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Do You Feel Pretty?

Feel pretty?

Do you feel pretty? No, I mean really feel pretty? I don’t. I don’t know if I ever have. I have been thinking about this lately for a couple of reasons. The first one is I want Tiny-Small to feel good about her body now and forever. Secondly, I am getting older and I have more wrinkles, more droopy parts, and my teeth are not as white and shiny as they once were. When I look in the mirror I see a woman with very tired eyes staring back at me. She is not pretty. She is doing her best to get by.

When I was younger I never thought about feeling pretty. I was too busy trying to be pretty. I don’t try so hard anymore. I am too tired and too busy to put the effort in. On the other hand, I still want to be pretty. I still want to feel pretty. I want to feel young and hip and hot, but if I am completely honest with myself I don’t feel like any of those things. I feel more like a chubby, washed up, middle-aged woman who gets more of a thrill out of the new ice cream flavor in the grocery store freezer than out of being a sexy, diva, housewife-mom. The thing is, it’s not like when you get older you no longer care about being attractive. You still care, it’s just you care about so many other things too. There are new priorities to consider. There are new things to occupy your mind. There are new stresses and worries that lead to the consumption of ice cream at 10:30 pm (the only time you can watch your favorite TV show without having to rewind the dialogue in each scene eight times because all the people in your home will not stop talking to you). You stay up too late and get up too early in search of quiet and a few moments alone. Your reckless lifestyle begins to appear on your face in the form of dark circles and bad skin. You start to age at an accelerated pace. You forget to apply eye cream and moisturizer at night. You skip the sunscreen during the day. You choose the pants with the elastic waist just because they are easy and comfortable. You stop feeling pretty. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you even stop worrying about it.

As I get older I feel increasingly invisible to the opposite sex. I may have lost my sex appeal. Where did it go? Will I ever get it back? I think I lost it when I became a mom. I am too tired and wrapped up in making lunch and painting. I am too busy trying to remember to pay the bills on time and ensuring that we have gallons of milk in the fridge so we don’t ever run out. I am too distracted to be pretty and too distracted to feel pretty and it shows.  It’s hard to feel sexy when you are tired and your pants won’t button and the makeup you applied, in a feeble attempt to be pretty, has slid into your crows feet and accentuated the shadows under your eyes. Gorgeous! It’s hard not to feel a little frustrated when everyone is telling you how important it is to be and feel beautiful when you have no chance of ever really doing either one.

How to feel and be pretty without really being either.

I keep reading that moms need to have a positive body image to set a good example for their daughters. That we should announce that we are pretty. That we should announce that we feel beautiful. What do we do if we don’t feel pretty or beautiful? Do we say we do anyway? Do we lie? Are lies going to help the next generation with their self-esteem? I don’t know. I think maybe it will just give them another set of expectations that they can never meet. Moms are supposed to adore their children every second of every day, feel pretty, keep their houses spotless, and satisfy their husbands every desire. I think it’s all a myth and I can’t live up to it. Do I want to tell my daughter that she should try to anyway because it’s the “right” way to live? Not really. Do I want to change the emphasis on beauty to something else? You bet your droopy arse I do. Seriously, there is more to women than being or feeling pretty. We have very rich lives. It’s just everyone seems to be obsessed with beauty and getting self-esteem through how we look. It’s always the most important theme running through our lives, except sometimes, in reality, it really isn’t. It’s not for me anyway.

So, I keep wondering why do I have to be pretty or feel pretty anyway? Can’t I just be smart instead? Or funny? Or sleeping? Maybe I can be sleeping beauty or sleeping pretty who wakes up smart holding a paintbrush. I might be able to pull that one off. I don’t tell Tiny-Small that I feel fat or wrinkly, or sad that my clothes don’t seem to fit right. I don’t tell her I need to lose weight or that I wish I had straight hair and whiter teeth and that I could look 20 years of age for eternity. I don’t say those things, but I also don’t walk around saying I feel pretty when I don’t. I am a terrible liar.

