A dad writes that his daughter overheard someone at school criticize her looks. She was quite hurt since she had considered that person a friend. The dad told her "Beauty is only skin deep."
The fact is, "Beauty is only skin deep" is a skin-deep saying.
It's with the best of intentions that we utter those five words. The implication is that we need to look beyond the surface to discover a person's core value. Yes, precisely. And therein lies a person's real beauty. It isn't quite as poetic-sounding but what we actually should say is, "Beauty is deeper than skin."
Real beauty isn't skin-deep at all. What's on the outside of any of us is simply the covering on our bones. It's our wallpaper. Real beauty is the character and composition of the inner person.
But try explaining that to your teenager. Good luck. The more you think about the meaning of that statement, the harder it is to put into simple words and have it make sense to a young person whose world, in many ways, is based on superficiality.
A recent AOL and "Today" show survey of adults and teens about body image shows just how much teens are concerned with looks.
• 85 percent of teen girls say they worry about their appearance weekly.
• Teen girls spend 402 hours per year on their appearance -- twice as much as boys.
• 80 percent of teen girls compare themselves to celebrity images; almost half say it makes them feel dissatisfied.
• Over half of teen girls say social media makes them feel more self-conscious.
In this country we are obsessed with image. It determines, in many cases, our friendships, associations, memberships and, often, special recognitions and honors. This wallpaper meets the eye first, and often becomes the gauge for evaluating a person's total worth.
In the social quagmire of a teenager's world, what you think of me, based on my wallpaper, is how I feel about me. And sometimes Mom and Dad can get caught up in the popularity game by living through their kids.
So how do we teach our teens to be concerned about the infrastructure and not the wallpaper? Ask them what qualities they look for in a meaningful friendship. If they were in a difficult situation and needed someone to talk to, who would it be? If they reached out their hand and needed to be pulled to their feet, whose hand would they want to grab? If they needed a shoulder to cry on or someone's ear, whose shoulder or ear would they most wish for? The importance of wallpaper diminishes.
Try answering those questions yourself. We think you'll discover what your teenagers will also find when trying to answer -- a glimpse of the depth and complexity of what real beauty is.
It turns out we often look in the shallows for those things that reside in the deep.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc.com. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.