You’re So Pretty

Dear Educators, Dentists, Doctors, Coaches, Cashiers, Waitresses, Clerks, and Strangers on the street,

Please stop telling my daughter she’s pretty.  Instead, tell her she’s brave or smart or kind. Comment on her helpfulness, her creativity, or her awesome sense of humor. If you have to comment on her appearance (news flash: you don’t), tell her that her new sneakers look fast. Say her dress makes her look like a genius. Tell her her jeans look good for tree climbing.

My daughter, my intelligent, big-hearted, amazing girl, thinks that being pretty is what makes her worthy. She thinks that being pretty is what is expected of her. She thinks being pretty is the most important thing she has to offer. She doesn’t get this from me.

She gets it from you. Yes, you. The person she looks up to and learns from at school. The person we go to to keep her healthy. The person who teaches her how to play soccer. The person we see every week at the grocery store. And from random strangers on the street.

It’s not that my daughter isn’t pretty — she’s gorgeous. And by that I mean she is engaging, insightful, and can make up a knock-knock joke on the spot. She is strong and proud and a little bit stubborn. She is a good hand holder. She makes up silly songs and can tell you lots of random facts about bugs. She loves worms. Sometimes she skips 15 when she counts. She taught herself to swim underwater. She screams with joy when she sees a dragonfly. There’s a million other things I could tell you. None of them are about how she looks and all of them make her beautiful.

Again, it’s not that my daughter isn’t pretty. It’s that it shouldn’t matter. And it’s that you don’t get to define her beauty. You don’t get to decide her self-worth. You don’t get to evaluate her looks and freely offer your opinion. So stop. Her beauty, her self worth, comes from her. She is the only one who gets to have an opinion . She is the only one who defines who she is.

So please, think about what you say. Think about what message you are giving to my awesome girl. Think about being someone who lifts her up for who she is instead of for how she looks.  Otherwise, keep your mouth shut.



photo (4)

“You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.”

– Diana Vreeland


12 thoughts on “You’re So Pretty

  1. Carrie Roberts Redi

    Wow. Thank you for putting into words what I have wanted to say to others as well. It is hard enough to explain to my daughters why being a “pretty princess” is not something to aspire to and why I don’t like Barbie’s image. I want them to know how amazing they are because of who they are and not because they are “pretty”. I can’t wait to read this to them as teenagers! Love the picture of Z – shows her fun, adventurous self!

    1. joslyne Post author

      I’m glad someone else feels the same way. I know people are often “just being nice” when they tell Z she is pretty . . . but it really has the opposite effect.

  2. Sean P Dean

    Me three. It is just aweful for girls. no one really comments on my sons’ looks unless it is secondary to commenting on something they do. it is usually opposite for girls (looks first, actions second).

    1. joslyne Post author

      SPD, so glad you weighed in on this. I wondered if it was something that dads noticed too. You are so right – boys get complimented on actions, girls get complimented on looks. *sigh* And the worst part . . . I often participate in this without thinking through what I’m saying. It’s like it’s become “natural” for us to tell a girl she’s pretty. UGH!

    1. joslyne Post author

      Bad spellers of the world UNTIE! (I never notice spelling stuff, just the thoughts behind them.) 🙂

  3. Amber

    I’m so glad you wrote this because before talking to you about it, I had never considered it! Really. I’d never thought about what message that sends to say a child is so cute or pretty or handsome! It really opened my eyes. Thanks!

    1. joslyne Post author

      Thanks for reading, Amber! I’m trying to be better about this too — I often tell girls upon meeting them, “Oh, your dress is so pretty” etc. etc. I’m trying to train myself to say other things. 🙂

  4. Sandee Decker

    Jos, my beautiful daughter, (just kidding)I am so proud of you for writing this so well. I have always told you… you are my favorite writer. People just do it without realizing it… me included. I promise we will do better. I loved all your examples. It is good to see all the wonderful attributes she has in your eyes.


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