So, I don’t feel pretty, but I also don’t believe I have to feel pretty to be happy or functioning. I don’t exist to be a show piece. I have too much work to do for that. I am not going to lie to my daughter and tell her that I feel beautiful when I don’t. I’m functional. My body works. I like it. It gets me where I need to go. It doesn’t have to be beautiful too. When she hits middle age and realizes her sex appeal is diminishing and her youth is ending, I don’t want her to feel bad for mourning the changes. I don’t want her to have to pretend she feels beautiful when she doesn’t. I don’t want her to think something must be wrong with her because she doesn’t feel pretty when she is “supposed” to feel pretty. I want her to realize that beauty isn’t everything. It’s not as important as being kind and funny and smart, but when we lose it we do feel it and it’s OK to be sad for a while. It’s OK to miss your sex appeal, but it is also OK when it is gone. Getting older with grace doesn’t have a road map with one direction on it. Beauty is not something we have to cling to as we age, despite the messages we receive from popular culture. Appearances do not have to be what life is all about. If she feels pretty that is great, but if she doesn’t, so what? Why can’t we just feel the way we feel and let that be enough?



43 thoughts on “Do You Feel Pretty?”

  1. First up – I have to agree that you are not pretty. You are beautiful. When people live a life exploring their talents, embracing friends, and showing the immense amount of love you demonstrate daily, there is no denying that kind of spirit permeates their physical presentation as well. They smile, they walk with with purpose, and they are BEAUTIFUL. I notice it all the time with people that Hollywood might not classify as “Red Carpet Worhty,” but it is there nonetheless. A sparkle. A light. It is breathtaking.

    Second. You look exactly like me. And I’m hot. ‘Nuf said.

    1. So true, Marianne. The moments I have felt pretty in my life usually had very little to do with what I actually looked like.

      I totally thought you were going to lead with point #2. Your are hot.

  2. I think that you are pretty!! But I get what you’re saying and this was a beautiful post.

    Sometimes, I actually feel pretty…but other times I feel gross and chubby and nit pretty at all.

    1. I think you are too busy being awesome sometimes. Like an awesome writer and girlfriend and friend. So, keep on being a shiny super start to all of the people in your life. I know you are adored by SO many.

  3. I don’t think that beauty or feeling pretty is about whether you are a size 2 or if your face is wrinkle free and perfectly symmetrical. Beauty is exuding joy and loving life. Beauty is intelligence and confidence. Beauty is loving who you are and being happy with whatever you are. Beauty is lifting up others and being a good friend, wife, mother. Beauty is letting your unique self shine through and not being afraid of it. Yes we all recognize when someone looks beautiful on the outside but how many times does that beauty fade when they open up their mouth. You my dear are beautiful on the outside and even more so on the inside. You are a force and your daughter can’t help but pick that up.

        1. I think about how the story of women is often one based on looks. We are supposed to be sad and feel ugly so we’ll buy clothes and makeup, etc. I don’t want that story anymore.

  4. I agree with Marianne. Pretty and Beautiful are two different things. To be merely pretty isn’t really a goal of mine. Neither is sexy. I have a husband who finds me beautiful and attractive; I don’t need or want to sexually arouse other men.

    I want to be beautiful, but I believe that comes from within. I think you are beautiful. I also think you have gorgeous eyes and a brilliant smile.

    I don’t think our daughters need to hear us praising our physical appearance. I think they need to hear us speaking positively about ourselves and about them. Not hollow praise and gold stars for self-esteem, but genuine words that affirm that they are intelligent, capable, strong, and beautiful – when they are. When they aren’t, they need to be encouraged to be.

  5. Do I ever feel physically pretty? Hells no. The best thing about my appearance is that I don’t seem to show wrinkles… yet… but that’s only because my face is constantly broken out. People think I’m way younger than I am, but I don’t like the reason why.

    I do, however, feel pretty internally… I guess…. I do have decent personality traits and with the exception of a few annoying quirks, I’m easy to get along with for just about anyone.

    I don’t think that mothers have to push appearance on their daughters… beyond basic hygiene anyway. My mom wasn’t a girly girl and neither am I. I do wish I had it in me to be more feminine but I really don’t have the time. I may not have kids, but I still have to support and entertain myself and shopping for shoes and jewelry isn’t in my time or financial budget.

    My guy thinks I’m beautiful… inside and out. I look in the mirror and I can’t for the life of me figure out what he sees. He seems to love me for all of my fluffiness in the midsection, terrible skin, and lack of skirts nonetheless.

    So…. am I pretty by fashion standards… definitely not….
    If I was to go by the above standards of redhotwritinghood (which I do like better), then yeah…. I’m all set. 🙂

    1. Your comment really struck me. A time budget is what we are all on so we have to decide how to spend it in a way that is most meaningful to us. I hope that eventually society will celebrate women who choose to spend their time on non-beauty related activities more than they do now.

