What is pretty? What is beautiful?
According to Webster’s dictionary, they are defined as follows:
Pretty: having qualities of beauty: exciting aesthetic pleasure
Beautiful: attractive to look at usually in a simple or delicate way
Pretty hurts isn't just a song sung by Beyonce; it is a dismissed topic for many. We've all read or watched an interview with a famous supermodel or movie star where they talk about being the 'ugly duckling' growing up and how they don't feel like they're anymore beautiful than anyone else, or at all. And while watching those interviews, many of us have rolled our eyes in disbelief that someone so beautiful can feel unpretty. Having a similar experience recently, I couldn't help but wonder, do people realize that Pretty does indeed Hurt?
Growing up, I was often heard "You're so pretty" by most adults. I never paid or any mind or even understood what they were saying. When puberty hit, and it hit early and hard; I remember feeling like a lamb in the jungle, being stalked and preyed on by hungry lion's, hoping to be the first to bite down on my flesh. Grown men, fathers of my friends, uncles, family friends and other men in my circumference, without my permission, began to see me differently and make inappropriate comments about my beauty, body, and sexuality. NOT OK! They awakened my awareness to what it meant to be craved, lusted over and desired. It was often scary, disgusting and very confusing. Again, NOT OK! Not asking or wanting this attention, I also noticed that this unsolicited attention also caused girls to treat me differently. All of a sudden, my 'friends' no longer liked me, it became harder to connect with other girls, and I had no clue why. Thankfully, my dear mother sat me down, wiped my tears and gave me a lesson in jealousy and cattiness. I was so confused, and often thought and said: "I don't even think I'm pretty...I don't think I'm 'all that,'... I don't even know what that is! I don't want her brother to like me...Why do they want to fight me? I just want to be her friend!" I cried, not realizing that was my first lesson in self-esteem.
The words and meaning of self-esteem were never stated directly to me; instead, they were masked in "Don't pay them, girls, no mind, they're just jealous." I had no clue that those words implied love myself, be your friend, and it's ok to be confident and admired by others. I sought validation in what other people thought of me; I wanted to be liked so badly, so I turned down the volume on ‘my pretty.' I began wearing baggy clothes to hide my curves, yeah, the curves I didn't want or understand. I started acting tough and unladylike, I stopped doing my hair, being friendly and became scared to be myself, all in hopes of girls, who probably didn't like, or know how to love themselves either to tell me I was enough. Pretty Hurt real bad.
Fast forward many years later, thanks to self-discovery, ownership, mindset shift and action, my self-esteem, self-worth and all other self's are now in formation, but I still notice that when I share this truth or anyone similar to it, the response I get from other women are shock and disbelief. "You? You didn't feel pretty?! Stop it! You pretty girls make me sick!" Yes, me! Why is that so hard to believe? Why is my experience not valid because I look the way I do? Why are you separating me and my needs from women and our universal needs? While I admit that 'Pretty Privilege' is real and does exist, I am often hurt, angered and saddened by the segregation through our girls and women to our girls and women. The misconception that being pretty means one automatically has an attitude, feels no pain, has no problems, gets everything they want, will always succeed, can't be unhappy, or deserves hurt more than others, is an unfair, disrespectful, bias, that needs to be terminated.
This naive chubby, bi-racial, over blossomed girl, with buck teeth, country cornrows, and barrettes often felt alone and didn't see what everyone else saw. There are days I still don't. Don't get me wrong, I do believe I'm beautiful inside and out, and I am aware that others find me attractive; and I also fancy myself quite a bit. But I'm just a woman who covers her dark circles, skin discoloration and acne scars with concealer and sucks in her gut and debates on buying a Kardashian-inspired waist trainer on Amazon like everyone else. Being attractive by society’s standards isn't a super power that leaves one without the ability to feel like every other living thing. I want to feel as if my issues or concerns about my imperfections hurts and needs matter like yours, or any woman. I want you to know that judging those you deem pretty based on their features is a prejudice that is no different than someone judging you on your skin, your race, your class, or your past. I want you to know your daughters, nieces, and little sisters may be experiencing it too, from others and maybe from you. I want you to know that pretty hurts.
Let's have some 'Girl Talk'.
Coach Stefanie, Life Architect
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