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I Feel Pretty


I've hinted before at my awkward stage(s) before the blog--telling how it took me awhile to wear skirts regularly because I was self-conscious about my legs. I haven't gone into depth over the myriad of reasons I felt this way or how my self-consciousness extended beyond my legs because despite my habit of blogging daily I'm a fairly private person and while personal journey stories can be inspiring they can also be triggering and what has been said cannot be unsaid...but I was recently doodling and the above idea came out and took me back to those more painful years.

There are a variety of reactions from well-meaning friends when they corner you in a conversation about looks and you manage to admit you aren't a fan of your own. Usually they're quick to reassure you that you are pretty in some times the most amusing way--like comparing you to an exotic fish or claiming some random acquaintance has the hots for you. All of those responses always just served to remind me that my looks were very important--it wouldn't be okay for me to not be pretty. Some part of me had to be pretty, or I was pretty in a different way, or pretty to someone. So my downward spiral of self-loathing would continue because I couldn't look in a mirror without wanting to cry and I needed to like what I saw in the mirror.

In fact, it wasn't until I just told myself "you aren't pretty and that doesn't matter" that I actively started to feel better about myself. I stopped waiting for my legs to get tanned and toned to wear the dresses I liked; stopped waiting for a lot of things to happen in order to wear clothes I liked and actively express myself through my hair style and make-up and so on. It wasn't that I thought about it as an effort to make myself pretty or make my outsides match my insides/interests a bit more, it was that when I stopped worrying about pretty and focused on my interests I felt so much better. You don't have to be pretty to be worthwhile. You're allowed to draw attention to yourself even if you're ugly. You don't have to feel "cute" to wear the clothes you like, or raise your hand in class and draw attention to yourself, or hit on some dude you see at a cafe, or whatever "not feeling pretty" stops you from doing. I decided to focus my sense of worth on something entirely outside of my looks and treat clothes/fashion as a hobby rather than an attempt to beautify. The more I managed to care less about my appearance, the better I felt. The more I shared my opinions or developed my hobbies the more worthwhile I felt.

Nowadays I'm reasonably comfortable with my looks--I have off-days where I feel ugly and in contrast moments of narcissism where I'm quite pleased with how a dress suits me (and could burst into song with "I feel pretty, oh so pretty and witty and bright..."). I wouldn't necessarily change my past and I don't think there is anything wrong with your friends assuring you that you are pretty, but I think it's nice every once in awhile for someone to say, "it's okay that you feel that way. You're awesome for so many reasons other than your looks."

30 comments:

natasha said...

I went/go through the same thing
<3

Anonymous said...

thank you.

Nicole Testa said...

This was really wonderful to read. There are a lot of "body image" posts out there, but I haven't read one from this perspective, and I really appreciate it.

Michelle | CreatureType.com said...

This is so poignant and true. I totally believe in being more than just pretty and in taking matters into your own hands to honor the way you look by wearing what you enjoy, taking photos of yourself, etc. I think it's important to represent yourself as a person with more to offer than a face or a body that fits into an ideal image. "This is mine and it has worth because it's mine and I say so." That's powerful!

I'm so glad you moved forward enough to come to these conclusions and share your photos with us! I quite enjoy your style, thoughts, and photos. <3

Isabel said...

Thank you for this post. I'm not exactly a regular blog reader, but yours is one of my favourites and I do check in once in a while. And when I do, one of the things I always catch myself thinking is how nice your legs are! In a non-creepy way of course. :P I'm going through an awkward stage right now and I'm alternately angry or guilty when it comes to anything to do with how a girl looks. There are so many offhand comments that can ruin the moment. People are very hypocritical when it comes to discussing beauty, and sometimes I catch myself at it as well. I get similar responses when I tell my friends that I want to lose weight. I'm starting to lose it now, and I feel guilty when I think of how pleased I am to be thinner, especially when I always tell people off for making fun of fat people. Sorry for the mess, but I'm kind of in a hurry. But I guess it also represents accurately the push-and-pull in my head.

Kailee said...

I think I will probably bookmark this post and come back to read it often. Thank you. Coming from a girl who has struggled with an eating disorder, I really love and appreciate this. It is so nice to hear and remind myself that looks honestly don't matter. I need to tell myself that more often. Thanks for writing this. I always love your writing style :)

Mitzi Cocoa said...

So grateful for this openness and honesty. I can completely identify with feeling this way.

Darkhighborn said...

It's been about two years now that I stumbled upon your blog and I instantly loved the way you write about things. I just like how you observe the world and how you put your feelings and thoughts into words. There's one thing that came already before to my mind and now again and I just wanted to say : I really don't think you realise how beautiful you are! Seriously! I hope a random stranger telling you this isn't freaking you out, cause I don't want to play the internetcreep here. :)




Tiny Poems said...

