there a difference in pride or embarrassment?

Express Outward:

  • Resist making negative side comments about anyone’s appearance, even if they are out of earshot.
  • Initiate interest in a person that drives at discovering his or her passions, dreams, and desires for personal contribution.
  • Affirm friends who wisely lose weight however make sure comments would not be received as an indication of how they are valued.
  • Express genuine admiration for someone’s appearance, while regularly praising their less superficial qualities (especially for young girls – when both appealing and wholesome presentation choices are made.)
  • Avoid communicating critical remarks regarding appearance. If a recurring issue of immodesty emerges, pray before a warranted conversation and approach the young person with an abundance of respect and love.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead it should be that of our inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  – 1 Peter 3:3 – 4

Along with her husband and young son, Amy Fenton Lee lives in Cumming, GA.  For more on Amy and her writing see www.amyfentonlee.comand