Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Who's Pretty?

A long time ago, I had a close male friend who had a younger sister named Denise whom I had never met. One day my friend called and told me his sister would be coming to town, and he wanted me to meet her. "She is really an amazing woman," he said. "She is smart, and sweet, and she is just gorgeous. She was always gorgeous. When Denise was little, she was the most beautiful baby and little girl you ever saw. She was just always a stunning beauty." He went on to tell me how she goes to the gym regularly and eats right to keep herself fit and strong. I was slightly worried this chick was not going to like me because I was fat and out of shape; honestly, it can be a bit intimidating to meet a tall, thin, fit, stunning woman with model-gorgeous looks! I hoped she would not look down her nose at me.

And so a few days later, I went over to my friend's house to meet his sister. As I was walking up to his house, I passed a girl on the sidewalk. She was a lady of rather plain looks, a little out of shape, but not heavy by any means. Maybe she could stand to lose 20 pounds. She reminded me very much of a girl in my high school who had been teased for being homely (when in fact she was rather average) and never had any boyfriends. When I got to the door and knocked, this rather plain lady turned around and looked at me, smiled, and said, "Oh, hi! I'm Denise!"

Who is pretty? It's such a subjective description. Everyone thinks their own baby is pretty, after all. But there seems to be a universal "type" of person that is deemed to be beautiful. It varies by culture. When my friend described his sister, I pictured a 5' 10" 130 pound, buff, suntanned woman with blonde hair and high cheekbones. Instead I saw a rather round lady with plain short brown hair and an average face. If you put her in a line-up and asked me to pick out the pretty one, I would not have chosen her. Mainly because she does not fit the mainstream, media-driven and male-dominated image of beauty. Once I got to know her, I decided he was right. She is beautiful.

Today I was watching a little TV while folding clothes. There was one of those myriad of "Judge" shows on (I don't have cable) and the defendant was a very good-looking, thin, blonde lady. She had a body I could only dream of, a delicious complexion, and long thick blonde hair. She had nicely angular facial features and very pretty eyes. Her ex-fiance was suing her about some nonsense. When the judge asked her why she had struggled with having relationships, she replied, "Well, I'm not a pretty woman..." And you could tell by her pained expression that she believed she was one ugly dog, and was very sad, and felt like she was lucky to get ANY male attention whatsoever.

So who's pretty? Is it the person who fits a certain pre-defined mold of x number of inches between their eyes and y number of fat grams on their thighs? What is ugly, anyway? Is it a look? Or is it an attitude? What makes the difference?

Denise was raised in a family full of boys. She was the youngest, and the only girl. Everyone doted on her. She was told how pretty she was from day 1. And she BELIEVED it. It didn't matter so much what she LOOKED like. It mattered what SHE thought. She is 45 years old now and she emanates confidence. Her plainness does not affect her. She takes care of herself, does her hair, dresses nicely, and smiles. Her eyes are bright and if you asked her, she would probably tell you how lucky she is that she got the good looks in the family! She has a license plate that says SEXILADI on it. She is a really nice person. And her beauty comes from within, but it also is part of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Her Daddy said she was pretty. Her Mommy said she was pretty. Her brothers all think she is pretty. Therefore, she is pretty.

That lady on TV... I wonder if her parents ever told her she was "the ugly one." I wonder if she was teased as a child and came to believe, somehow, that her looks were undesirable. She believes she is NOT pretty. She behaves like a girl who has to "settle" for whatever attention she can get, so she gets the dregs of mankind for her boyfriends, if she gets a boyfriend at all. No one in her circle thinks she is pretty. In fact, her a-hole ex-fiance had the utter NERVE to say something like, "her looks never bothered me" and "she could have been beautiful and I would have felt the same way." Um, HELLO?? ::Virtual Smack going out to that GUY:: But my point is, no one considers her pretty, so SHE believes she is not pretty.