Thank you for writing this.

MarieBayArea said...

Thanks for this Rebecca. I guess we all feel insecure sometimes about our looks. What I've learned is the more I like and appreciate myself on the inside because of my values, interests, and positive qualities, and accept, be honest about, and take responsibility for my faults and inadequacies (of which there are many!), I become more accepting and forgiving of myself and everyone else. Then it doesn't matter if I'm looking good or not, because then I'm feeling grounded and at peace. I appreciate a good hair day and looking pretty in a lovely dress as much as the next gal, but nothing can replace feeling at peace with myself and others. Then having fun with my looks becomes an enjoyable, creative, life-affirming experience. Without that inner peace and groundedness, the pursuit of beauty becomes a neurotic experience, something I feel I have to do so that i won't be rejected or unloved. Then it's not pleasurable or fun. It just becomes another "should."

teresinha said...

This is absolutely perfect and 100% relatable.
Your drawings are the most darling things ever.
I'm at that point of "i'm not pretty and that's ok" which i reached recently, and i'm, for the first time, wearing makeup outside of my house (which i never did).
It's very hard to explain, and it seems that people don't believe that i'm not fishing for compliments, i just want some confirmation that this is a valid feeling. If someone recognizes there is an ugly-pretty spectrum, i should be allowed feel like i fall in the ugly side of it. Saying that "that person over there" is ugly, but i'm not, is not comforting.

I have a hard time making myself clear, but this time i don't have to because you've said it all <3.

Kimberellie said...

Wow. What a fabulous blog post.

There was a time in my life (age 11-12...really, that's it) when I didn't feel pretty. Before that I didn't think about it at all. After that I was rather a narcissistic teenager. & as an adult decided I was perfectly pleased with my looks while acknowledging there were tons of women far more lovely than I was--and that was okay.

I think of you as someone who IS beautiful. Not just outwardly, but you have a vibrant personality (so vibrant indeed that it shines through your photographs and comes through your writing). As for just plain attractiveness, I don't know how you could ever look in the mirror and not see lovely. But heck, I look in the mirror sometimes and think: meh. But I know it isn't true. It's probably just hormones (for me! I know it is).

That said you are so brilliant to point out that it (life!) isn't about BEING pretty. You have said all this far better than I ever could have. Our world is so concerned about appearances. & how we look means nothing compared to how we love & who we ARE.

Anyway, I don't have anything really significant to add other than I love what you have written.

Oh, and another thought: I think it's probably better to be the one face/person our families/children/lovers would like to look on than the most (more) beautiful face/person. One day my husband will be old & not as "hot" as he is now. But his is the face I am going to prefer looking at (not the movie star du jour). And when I am old and wrinkled I am sure he will feel the same about me.



Anonymous said...

Kimberellie, I think you literally did what "well intentioned friends" have done and centered the conversation, again, on "oh but you ARE pretty":
"I think of you as someone who IS beautiful. Not just outwardly, but you have a vibrant personality (so vibrant indeed that it shines through your photographs and comes through your writing). As for just plain attractiveness, I don't know how you could ever look in the mirror and not see lovely."

Shows just how insiduous it is.

indiechick said...

Im soo greatfull that you shared this story with us :-)) I was diagnosed with anorexia about an half a year ago and reading this made me feel pretty enough (at least for awhile) Maybe I dont have to panic every piece I eat this evening :-)

Christiana said...

Your honesty is beautiful and inspiring. Thank you :)

MintJulep said...

Wow, this was so sweet to read!! When I first found your blog - quite a while back, now - I was first drawn to "how pretty" you always looked - meaning that to my notion of physical beauty, you hit most of the right spots: you are thin, petite, plae skinned, blue eyed, interesting hair colour and have a very personal sense of style, meaning you're pretty but pretty different as well. But then I got caught up on your writing - and I have mentioned to plenty of people that to me you are the best writer blogging nowadays, if this makes any sense - and on your sensitivity, and I have to say, I was hooked. I find you pretty to look at, yes, but I mostly find you a very interesting young woman - when most women of your generation bore me to death, and seem to have nothing besides their beauty. Thank you for showing us more than just your pretty self!
http://fashionfauxpas-mintjulep.blogspot.pt/

Sora said...

I wish I could add something of value to your post, but it is so perfect it has left be speechless.

I think that after reading your blog for a couple months, I have realized that you are far more than the girl we see in the pictures. It isn't anymore about the pretty outfit pictures but about the insights of your life that we read from them and your texts.

Keep being so honest and sensitive <333.

Kate Mothes said...

This post is wonderful, and strikes a chord with me as well. There ARE so many other ways a girl can be amazing than her prettiness. No matter what, we always seem to hold ourselves to impossibly high standards, and it really does help us and our confidence to focus on the things that we know and do well... the things that make us who we really are.

