Tell her she looks gorgeous

So the other day I was with a friend and she told me her ten-year-old wants to shave her legs. I think maybe she could have heard the sound of my heart breaking through my ribcage. Wait, WHAT?!!! And I know what you’re probably thinking. What’s the big deal? Girls shave their legs all the time. Yup, they do, but I’ll tell you why I had a visceral reaction.

Because I was a hairy girl too. And I know what it feels like. It sucks.

It sucks when you’re wearing shorts but feel like you’re wearing hairy legwarmers for everyone to see.

It sucks when you’re wearing short sleeves and you feel like everyone is staring at your gorilla arms.

It sucks when your eyebrows look less like Ernie’s and more like Bert’s.

It sucks to sit there and stare at your friend’s legs and wish your legs were as bald as a baby’s butt.

But here’s what bothered me the most about it. My friend’s daughter did not come up with that idea on her own. Not at ten. Someone made her feel like her hairy legs were a problem. Maybe another girl told her she should shave. Maybe she overheard a bunch of older girls talking about shaving. Maybe she saw something on TikTok or a TV commercial about unwanted unsightly ungroomed hair. There are a million places she may have gotten this idea in her head, so this is what I told my friend to do.

“Tell her she looks gorgeous.”

If your daughter says she’s too hairy, tell her she looks gorgeous. 

If your daughter comes to you with a pimple on her nose, tell her she looks gorgeous.

If your daughter says she wishes her belly was smaller, tell her she looks gorgeous.

If your daughter says she hates her freckles, or wishes she were blonde, or wants to be shorter or taller or fatter or thinner, if she wishes she had straight hair or curly hair or more hair, if she wishes she had bigger muscles or bigger boobs or bigger eyes, if she wishes her face were more symmetrical, or hates that every time she looks in the mirror all she sees is a scar, there is only one thing to do. Tell her she looks gorgeous.

If she comes to you about absolutely anything about her appearance, the first words out of your mouth should be “You look gorgeous.”

And then if she still wants to shave her legs or put a little coverup on her pimple or pluck her unibrow, by all means, help her do it. But DON’T let the idea come from you. And the whole time you’re helping her do it, make sure to keep saying things like, “I don’t know why you need to do this because you already look so gorgeous.”

Why? Because her entire life, she is going to bombarded by people, by ads, by social media, by magazine spreads, by TV shows, and by a million other things telling her she needs to change her appearance in one way or another. Telling her she’s not perfect. Telling her she needs to try to be perfect.

But you will be the other voice. The voice that always reminds her she looks gorgeous. The voice that convinces her to hold her head up high, to like what she sees in the mirror, to feel comfortable in her skin, her shorts, her bathing suit, or whatever she’s wearing.

Tell her she looks gorgeous.

I have a new book out!!!! And it has lots of stuff about self-confidence in our kiddos! It would be totally awesome if you ordered a copy today! 

And if you liked this post, please don’t forget to like and share it! Thank you!!


There are 18 comments for this article
  1. Elayne at 10:30 am

    I got made fun of for having no hair on my arms! Kids can be so cruel, they will literally find anything to tear others down. I’m getting teary just thinking about how my girls will be hurt by others.

  2. Abby Suzanne Ferstein at 11:06 am

    When I was in 4th grade, I started shaving, I too, was hairy. However a boy in my class (fun story… in HS he legally changed his name to “Death”) anyway, he told me I “looked like an ape” because of my leg hair. Thus started my obsession with body hair. I agree, telling them they are beautiful, no matter what is the most important!

  3. Cheryl at 11:11 am

    My husband, my daughters father, made fun of her hairy legs! That’s why she started shaving at 9! I was outraged!

  4. Shannon at 11:32 am

    I get where you’re coming from, and I TOTALLY agree that it is never our place to criticize our kids’ appearance (or anyone’s, ever) but if you keep insisting that she doesn’t need whatever tweak she wants, isn’t that a form of gaslighting? Isn’t that sending a message that she’s “wrong” to want to improve her looks in some way and feel better about her appearance? I’ve always been on the vain side, ok I’m in the vain 1%, and my dad used to make me feel shallow and guilty for caring about my appearance. Meanwhile, all the women in my family cared and I’m convinced there’s a generic component to vanity. It wasn’t a choice i was making, i just cared. But instead of celebrating me for who i was, my father, in an attempt to instill important values, unknowingly made me feel judged and disapproved of. I’m 50 now and maintaining my health and looks has brought me a great deal of satisfaction. It’s not something I’m proud of or would brag about, but it’s who i am and that’s fine. If your daughter wants to pursue beauty in a moderate and healthy way, as one of her many interests, let her know that’s just fine. It should still be ok, in 202I, to “enjoy being a girl.”