Isn't it fascinating that we sometimes see ourselves through the eyes of those who love us or mistreat us? Think about what truths you hold about yourself.

If your parents called you worthless, you might think you are worthless.
If they told you you could accomplish ANYTHING, you probably can.
The tapes play over in our heads, and until we do something to silence them, we remain entangled in the opinions of others.

But we have the ability to make our OWN tapes.

I know I am beautiful. Fat or not. I was a really ugly 13-year-old. Seriously. If I posted a picture, you would spew. I won't even show them to my own kids. I was a little pudgy, I had straight mouse brown hair that was whacked off crooked and short in some kind of hack job by my mother. I was pale with brown moles on my face. I had a big nose, acne, and big thick nerd glasses. There was absolutely NOTHING feminine about me and I was often mistaken for a boy (which caused me an unspeakable amount of emotional pain at that age). And to top it off I wore some ugly-ass clothes like baggy brown cords and plaid olive green tops. I was told I was ugly at school on a daily basis. Even strangers on the playground made fun. This was very difficult for me to process. I had been a very cute, petite little blonde-haired girl but something weird happened and I hit Ugly, full force, by 6th grade.

I LIVED ugly until I was 15 or 16. That's the year I grew a female body, grew my hair out long and had it styled, took care of my skin, grew my fingernails long, and got some pretty, feminine clothes. I became an average-looking teen girl and no one ever mistook me for a boy again. By the time I hit college I was really reveling in my new found femininity, and had lots of dates and lots of guys telling me how gorgeous I was.

Even at 240 pounds, I have continued to feel beautiful. I have been told how sexy I am. How nice my hair is, how beautiful my eyes are. I still love my femininity and keep my nails nice, my toes painted, and my hair long. I look in the mirror and I love what I see. Yeah I am fat, but it is going away. I love my curves, I love my eyes and hair and smile. So I believe it: I am beautiful.

I am still the same person as that kid in 6th grade who was an absolute horror to look at. I have the same face, with no plastic surgery. In fact, I rarely wear makeup. But I am pretty.

Find the pretty in yourself. It is there, and it doesn't have to wait until you are thin to come out. Because if you believe it, that is what you are.


Ranaesheart said...

What a lovely post and truly agree that beauty comes from within. Some of us learn that early and some of us have to struggle to learn that lesson. Here's to us .. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L women .. inside and out! Thanks for the inspiring post! ((Hugs)) Ranae

Kate said...

and it's posts like this that make you a best of blogs winner.


~Tammy said...

Just recently having clicked from here to there to discover your blog, I'm so glad I did.

This entry is very thought envoking and something that touches me personally. That being from the 'ugly' side of pretty, is where I've spent my life. I've been told so many times over how sexy I am, but I struggle with the idea of being sexy or pretty. You've given me some thoughts to think.

Thank you

Ceres said...

Oh, wow, what a great post! "What is ugly, anyway? Is it a look? Or is it an attitude?", is something that I'll need to remind myself. Sometimes I look at my own pictures and I say "wow, I'm not bad at all! I'm actually rather pretty!", and it sort of comes as a surprise. Guess that's not a very good sign, is it? :-) With the weight, this kind of attitude needs to go away as well. Thanks for writing, Lyn! said...

That's just a wonderful post! What makes a person attractive is so much more attitude than package.

Anonymous said...

Just a great post. And it brings up so much stuff for me...I grew up in a very puritanical home where any attention to physical attributes was considered vain and sinful. I am 50 years old, and it is still really difficult to accept compliments and own the fact of my own beauty. Thanks again for the giving me something to ponder. Becca

Twix said...

I am so happy to hear you are feeling better! ((Lyn)) and YES! You are a beautiful lady!!! :D

Take One Stripper Pole said...

I am certainly trying to rewrite my tapes now. Awesome post!

Anonymous said...

Beauty comes from within. Be happy with yourself and others will see it.

