Pretty Girl Syndrome

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my daughter Faith and I am afraid for her. Faith is arresting in her beauty. While little Kolby is pretty and toddler cute, Faith has an exotic look to her and though she is only eleven years old, the child turns heads.

I worry she will become spoiled, entitled or a diva. People already do things for her and occasionally instead of pitching in to get work done, she stands there helplessly looking too cute to get her hands dirty.

The story of the lady in Britain made me cringe. Here was a lovely woman (at least by British standards) who claimed she was treated differently by her peers. The world retaliated with venom. How dare she claim to be beautiful?

(Apparently, you are only gorgeous if the world tells you so)

I think she had a serious case of “Pretty Girl Syndrome” and it’s the one disease I will move mountains to make sure my girls don’t get.

But I don’t think the British chick was loony –maybe just too arrogant for our liking. I think she was probably on to something.

Treating Pretty Little Girls Differently

From the very beginning, a pretty girl is more sheltered, statistically buckled in to her seat more often, and overly pampered. She will make significantly more money than her less attractive friends and will be perceived as easier to get along with, more loyal, and more intelligent. She will serve less jail time, if any, than those with an ugly mug (i.e. Lindsey Lohan). She will be given more opportunities, from job interviews to sorority memberships and find cooperative people to engage with. In a world obsessed with image, attractive children are both blessed and cursed with expectations.

Dave from New Mexico, has some strong thoughts on this research.

“Like this is a surprise. Beautiful people get more of what they want handed to them, and never have to work as hard for what they do get. They’re more likely to be manipulative, and less likely to be caring, compassionate people. Yes, I’m homely, and I see this every day.”

Underdevelopment of Pretty Little Girls

Because the pretty child is used to excessive attention and extreme complimenting, there may be little incentive to exercise normal social skills of engagement; i.e.-empathy and interest in others. Shallowness may be a result.

Constantly affirmed for beauty, fawned over and coddled, the child may also lose interest in more intellectual pursuits. Over time, she may begin to lack developmental skills in common social situations. Entitlement and a true lack of common sense may be seen in cases where the parents do not intervene and de-emphasize the role of beauty, contradicting the messages of the world.

This is where the Pretty Girl Syndrome can mutate into:

Pretty Dumb Girl Syndrome.

If the attractive little girl happens to be blond and voluptuous, then she will be lumped into the paradigm of a sexual object and men and women will both desire and hate her. Before she opens her mouth, the assumption will be that nothing of any relevance will come out. Now, the pretty girl’s beauty will be used against her. She will face a wall of opposition with people who will refuse to take her seriously. Because she is affirmed for her beauty she may retreat into the role she knows she will be accepted in, and thus ensues a vicious cycle of disengagement in one realm and overcompensation in another. It’s the Marilyn Monroe phenomena or the likes of Paris Hilton; who exploit their own beauty while downplaying their obvious intellect.

My daughter Faith came home the other day with an Abercrombie bikini that looked like a band-aid. My ex-husband and I watched as she tried it on for us and we almost passed out. I don’t want my girl to be affirmed for just her body –I want her to know how much God treasures her heart, how smart and kind she is, how talented and lovely both inside and out.

My husband reminded me I wore a bikini at my fortieth birthday weekend in Palm Springs. I worked out super hard and I wanted to see if I had it in me one last time to rock a two-piece.

“Is it possible your daughter is modeling you in wearing a bikini” Tim suggested.

Ouch! I guess its back to the one piece and her suit will be returned back to the store because the last thing I want is for my girls to define their worth solely on their beauty.

Why is it always the bikini that takes me out? It’s like some last remnant of my youth I hold onto.

What do you think?


  1. OK, I won’t give into temptation and say she’s as pretty as you. You already covered that, besides. 🙂

    Seriously, though, you’ve got a very valid point. It gets worse, though, when being the “pretty girl” becomes everything in her life. She doesn’t dare go out without makeup, her hair curled just right or straightened or both, the right curves flaunted and the wrong ones buckled in, and so forth.

    Shortly after I met my wife, I met two of her long-time friends who have 2 daughters and 1 son. The eldest daughter was born while the couple was staying with my wife & her parents, as both were going to college in town at that time. By the time I entered this picture, the eldest daughter was about 14, if memory serves, and she longed to be a model. As a result, she ate very, very little. Her mother also ate “like a bird,” but she has a skinny frame. The daughter did not. As a result, my wife told me, the bits that were supposed to develop during puberty weren’t developing properly. I’d like to think God spoke through both of us … since it worked out great, I’ll gladly give Him credit. We told her that, even if she were wider than she was tall, she would still be loved! We expressed our concern about her health, and some other words of wisdom that, of course, fail to come to mind now. Before the family returned to their home in Texas, she was eating more like a normal girl her age. The following year we got a picture of her in her cheerleading outfit. She had gained some healthy weight, looked great, and was healthier. She’s in her 20’s (probably late 20’s, now that I shudder to think of it), and at last report she was doing fantastic.

