Beautiful and Healthy: How We Can Begin To Develop Self Confidence in Girls

I can’t speak for every girl or woman’s experience, but growing up I got the message a lot that I should be, or should want to be beautiful or pretty, and that my value as a person was tied to that. I didn’t feel particularly beautiful, but I also didn’t feel like that should make me less important or less valuable, although I did feel like that was a message that I got a lot. I noticed that when strangers met me and my younger brother together, and they were trying to be nice, they would say to me “Aren’t you just a pretty little girl!” and to him they would say “Aren’t you a strong little man!” or some variation. Extended family used to do the same, but I was a very “O is for Outspoken” advocate for myself with them, and I would tell them I was the smartest kid in my class, and the fastest runner in our neighborhood. I didn’t want to be called prettyClimber

As an adult I don’t mind being called beautiful or pretty. However, I still also enjoy recognition for my other attributes. And besides that, something that I have learned is that by putting so much pressure on “beauty”, many young girls and even adult women have it stuck in their mind that beauty is the most important part of them. And worse, that beauty is a rigid, unattainable code, laid out by industries set to make money, who will never, no matter how much you slave away, give you any recognition for your beauty. The cosmetics industry doesn’t care how great your skin looks. They just want you to buy another skin cream. The fashion industry doesn’t care that you finally fit that dress. They want you to know its actually out of style and the blue one is what is in now. The film and magazine industry, and so many more prey on women’s self esteem and self image and self worth. Being beautiful is fine. But what is better, is having that sense come from within.

Beauty isn’t something external. Is isn’t that shade of lipstick we finally, FINALLY found. It isn’t perming our hair, or cutting it. It isn’t those great shoes. It is the ability to look in the mirror, or within yourself and love yourself.

That is why in this book there is no B for Beauty. Because I want every woman and girl, and human being to be able to eventually get to the point where they are mentally healthy enough to realize they are beautiful. There is no way to illustrate it. Because it looks like you. Being yourself.

There are plenty of other ways I chose to illustrate Healthy, rather than beautiful in this book, to combat some of the negative ideology we have in our society. We tend to go on fad diets, with unhealthy eating habits. No eating when we’re trying to lose weight, and when we aren’t trying to lose weight, we eat junk food that is full of calories but still lacks nutrition. The US, where I am from, has incredibly high rates, especially among children, of Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, and even coronary problems. So the girls and women I illustrated, are not into fads, or just trying to get their “beach body”. They are beautiful. They love themselves enough to take care of their bodies. The food in the illustrations are healthy. The take time to exercise and be active. They get outside and get fresh air. They aren’t drinking soda, they drink water.Healthy

I want to change the images and ideas from a young age that young people are bombarded with. It’s cool, and fun, to eat broccoli! People are smiling and laughing, dancing and jumping and being active!

I want them to know that of course they are all beautiful. And instead of working so hard for other people’s stamp of approval on something that only requires their own, they can instead focus on their health and happiness!

Ariel Shultz

artist, educator, environmentalist, sailor