The evening sun was still blazing hot as my daughter and I found the tiniest patch of shade to settle our chairs in. We had 1.5 hours ahead of us while we watched my youngest son’s football practice. Without consideration of what my daughter planned to do, I selfishly and quickly settled into the book I’ve been reading for the past 2 months, American Girls: The Secret Life of Teenagers.
After 10 minutes she asked me: “Mom, why are you reading that book? What are you learning?”
She raised completely valid questions so I closed my book and engaged the conversation. “You are growing up in a completely different world than I did,” I answered. “The things your generation does wouldn’t even been imaginable back when I was your age. I’m just trying to gain insight to what the real challenges are for you and your friends.”
She couldn’t see how things could be all that different now. Sure, we all have phones now she reasoned, but how else could it be so different?
I paused and reflected on my one best answer. I possessed her captivated attention and desperately wanted her to see the cavernous and concerning divide between our generations.
I stumbled through my words, “It’s like how you girls cannot just be “pretty” or “look cute” anymore. Now you have to be “flawless” and “perfection” or you aren’t good enough.”
“Well, yeah!” she replied dumbfounded, “hasn’t it always been like that?”
My mind raced through memories, searching for a moment when I felt “flawless” was my only standard. Surely there were moments when I held myself to a standard of perfection and flawlessness (mostly academically) but none of these moments seemed to equate or even compare to the pressure girls are putting on one another these days.
I explained how my generation put internal pressures on ourselves to always be ‘put together’ and ‘look our best’ but we never put ourselves out there on a stage to be willingly judged by the world hoping to be found flawless. The mere idea of taking a selfie would be thought vain. If someone was to actually snap a picture of themselves on a disposable camera (because that’s what we used), print hundreds of copies, and hand them out to friends they would have been mocked and shamed. No one would consider this act “flawless.”
My daughter began to understand my perspective, although she still couldn’t wrap her head around the notion we had to pay money and wait for our film to be developed just to see the pictures we took.
This conversation with her ignited my curiosity. How is it we have come to a place where “flawless” is our young girls’ standard? If we didn’t feel it as teens, when did it begin?
We could easily blame the internet and social media, after all there wouldn’t be a flawless hashtag otherwise. Their coexistence with perfectly edited and filtered pictures posted for global approval is certainly stirring the flawless pot.
Culturally, we could blame the corrupt music industry who produce songs such as Beyonce’s Flawless. She boasts unashamedly, acknowledging young girl’s desire to be like her while in the same breath saying “bow down b**ches”. Notwithstanding her ridiculous claim of, “I wake up this, flawless.” Parents, I beg you to read the lyrics of the music your child is listening to. You may not understand the words they sing but I guarantee you, your child has every word memorized.
Alternatively, I’d like to ask the question – if not boldly suggest – if we as mothers, are stimulating and perpetuating a flawless standard?
I realize this is an audacious and potentially offensive claim, but if we are causing our daughters insecurity, anxiety, self-harm, and lack of self-worth and have the ability to create change, shouldn’t we?
Before you hit the back button and discount me as a hater, I urge you to read on for your daughter’s sake.
Allow me a couple questions:
Are we trying to be #flawless?
Has our own desire to look young and perfected become the mirror our children are reflecting?
Have our Pintrest-perfect birthday parties ruined our children’s sense of simplicity?
Has our idyllic family pictures impressed a sense of required perfection?
Do we care more about our child’s popularity than their character?
Here’s some truth:
Mother/Daughter plastic surgeries are on the rise.
Pintrest-level standards have spread like a pandemic in middle class American homes.
Teenage girls believe their very livelihood and social status rests in the power of Instagram.
The Kardashian’s “flawless” life, albeit ravenous with sin, is admired and aspired to by young girls.
The feminism movement claims to empower women with sexual freedom yet enslaves them with social judgement and condemnation.
The question all Mothers of tween and teenage girls must ask is: Are we modeling perfection and flawlessness to our daughters?
Our girls today believe they must be flawless. In every selfie, in every public moment – absolute perfection is the only standard. They feel provoked to post, compelled to bare, empowered to expose, and required to give it all away for the sake of social approval. This is reality for teenage girls.
Undoubtedly, this pressure contributes to our daughter’s increased anxiety, depression, self-harm, and cosmetic surgery. These are terrible facts we cannot deny. We, as mothers, must reflect and ask ourselves if we are perpetuating the lie that they are not enough just the way they are.
The truth is we are enough – just as we are. We are enough as parents and they are enough as young girls. With all of our imperfections and flaws, we are exactly who we are supposed to be, in the exact way, and in this exact time.
Instead of accepting the (self-imposed) challenge to look as good as the 25 year old newlywed with no children in your neighborhood, or to envy the other moms at the kid’s school who don’t work outside the home but instead work out every day and look incredible, or to give in to trends and have that butt lift since big butts are all the rage right now – instead of all these, can we just accept ourselves as enough?
Instead of focusing on our outward appearance (and everyone else’s, for that matter) let’s concentrate on our character. Who we really are when we aren’t on a “stage.”
As moms, can we begin to see our audience is not one another, but our own daughters? They are watching intently learning who they can and should be by our every move.
And let’s be real for a moment, this type of honesty with ourselves should be more than wearing a shirt proclaiming, “Gym Hair, Don’t Care.”
We must own our insecurities, flaws, age, failures, and desire to be found pleasing. We must stop pretending we accept ourselves and actually live like we do. We must stop acting like we “wake up like this” because no one does. No one!
Not a single one of us is flawless.
So, unless you follow Jesus Christ on Instagram, let’s end the #flawless.