  6. i could not have written this as well if i tried. you have read my mind. but in my family, looks is all we had to get noticed by our parents. sounds pathetic, but it’s true. but it’s a second-generation truth. we were conditioned to be that way because our parents were told to value it. here i can be real, here i can be honest and not worry so much about my father reading my comments; but if i could, i would tear the lid off the lies and get to the truth: that a beautiful heart an a soaring spirit are more “pretty” and pulchritudinous than the most comely and cherished beings on earth.

    ask marilyn monroe or audrey hepburn: did they feel beautiful? chances are no.

    one of my favorite films of all time, “love in the time of cholera” paints a fantastic picture of a later-aged couple and how they managed, through all the years, to somehow realize their love with one another.

    it’s not how we look, but how we act that makes us beautiful. and that, my friend, is The Hardest, but the most compelling makeover of all.

    you are beautiful; not “just the way you are” because that sounds like schmaltz. you are beautiful because you are real, LC, and that: is hot.


    1. Appearances have had a large weight in my family as well. I think that is what I want to change. A focus on substance vs. appearances. What is often considered pretty is not really healthy. Also, people should be recognized for what and who they are beyond their physical attractiveness or despite it.

  7. What you said above is how I feel most if the time when I look in the mirror. Physically I don’t think I’m pretty but I know I’m beautiful on the inside, most of the time.
    I have met some people that were not pretty in the least on the outside but once you got to talk to them and know them, they become extremely beautiful people! I have learned that external looks don’t mean a thing. You can be one of the most beautiful people (on the outside) in the world but be very ugly (on the inside). That ugliness shows more than the beauty.
    In my eyes, you are a very beautiful person. Both inside and out.

  8. Not to worry! You are pretty enough. The secret is most guys over 30, unless they are extremely wealthy has expanded their horizons regarding attractiveness in women. We’re more concerned about someone who will be diplomatic regarding our foibles and who’s fun to be with when it’s appropriate. We can even tolerate pms and those other weird things that woman go though 😉

  9. Societal standards of physical beauty change over time and according to geographical location. At one point in China, women who were overweight were considered the most beautiful and at another point in China, women practiced foot-binding because women with teeny-tiny feet were considered the most beautiful.

    Just like race is, physical beauty is a construct of the mind. What matters most, as you and your readers have pointed out, is inner beauty–confidence, talents and compassion–and accepting ourselves just the way we are.

    There is an awesome video going around by Dove that I think you should see if you haven’t already. It shows how the way that people see themselves is often very different than the way in which others see them. You can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk Warning: it made me cry. This video reminded me of you because what you see in the mirror is different from what I see when I look at pictures of you.

    Overall, a wonderfully written post. I think you make a very valid point–we need to teach our children to accept our bodies the way they are, to be okay with not meeting the ridiculous and ever-changing standards of physical beauty and to remember that true beauty comes from the inside.

    1. So true! I am not a big fan of the Dove video. I wish we could move away from the whole beauty thing being the most important thing a woman has to offer. I think letting go of the desire to be pretty is so freeing. I want to use that energy for something more meaningful.

  10. I agree with you 100% … we do get older and that is inevitable but it’s how we handle it and show our daughters that it’s ok to be comfortable in their own skin. And I LOVE making silly faces too!! Keeps me young!

    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo

  11. Trust me, in Europe your teeth would be the whitest of all…
    Hah, and seriously, it’s hard to disagree with you. Women should just stop worrying too much (well, men, too, I don’t know why I made that division) and say “it’s ok not to be ok” or another cliche-like phrase. Because it’s true!

    1. It just seems like, in the U.S. anyway, that we are obsessed with youth and physical beauty. I wish there was more substance. Youth and beauty disappear long before our lives are over. If we are lucky anyway.

      1. I agree with you completely, but it takes a lot of courage and self-esteem not to follow the mainstream and just feel pretty in our own skin. I blame mass media!

  12. So I’ve been thinking a lot about this post and the idea of pretty and if we need to use ourselves to model pretty and feeling pretty for our children.
    I think we need to model caring for our physical selves and appreciating the capacity of our bodies to walk and run and dance and eat, etc, if that means dressing up and makeup for some people and showering and wearing yoga pants for others so be it. I think we need to cut the negative talk — my thighs look fat, I’m ugly, ugh these wrinkles. I think we need to talk holistically about our children and to our children (physical, mental/emotional, spiritual/passion like painting/writing for those who don’t do spiritual) and probably about and to ourselves. I think we need to honor the differences in how our children express their pretty or physical and how we do ours.
    It sounds like you are doing fine unless you want to do something different.