    • jenmierisch at 11:57 am

      I had similar thoughts, Shannon. If I tell my daughter “I don’t know why you need to do this because you already look so gorgeous,” I’m sort of telling her she’s wrong. No opinion about beauty is wrong; isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? I will encourage my daughters to consider what they truly want, as opposed to what society/ads tell them they should want, but ultimately it’s up to them.

    • Britni Arnold at 1:15 pm

      Yeh, I was thinking the same thing. Karen’s heart is 1000% in the right place, but I think I would word it differently. For me, it would be a conversation first to find out the motivation of the tweaks/alterations. If the motivation was pure, I’d be on board (age appropriately of course! I’m not letting my 13 year old get a tattoo just because she thinks they’re amazing LoL). If the shaving was because she was being bullied or whatever, I’d still probably let her do it, but also make sure she is immaculate just the way she is!! If the shaving was because she didn’t want hairy legs, “girl, I don’t like hairy legs either!! let me teach you how to do it safely!”. I wouldn’t be down for nagging her the entire time. That doesn’t accomplish the desired goal. Just replaces one issue with another. It’s also comes across very narcissistic to think only your opinion of your daughter matters. That also causes another unwanted (and likely unintended) issue. Just my two Lincolns. 🙂

  5. jenmierisch at 11:46 am

    I still remember the girl sitting next to me in sixth-grade music class who looked down at my shins and said, “Eww, you don’t shave your legs, that’s gross.” That’s all it took. I was the most insecure middle-schooler, hated my face and body and hair. My mom did tell me I looked good, and absolutely nothing would have made me believe her. Moms are biased, after all! But I did know that she had my back and would love me even if I had a hundred zits and three heads, and maybe that’s even better.

  6. AAR at 11:56 am

    Sometimes, the idea SHOULD come from us. It’s our job as parents. The same as you’ve gently guided Z towards more “mainstream” clothing and she let you know what she wanted, we can gently guide our girls towards the reasonable aesthetic modifications. “Hey, I know some girls your age are plucking, covering pimples, shaving, etc. I’m here to help you do those things too if you wish.” We need to be their allies. Acting like these things are taboo is as bad as saying they are needed. Girls are menstruating and more at 10, shaving isn’t unreasonable if the child is hairy and has requested permission.

    • Shannon at 1:46 pm

      Yes! AAR, I totally agree with this. It’s our job to prepare our daughters for the world that is, not the world we wish there was.

  7. Jenny at 12:11 pm

    Thank you for this. For all the girls/women who have/had mothers who say/said or do/did the opposite, always making their daughter feel like she didn’t measure up, bless you. <3 Zoey's a lucky little girl, and it shows — she's so unique and so confident much of the time, and I know that's because of how you and hubs are raising her (and Holden too, of course, but I was just really focused on the girls. 😀 ).

  8. e ren at 1:04 pm

    if no-one ever reads anything you’re written except this, you will have rung the bell! I quote “Don’t let the idea come from you.” Please, parents, don’t buy your babies high heels, or bikinis, or s**y clothing and think it’s cute! Let them be babies for as long as they can.

  9. Paula Sandoval at 2:21 pm

    I was also a “hairy” girl growing up and I remember bleaching the hair on my arms so it wouldn’t show up as much. I also started shaving my legs early and shave my entire leg because I was so embarrassed by my dark thick hair. I don’t remember anyone making fun of me but I do remember seeing catalogs and ads of women and thinking I needed to look like a Victoria’s Secret model. My mother was also so fixated on looks and made me believe my looks were the source of my value. I now have a daughter and since she has been born, I have never put an emphasis on her looks. I don’t compliment her on how she looks but rather focus on her abilities.

  10. Brooke at 6:24 pm

    I’m having a hard time understanding how your friend’s daughter’s dilemma about her body hair is solved with the phrase “you are gorgeous”. And we all know the negatives for girl’s self-confidence ultimately when they are constantly complemented on something as trivial as genomic competence. I feel like you failed to make a good case for this assessment.

  11. KC at 8:22 pm

    I’m not sure if I agree. What if the kid is definitely not gorgeous and smart enough to know it? Why patronize her and insult her intelligence? If she is not gorgeous,
    is it the end of the world? How about telling her that looks have nothing to do with who a person really is and that she shouldn’t judge herself or others based on appearances…but that she may shave her legs (or whatever it is) if she feels her best by doing so.

    • Shannon at 9:26 pm

      KC, interesting point. While i think we should all downplay to our kids the importance of appearance, no matter how objectively gorgeous they are (or aren’t) I still think it’s necessary for their general self esteem that they believe their parents find them beautiful. I think it’s possible to get that across without placing too much emphasis on looks in general. But it sure is a tricky subject. Anyway, how much they care or don’t about how they look is largely innate IMO. If they care, i think we should help them achieve a reasonable level of satisfaction.

  12. Laura at 11:20 pm

    Donnie Arnone in 6th grade. He’s the reason I started shaving. He wasn’t a crush, just an asshole.