Taking “Hotness” Out of Your Kids’ Self-Worth Equation
By Caron C. Andrews
I have a quirky but kindhearted acquaintance who texts me (and others) daily compliments to boost my spirits, such as, “You are incomparable!” “You are compassionate!” and “You are generous!” Most often the comments are sweet and uplifting, geared toward encouraging my sense of self-worth, so I was surprised and unexpectedly offended when one day the compliment was, “You are hot!” I didn’t know what bothered me more: the fact that it was inappropriate, as he’s a man and I’m a woman and we are only friends, or that he would think that being “hot” is a quality that helps make me who I am. It was so out of keeping with his other compliments, which emphasize my character and inherent worth as a woman, that I was taken aback.
What is self-worth? How is it different from self-esteem? Many people believe the two are synonymous; but they are two different, although related, concepts. Primarily, self-esteem is derived from outside sources: praise from the world, from people, from how well we perform, or our abilities. Self-worth comes from the inside: our belief about our inherent value or worth as a human being.
We have to teach our children that there are many elements that make up their sense of self-worth: belief in themselves, that they matter, that their lives have value and meaning, that they deserve to be treated with respect, and, yes, that they are attractive to others. But is being considered “hot” on this list? Discuss with your children, especially your daughters, that for many people, being “hot” carries the connotation of intense sexuality, a focus on the physical, and being sexually available. It may feel flattering, initially, to be called “hot”—most women and girls want to feel attractive and desirable. But what if that’s all a man sees in her?
Ask your child these questions: is she inherently worthwhile because she’s “hot”? Does that add to her character, what makes her a good person, the way she treats herself and others? What if she was undesirable according to society’s or television standards? Would that make her a less valuable person?
Talk with your daughter about how our culture, which focuses so heavily on appearance and sexiness, would have us believe that being “hot” is linked to self-worth. It is not. Show her that her level of “hotness” should be taken out of her own self-worth equation. Although her appearance is naturally a part of who she is, how she sees herself, and how others see her, it is not what defines her. Teach your daughter (and repeat several times!) that her feelings of self-worth are cultivated from:
- The fact that she is a human being worthy of love and respect
- Her ability to overcome adversity
- Her ability to learn and grow from her mistakes
- Her love, compassion, and service to her fellow human beings
- Accomplishing goals she has set
- Her actions making a difference in others’ lives
Too often, we as women and girls lose sight of these strengthening qualities in favor of the quest to be more sexy and attractive, and even “hot.” Don’t let your child fall into that empty, dead-end trap. Her life is worth so much more than her level of “hotness.”
Bogee Jr. L. (1998). Self-worth. hawaii.edu. Retrieved from http://www.hawaii.edu/intlrel/LTPA/selfwort.htm
Evans, J. (2008, May). What makes you worthwhile? philosophyforlife.org. Retrieved from http://philosophyforlife.org/what-makes-you-worthwhile/
Grohol, J. (2011, October). 6 Tips to Improve Your Self-Esteem. Psychcentral.com. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/10/30/6-tips-to-improve-your-self-esteem/