When I am having one of those dreaded, unpleasant days of feeling plagued by self-doubt and overrun by those mean, pestering little thoughts in my head that nit-pick the way I look, or what I say, or what I do – I try my best to recall the wisdom from one of my beauty icons. No, I’m not talking about Kate Moss or Gisele Bündchen, despite their well-known and well-paid good looks. I’m referring to a girl with carrot-orange colored hair, a freckled face, a wide mouth, and a penchant for oversized shoes and patches on her clothes. Oh, and did I mention that her accessory of choice is a monkey on her shoulder? It’s Pippi Longstocking, of course.
I enjoyed the Pippi Longstocking books and movies as a child, but I was an adult before I realized that this independent, spunky little girl could be a role model. Despite her unconventional look, her friends Tommy and Annika were awe-struck when they first laid eyes on Pippi; they thought that she was the most remarkable girl they’d ever seen. What exactly is Pippi’s beauty secret, you ask? Confidence.
Exhibit A in Pippi’s confidence comes during a day that she, Tommy, and Annika went past a perfume shop with a sign outside that read, “Do you suffer from freckles?” Pippi walked right into that store and exclaimed, “No!” When the confused woman behind the counter asked Pippi what she meant, Pippi explained, “No, I don’t suffer from freckles.” Then, the woman who now understood that Pippi was referring to the sign outside, said, “But, my dear child, your whole face is covered with freckles!” Pippi responded, “I know it, but I don’t suffer from them. I love them.” Before exiting the store, Pippi turned again to the woman and said, “But if you should happen to get any salve that gives people more freckles, then you can send me seven or eight jars.”
The way Pippi’s confidence captivates those around her causes me to think about the women I know in my own life who I find unquestionably beautiful. When I consider them now, I realize there is no common denominator – no collective theme in their appearance – connecting them all. Some are thin, some curvy; some have light hair, others dark; some excel at applying their makeup just so, and others wear no makeup at all. Why do I find such a wide array of people to be so gorgeous? As far as I can comprehend, I believe it is because they are just as they are. They are unique. They embrace their own strengths. They set their own rules. They have confidence in their singularity.
And it’s not just me who appreciates diverse types of beauty. Clearly the different “beauty standards” from various cultures throughout the world demonstrates that there is no single definition of what makes a person beautiful. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps we can retrain our critical, belittling minds to behold that exquisiteness within ourselves?
Of course, Pippi Longstocking’s sense of self-worth is not merely beneficial towards her beauty; her self-worth filters through all aspects of her life. Pippi is a girl who knows how to take care of herself. When Tommy & Annika learned, upon their first meeting with her, that she lived alone, they asked, “But who tells you when to go to bed at night and things like that?” Pippi responded, “I tell myself.”
Aside from setting her own limits, Pippi also knows how to protect herself with her extraordinary strength. (She is strong enough to lift a horse, after all!) She is self-reliant, as well as self-confident. She knows how to entertain herself and keep herself company. She puts a positive spin on mundane tasks, and in doing so, she turns everything into a game – such as mopping the kitchen by strapping scrubbing brushes onto her feet and skating along the floor.
But even a symbol of confidence like Pippi gets self-conscious on occasion. When Pippi was invited to a coffee party for the first time, she wasn’t sure how to act. So she gave herself marching orders, literally, to curtsy politely. She explained, “You see, I am really very shy, so if I didn’t give myself some commands I’d just stand in the hall and not dare to come in.”
It just goes to show that everybody feels insecure at times. Even wild, brave little girls have off-days. So when you have one too – a day where you feel like your hair just won’t behave like it’s supposed to, or you suddenly hate all the clothes in your closet – try to be easy on yourself. Don’t trust those negative, nit-picky thoughts in your head. When you are feeling better, you can remind yourself that, unlike your criticizing mind insinuates – you really are pretty spectacular. And if you need further confidence-boosting, pick up a book or a movie about my beauty icon and role model Pippi Longstocking, because Tommy and Annika were right – she really is remarkable.