Maybe pretty isn’t the point

“Pretty” is complicated. I want to be pretty, but I’m not sure that I am pretty, and I don’t want to want to be pretty because that makes me shallow, but it’s always there, just the same: I want to be pretty.

That’s why I loved this latest Ask Polly column from New York Magazine. In it, Heather Havrilesky digs into the “complicated, conflicted truths” of prettiness and womanhood and feminism and insecurity.

“There’s so much built-in shame that comes with just being a woman with a body who has to put clothes on that body and leave the house,” she writes. And isn’t that The Damn Truth.

Let’s say “pretty” is something that can be definitively bestowed — what would it change in your life? “Can you do more daring things?” Havrilesky asks. “Have more adventures, feel less self-conscious and neurotic?” Do not-pretty people deserve those things too? And the same thing goes for your current weight vs. goal weight. What would it change? And more importantly: why?

Seeking validation outside of yourself won’t just leave you hungry for something that can’t be satisfied. It also distracts from the deeper issues you might be struggling with, like insecurity, shame, and self-acceptance, and that’s a disservice to you and the way you’re able to live your life.

I like how Havrilesky honors the human desire to care about your appearance, both for yourself and for others — wearing lipstick doesn’t make you a lesser person. But finding peace with prettiness has to come from within:

You look to the outside world to define you. You look and you ask, “Am I good enough? Is there a problem? What do you think?” You read faces and you study Instagram. “Have I arrived? Am I impressive in any way? Was I ever good enough? Am I better now?”

The best way to feel “pretty” (confident, calm, sure of who you are) is by resisting the urge to ask questions. Turn yourself into a statement: “I am good enough. I am worthy. I have a right to take up space.”

Stop returning to this prison of Pretty or Not Pretty. Be the person you already are. Stop asking questions and be a statement.

“Be a statement.” I love that. I am me. I am enough.

Here’s the full piece, if you’d like to read:

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