    1. I totally agree. For some people getting fancy is a thing that makes them happy. My daughter is totally one of those people. If that’s what you love to do and think about I say go to it and love your life. I’ve never really been like that. I think what frustrates me is that when women are talked about it’s usually got something to do with beauty. As if all women are so desperate to be gorgeous and it’s their main focus in life. Some of us struggle with other identity issues and we have passions that have nothing to do with what we look like. I would love to see a Dove type commercial about some women who are struggling to become scientists and aren’t sure if they have what it takes, but then, through a series of demonstrations, discover that they are smart and talented enough to make it. A feel good, confidence boost in an area that has nothing to do with what a woman looks like would be awesome. I just don’t see it very often.

      I get the impression from some of the comments here that I probably didn’t express myself well enough. It’s not that I feel ugly and sad about it. Or wanted people to tell me I am pretty. I am noticing that as I get older and lose some of “the pretty” that I am becoming way less concerned about being pretty. It’s not my main priority and never really was, but when I was young it felt like it should be. I feel like I wasted a lot of time and money trying to be something I wasn’t when I was young. I was trying to be someone who cared about being pretty because that is what women were/are supposed to do. Life is going by faster and faster and I am starting to feel it. I can spend my time searching for beauty creams that claim to keep me young or I can paint and write my book. For some people beauty will be the priority and that’s OK too, but for me, it’s just not how I want to spend my time. I guess, what I want for my daughter, is that she be able to spend her time the way she chooses and not feel so much pressure to be and feel beautiful if it doesn’t matter so much to her. I think about Hilary Clinton when she was the First lady and all people talked about was her hair and her clothes. She obviously wanted to spend her time and energy on something besides beauty. I hope one day that can be celebrated as much as women who are well groomed and nicely dressed. On the other hand women who like to design fashion and apply makeup and make things gorgeous should be celebrated too. I just feel sometimes, that they are the only women being celebrated. I want more options on “how to be a woman” for my daughter. Does that make sense? I am going to be terrible at modeling pretty to my daughter because I am busy modeling/feeling/thinking other things. I want that to be OK too.

  13. “So, I keep wondering why do I have to be pretty or feel pretty anyway? Can’t I just be smart instead? Or funny? Or sleeping? ”
    Excellent thought, Lillian!! I just love the way you think!!

  14. I think you are more critical of yourself than others are, but most women (including me) are. But I do love your message – we are so much more than our outside appearance, and that is something very valuable to teacher our daughters.

    1. Some of what might seem overly critical to you is me exaggerating a bit to make it more humorous. I am laughing at myself through this whole post! So much neurosis and nonsense.

      I truly hope that one day we won’t have to teach anyone that we are more than our outside appearance. It should just be a given. I have faith that as a human race we will get there, at least mostly, some day.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  15. I relate to this one too! Lilian – girl – you are my spiritual guru today! Seriously, I went to get my hair colored today. My stylist was this pretty young thang – about 22 – who called me “Hon” by the way. I’m old enough to be her mother. So even when my hair was all done-did and blown out beautifully, I still looked in the mirror and thought “I look old.” “I could lose several pounds.” Yada, yada. I’ve never been “pretty”, but I feel like the attractive days are going bye bye and I’m tired of feeling like I have to compete with the damn Kardashians or something. Your last line. That. Bravo!

    1. First of all, I hate when people call me hon or sweetie. I know they probably don’t mean to sound condescending, but it totally sounds that way to me. It’s one of those things that bugs me.

      I know how you feel. I often feel the same way when I look in the mirror lately or see pictures of myself. I just look tired. I am tired. It’s like I am making peace with the whole “I’ll never be cute again” thing. It just sneaks up on you. In some ways it is good though because I have so many more interesting things to think about and do. I’m heading into this stage in my life where I want to feel accomplished rather than adorable. In some ways it is kind of a relief! I have way more influence over what I accomplish than with what I look like anyway.

  16. I love this so much and completely relate to it. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt pretty but I look at photos of younger me and feel so sad that I didn’t know how great I looked before all these wrinkles and everything else…

  17. I always feel ugly. But you are right, I shouldn’t think about it. Being pretty is not who I am. But who I am is pretty important. That is the lesson I should be teaching my child.

    1. Plus you have gorgeous, shiny hair! I visited your blog. I had some trouble commenting so I don’t know if it went through! Anyway, you seem like a beautiful person to me. Thoughtful and kind. I’m glad to connect with you!

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