Love it.

Cheers,
Kate x

Alexandra Marie said...

I must tell you- you are not alone! I think every girl feels this way at one time or another, even the most beautiful ones. You are very beautiful and I'm not just saying that. One of the things that initially drew me to your blog was how unique your style was and how you weren't afraid to wear what you love! It inspires other people- I promise <3

tobebeautifulingodseyes.blogspot.com

Anny Barros said...

You just described myself.

nasty-lady.blogspot.com

Winnie said...

Oh Rebecca, this definitely hits close to home for me too. I'm surprised you felt that way about yourself because I honestly see no reason for you to ever feel like that....but of course I understand as I feel like this sometimes too!!

My Hideaway said...

The comments from well-meaning friends can often do more harm than good. But in any case, I'm glad you realized that "being pretty" just doesn't matter at all to having the life you want to live, to being content, to wearing what you want to wear. It really just does. not. matter. And so many situations in life are just easier when you don't care so much about appearances...yours or others. I find that usually those who judge others harshly are even more unforgiving when it comes to their own perceived shortcomings. Life is challenging enough on it's own without all that superficial crap added on.
Of course it's ok to look a bit odd or "not pretty" in a stereotypical way. But also I will say that that has nothing to do with attractiveness. Someone can be extremely attractive and not have cookie cutter "good looks." How many models or actors are really a bit weird looking when it comes down to it, but are beautiful all the same?
People frequently say that society is obsessed with appearances, etc., and that puts pressure on women. But to a certain extent, you decide the society you inhabit. You decide which publications you read, which tv shows and commercials you watch, which people you surround yourself with. (I know that teens don't choose who they go to school with and bullies are a real thing, so I'm only talking about adults here.) If you don't like the society you are a part of, then change it. I wish we had 10 posts like this for every beauty tutorial on youtube. And I noticed in my teen years, when I stopped reading most women's magazines, I got a lot more confident. I don't think that's a coincidence. All of those magazines with their tips and tricks you "need to know" really just send a subtle message that you aren't good enough yet. Anyway, ramble over. I appreciate this post and you sharing a painful part of your past. And I wish more people would put the message out there that having a healthy self-image has absolutely nothing to do with being "pretty"...or I might add, having the "right" clothes, hair, boyfriend, job etc. The only thing that really matters is how you treat other people and how you spend the short time you're given on this planet.

bestie said...

preach.

Roberta said...

Rebecca, thanks for sharing so vulnerably. I've found I am most content with myself when I'm grateful for what I have. I want to be happy with what I have been blessed with in life: brown eyes, frizzy hair, pale skin, long fingers.

We can always change our outlook and the way we value ourselves and others. To choose gratefulness is to choose an internal beauty that pervades the external self.

Kimberellie said...

I sincerely hope I didn't offend you with my comment Rebecca. & I did realize the irony of my saying I think you're lovely on this particular post.

It was just my heart & I wrote it out.

Maybe I simply should have said:
The artwork and writing with this post is phenomenal. Because it is.

Thank you for posting this. I truly hope I did not offend.

Rebecca, The Clothes Horse said...

@Kimberellie, No not offended! Don't worry, I felt that what you said was from your heart. :)

Stephanie Phillips said...

I relate to this so much. Whenever I feel horrible about my looks, the way I feel about everything else in life immediately starts to waver. I feel like I shouldn't be entitled to things because of my looks or my weight.

My boyfriend always reassures me, "you are pretty," but what I really want to hear is, "your insides are so much more beautiful than your outsides could ever wish to become." So that's what I tell myself.

Polina said...

You know, I often feel the same way. So what if someone isn't pretty? Is that the end of them then? Why do we all have to have the ultimate goal to be pretty to others and admired? It's so annoying. I'd like to be admired for other characteristics of my personality other than my outside appearance which will fade eventually anyway. I have been seeking the freedom to go out and about to work or school without primping myself while still feeling beautiful but it's certainly been a struggle. This post was nice to read; it is refreshing to see you be so direct and honest.

Renee said...

Thank you.

I'm in a weird spot of transition and it was great to hear someone bring up the alternative... Maybe I'm not pretty. Maybe not even a little. Whether it be your eyes, your hair, the complete package or simply none of you. Does it matter? Not really... As long as you can believe the same thing.

We all want to feel great about ourselves... And there are a million different reasons to do so.

Xoxo Renee

Emily said...

I saw this article and immediately thought of your post here, so I'm sharing this with you: http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/05/i-don%E2%80%99t-want-be-told-i%E2%80%99m-pretty-i-am-i-want-live-world-where-that%E2%80%99s-irrelevant