LIFEOGRAPHY | Richmond Virginia Mechanicsville Maternity, Newborn, Baby, Child & Family Photographer » Lifestyle Portrait Photographer

Letters to Our Daughters: What Makes You Beautiful


Sweet Scout:

This week, women in our country are celebrating natural beauty.

And, right now, you are three. When I ask you, “What makes you beautiful?”, you smile coyly, and gaze at me with your doey brown eyes and reply, “My heart does, mama!”

We live in a world where mothers must teach such truths from the very beginning. Your impressionable ears and mind and eyes are bombarded with falsehoods. With billboards and Disney princesses and photoshopped magazines and well-meaning strangers who compliment you on your beautiful smile, a pretty dress and curling locks. From the beginning women are admired for what others see on the surface. And my love, it is in our nature to cling to this. To believe that what they say and see is true. And that only what can be seen is what is beautiful.

But this is wrong my precious girl.

Pretty is not beauty without kindness and gentleness and love. If ugly lives inside you, then no $50 cream or surgeon’s scalpel can cover it up or cut it out. Beauty cannot be bought. You won’t find it in a pair of jeans that hug your hips just so, in a 30-day workout that tones and tightens, or in a diet that cleanses and flattens. It doesn’t matter if your lips shimmer if the words that come from them are dark and angry and hateful. If love doesn’t live in you, you will never be satisfied with others or yourself. You will never feel beautiful.

You will strive and strive but never arrive. You will listen to the chorus that screams you are not enough, thin enough, tall enough, tan enough, pretty enough. But they will promise that you can have these things — if you buy into the hype and the products that sell because of our own self-loathing.

My love, mommy knows because she has done these things. There was a time when I knew that people saw my body first and not my brains, or my compassion or my abilities. And when meeting expectations of others becomes your focus, that’s when the ugly creeps in. It is an easy route to rely on pretty my love. But the cost is steep. And the scars run deep.

You are radiant my daughter, when you love the Lord first. When you showcase your heart and not your body. When you love fully and wholly and care for those who deserve it the least but need it most. When you serve others instead of others’ expectations. When you stand up for good instead of tearing down. When you love.
When you love.
Love Him.
Love them.
Love YOU.

Love yourself as you are because you are fearfully and wonderfully made my beauty-full girl. Love your flaws. Embrace imperfections. But, guard your heart. Your most precious resource. It is where beauty lives and grows, and shines forth.

And when I am old and my pretty has faded. When I am withered and am but a shadow of the girl and mama I was. When my hearing has lessened and my sight is slim, I will ask you what makes you beautiful. Scout, I will ask you then, but I will pray now that I hear, “My heart does, Mama.”

Because it always has.
And you will know it is true.
And you will tell your own beauty-full girl.
And she will have your heart, just as you have mine.

With love and hope,


Follow on in the circle to Emma Wood – beautiful words, beautiful images, a beautiful soul. You can also connect with the circle of writers on our Facebook Page: Letters to Our Children.

  • Ginger Unzueta - Stephanie,
    You’ve been one of my favorite photographers since I began this journey but you are also an amazing writer! I love your words and how I can relate and understand to so many things you share! You have the most beautiful heart and I cannot wait to hang out very soon!! XoxoReplyCancel

    • Stephanie - Ginger – The feeling is mutual. Always so grateful for the beauty in you that shines through your kind words!ReplyCancel

  • Lori - Gorgeous words, as usual, My Friend! She’s a lucky girl to have inherited your beautiful heart.ReplyCancel

    • Stephanie - Lori – you are unfailingly kind – and such a beautiful, kindred soul. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Sunshine - I wish someone would have told me this when I was younger. But now I get to tell my girl. Reading this I had to take a deep breath, it hits so close to home. Great words!ReplyCancel

    • Stephanie - Oh Sunshine – thank you for your note. I wish so too — for both of us. I am so grateful we know these things now and can pas them on to our own daughters. You are a beauty-full mama.ReplyCancel

  • Rashmi - Such wise words Stephanie. I am so keenly aware of this with two daughters, 10 and 8 in age. While we don’t get those magazines and they don’t really watch the telly, they hear things like ‘skinny’ and ‘chubby’ in school. I am so mindful of always loving how i look in the mirror and never criticizing myself. I hope my girls, like your Scout always always see that true beauty comes from the inside and with age it only gets better and better… not the opposite way around. Love your heart and love this letter. xoReplyCancel

    • Stephanie - I always appreciate your perspective Rashmi. Your girls are much further along this path and I can only imagine what it must be like to navigate them in a world that had a different definition of beauty. You are so amazing for being such a beautiful, loving example. oxo.ReplyCancel

  • shalonda - oh Stephanie such a beautifully written letter to that doe eyed little girl! such soft words that make a big impact, and serve as a good reminder to us all…I truly believe our children are a true reflection of us and that is glaringly evident here, bc ms s obviously got such a beautiful heart from you my friend…ReplyCancel

    • Stephanie - Shalonda – you are so sweet to say so. I love that we mamas stick together to encourage one another.ReplyCancel

  • Debbie Wibowo - A beautiful little girl with such a big heart! Your letter is beautiful and I can imagine one day in the future where she will look back and read this letter, and her strength is renewed.ReplyCancel

    • Stephanie - Thank you, thank you Debbie! I hope so — all of our babies are going to be so blessed by these snippets one day. Just love this project.ReplyCancel

  • Kirsty - Stephanie, this is your best letter yet – so relevant to all of us in this world today more than ever – so important that we pass on to our girls so they know, that beauty is more than skin deep – that we can love and do good and our beauty will shine – thank you for giving us a perfectly down to earth, from the heart reminder xReplyCancel

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