MizFit said...

whoa. its reading posts like this which put me in awe of the way people use words.
I wonder if this simply poured out of you or if it was a herculean struggle to write until it became what you published.

you are amazing.
in your writing and in the lives you touch.


DEBRA said...

It is true that we have tapes playing inside our heads with all kinds of warped thinking, it takes a lot of work to be able to change those tapes to believe something other than what we have lived with for 20,30,40,50 years of life.

It takes work,but it worth it, if you can see past the untruths.

Wonderful posting.

tjones said...

You are so right about becoming what you hear over and over. My first husband was verbaly & physically abusive and he would always say I was fat and nasty and no one would ever want me i began to believe it and as I did I gained more weight and care dless about my appearance. I got away from that idiot and I did find someone who thinks I am the most beautiful woman in the world.

ryry the adventurous said...

Who's pretty?

YOU are pretty, that's who!


Srsly, great post though. One's perceived idea of beauty is something I ponder about a lot. I wonder often how my husband finds me beautiful when I think I'm a physical disaster. And then I get very angry at our entertainment culture for making an unhealthy, unattainable body image the ideal. And then I hate my hips. And the cycle continues.

Kofarq said...

I swear, every time I read your blog I say out loud something like, "Lyn, you're awesome, my girl!" and shake my head in wonderment.
your fellow 3FC chick,

new*me said...

Amazing post! Beauty is within! I didn't believe that until my late 20s. Good looks fade but it is what's inside that goes on. This goes for men too. I think men who are kind, good fathers, thoughtful co-workers, etc are so good looking. Somewhere in my growing up process of the last 10yrs I grew to see the inside. I don't look at the outside anymore. When you can find that in yourself, then you know you have arrived at where you need to be.

Thanks for this beautiful post.

Merry Mary said...

Great post! Beauty/prettiness is something that does not depend on what you look like. Self-confidence plays a huge role in whether or not you and others think you are pretty. If you believe you are pretty, which everyone is in some way, others will too.

Deniz said...

A fabulously uplifting post Lyn - thank you (once again) for sharing some sensitive, thought-provoking words. You write wonderfully and with great compassion.

It's funny how so many of us can easily recognise beauty in others but can't even contemplate the same terms ever being applied to ourselves.

Yes, it is possible to change your tape, or 'internal message' as my counsellor called it, but heck it's hard to do.

I am so, so fortunate to now have a lovely hubby (not my first!) who thinks I am beautiful, and am working on 'believing' what he says. Getting thinner doesn't actually make it easier but he has seen me as beautiful even at my heaviest. I hope one day I'll see it too.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is posts like this that make you tops!! How fortunate for all of us who read your blog that you bring us your insight and sound sense. Beauty in the eye of the beholder has never been expressed more eloquently.

Sheri said...

Your view of yourself is like my own thoughts of me. Just get to know the gal on the inside and you will be surprised by the beauty. I believe each of us has our own image issues, but the way you have espressed it is definitely thought provoking. I have wondered too at some people I knew who thought they were ugly when they were in fact beautiful inside and out. Knowing the person on the inside definitely influences our view of their beauty. Take my ex. I thought he was beautiful, the most handsome man I ever knew. Some thought he was ugly or ordinary, but I not me. Then many years after we separated he came across much differently on the inside, not nice at all. I noticed my attraction toward him was gone. He was not attractive at all to me, even ugly for a time. It's the person on the inside and the way we behave toward others thats the true reflection of our beauty. Sometimes overweight people don't seem so overweight when they have a big, positive and bouncy personality. I've noticed that too.

Karyn said...

Such a deep subject, and you've handled it so well!

My husband has been trying for years to convince me that I am gorgeous. Sometimes I believe him, but why can't I believe him all the time?

The problem is, when I believe I am ugly, he can always tell - because I act differently than when I believe I am pretty or even when I just believe that I am NOT ugly.

Hanlie said...

Another insightful post from you... and something I needed to read right now! Thanks for always inspiring me!