Have you ever felt ashamed or not good enough because of the way you look? Have you ever felt like you need to look a certain way to be successful or to attract a mate? Have you ever felt like you need to fix the way you look with makeup? The makeup department or aisle can be a very fun place with the multitude of colors to play with; but it can also be a daunting place where you might feel less than good enough – like all would be better if you could just hide those under eye circles or blemishes or wrinkles… Psychologist Dr. Kelly Flanagan examined the power behind the words makeup companies use to sell the products and put them in a new light, looking at beauty on every level – not just from the outside.
In his blog post Words From a Father to His Daughter (From the Makeup Aisle) by Dr. Kelly Flanagan caused quite a stir. It was picked up by The Huffington Post, went viral, and Dr. Flanagan went on The Today Show to talk about it. I found the letter to be very moving and inspiring so I shared with quite a few friends. I was also fortunate to interview with Dr. Flanagan. In this interview, he talks about the response to the letter, shares some great advice about inner and outer beauty, things to keep in mind when navigating the makeup aisle and advice for parents when you come across unrealistic images in the media with your kids.
Below is his blog post, which first appeared on his blog, UnTangled:
Dear Little One,
As I write this, I’m sitting in the makeup aisle of our local Target store. A friend recently texted me from a different makeup aisle and told me it felt like one of the most oppressive places in the world. I wanted to find out what he meant. And now that I’m sitting here, I’m beginning to agree with him. Words have power, and the words on display in this aisle have a deep power. Words and phrases like:
Instant age rewind,
Choose your dream,
Nearly naked, and
When you have a daughter you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house—a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.
But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty.
A father’s words aren’t different words, but they are words with a radically different meaning:
Brilliant strength. May your strength be not in your fingernails but in your heart. May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world.
Choose your dream. But not from a department store shelf. Find the still-quiet place within you. A real dream has been planted there. Discover what you want to do in the world. And when you have chosen, may you faithfully pursue it, with integrity and with hope.
Naked. The world wants you to take your clothes off. Please keep them on. But take your gloves off. Pull no punches. Say what is in your heart. Be vulnerable. Embrace risk. Love a world that barely knows what it means to love itself. Do so nakedly. Openly. With abandon.
Infallible. May you be constantly, infallibly aware that infallibility doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion created by people interested in your wallet. If you choose to seek perfection, may it be in an infallible grace—for yourself, and for everyone around you.
Age defying. Your skin will wrinkle and your youth will fade, but your soul is ageless. It will always know how to play and how to enjoy and how to revel in this one-chance life. May you always defiantly resist the aging of your spirit.
Flawless finish. Your finish has nothing to do with how your face looks today and everything to do with how your life looks on your last day. May your years be a preparation for that day. May you be aged by grace, may you grow in wisdom, and may your love become big enough to embrace all people. May your flawless finish be a peaceful embrace of the end and the unknown that follows, and may it thus be a gift to everyone who cherishes you.
Little One, you love everything pink and frilly and I will surely understand if someday makeup is important to you. But I pray three words will remain more important to you—the last three words you say every night, when I ask the question: “Where are you the most beautiful?” Three words so bright no concealer can cover them.
Where are you the most beautiful?
On the inside.
From my heart to yours,
(Note: this article first appeared on Hello Beauty)