    Women are told by society that they must emulate magazine cover models, without considering the amount of paint, tape, and Photoshopping that goes into making these mutated things that claim to be our symbol of “beauty.” What girls need to be told is that they will be loved no matter what! It doesn’t matter if they go out without makeup. (In fact, I’ve met only a few women who actually look better “painted.” One of them was pregnant & abused in her mid-teens, and another had a skin condition.) It doesn’t matter if their hair is the color they were born with. It doesn’t matter if they don’t smell of chemicals resembling some sort of plant or something.

    It also doesn’t matter if they can’t rock a bikini at 11 or 40.

    Inner beauty will trump external “lusty” good looks any day … at least with the people whom she (and you guys) would want to pay attention to.

    • As a woman, even though I want to agree with you theoretically -how inner beauty is all that matters -I still believe every woman desires to be physically beautiful on some level and that desire can draw us closer to God (if we recognize it as the longing for Paradise and the world we were intended to live in) or far from God as we pursue an endless quest for a prize we will never attain.

      My goal with my girls is to raise them to understand and appreciate the gifts of physical beauty as much as their gifts of character, integrity faithfulness, and intelligence. Their beauty should lead them to gratitude and humility, not arrogance or biased behavior. The “Pretty Girl Syndrome” is entitlement at it’s worst and the antidote is thankfulness to God and appreciation for what matters most.

      And just so you know…I wasn’t looking for a compliment 🙂 I was awkward at best in Jr. High -tall, skinny with metal braces, stringy hair and big feet. My dad called me an “L.” I had to research this Joe… because I can not relate to being an attractive child like my daughter. I keep waiting for her to hit awkward and its not happening. The kid just gets prettier.

      Thank you so much for your insight!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This keeps me up at night! I too have an amazingly beautiful daughter. She’s 13 and just ridiculously beautiful, tall, curvy and lean, heck I envy her! My hubbers and I have always known that this syndrome is a true problem. I am not half as beautiful as my little girl, but I’m not bad on the eyes either. My whole life I was told I had to be beautiful in order to get a rich man to care for me. My parents did mention that I was bright, and intelligent and as a typical Asian, I had great grades, but my mind was never the main emphasis. Now, that I’m older, I’m coming to appreciate intellect and the things that my crazy mind can do, I pray that I can instill a love of knowledge and independence in my daughter, a love for God, who sees beyond her physical appearance to her heart. I pray that she will know the whole woman that He created her to be and will long to grow into the woman He purposed her to be. I pray that the world will not just look at her beauty and pamper her, but that she will struggle at times, know consequences when appropriate and not be given a pass, just because she’s pretty. I feel you totally. She’s at an age now, where she has noticed her curves and is beginning to appreciate the body she has. It’s been a tightrope walk trying to encourage a healthy love of her self while trying to keep her grounded and shielded from the lustful look of onlookers.

    • Exactly! You are spot -on with the delicate balance of the tight-rope! I’ve seen both extremes. I remember a child I babysat when I was a teen who was astonishing to look at and when I commented on her beauty her mother hushed me up. “We don’t talk about appearances,” she said.
      “Do you put a paper bag over her head when she looks in the mirror?” I thought to myself.

      And then there are the parents who have their kids on reality shows by age nine showcasing their looks for cash.

      As Christians I believe we have a responsability -to acknowledge God’s handiwork and design without elevating the creation. It is the artist who designs and to him I show my appreciation.


  3. All three of my daughters are unusually beautiful women. Middle child, though, is that kind of Can’t Stop Looking beauty. She is also the daughter with the highest innate empathy, the most creative artist, and a natural musician. We laugh when we remember trying to get her to behave better in high school: “What are you going to do – make a living on your looks?” She does. A web search of her name yields two million hits and she’s banked her winnings from modeling/bikini contests for several years. What’s important to me is that, inside, she’s still that gentle, thoughtful person who has the sharpest mind in the family. She takes good care of her friends, befriends small animals, and volunteers for causes that make her mother proud.

    Your guidance will make the difference – no matter what the world around your baby does.

    • It sounds like you raised a good girl -one who is truly lovely in all realms. My daughter has a sweet spirit and a loving heart and I pray as she ages her beauty will steal inward (one of my favorite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson).
      Blessings -Sam

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