You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.
– Diana Vreeland
Take a moment and write down adjectives that describe your physical appearance.
My list looks like this:
- nice hair
- could put in more effort
Mine’s about half positive, half negative. I’m always back and forth on how I feel about my appearance. Until last week’s latest viral body image post on Facebook, I had never heard the quote from Diana Vreeland before. Photographer, Jess Fielder had her subjects pose for her revealing something they had been told by another person that negatively impacted their self-image. Well, like many other women around the world – it struck a cord with me.
I was always praised for when I was “pretty”. And you may say, “Oh my gosh, shut up already, Kirstin.” But I don’t mean any of this in a conceited or inflated way. I danced for 11 years and I heard, “You did great!” after my performances. But with a face full of makeup I also heard, “You look so pretty!” When I wore nice dresses I heard, “You have such a pretty figure! You are so lucky!” And when I dressed up for prom, Fair Queen’s Court, and just to go out with friends: “Kirstin, you are just so pretty!” But I never heard it when I wore sweatpants and a t-shirt to high school. I didn’t hear that when I was in the squat rack working up a sweat.
Now my physique is changing, it is becoming (in my mind) more matronly. My looks are changing, I no longer find my super long hair to be appropriate and professional in my workplace. And recently, my heart has been breaking because maybe I won’t really be “pretty” anymore.
Then I read that quote.
It’s been nice to be pretty. But why do I have to be pretty? Why do I supposedly have more value when I am “pretty”? You know what I would rather hear, what really touches my heart? “You are very intelligent.” “Your smile is genuine.” “Thank you for caring so much about other people.” “Wow, you are strong!” I may be a female, but I do not have to be pretty! I am not better when I am pretty. I am not better when I wear makeup. I should not be expected to even be pleasant to look at. That is not what matters most.
I have started making a conscious effort in the past couple of years to give my younger female cousins and The Mister’s nieces compliments that are about anything other than their appearance. They need to know that as young women they are valuable because they are creative, intelligent, hard working, and passionate people. Their value and mine and yours does not depend on whether we are pretty or not!