Dear Nomi, I’ve always been a little quirky and weird but I’m kind of pretty/okay looking. I want to be beautiful like you and my friends, and have a flat stomach, and take photos and not look chubby and awkward. I want to have fun and be feminine and cute. I just wonder why I have to struggle so much. I never thought I would be the type of girl to have to deal with this kind of loneliness. I have many interesting pursuits, I work very hard… I think having to work so hard and deal with so much has made me rough around the edges and I’m very tired. I want to be beautiful.
Dear Mirror Mirror,
It’s a special kind of hell to resent the body you’re in. Your soul resides in your body; your face greets you daily. This a place that should feel safe and sacred. And yet for many of us our bodies are where we wage battle.
You have decided that your looks are standing between you and happiness. That is an excuse. You have decided that “beautiful” people must also be happy people, and that happy people are happy because they’re beautiful – neither of which are true. And you have sold yourself the notion that there are only a handful of physical characteristics that make up a beautiful person, and that you don’t have them, and so can never be beautiful.
In summary… you’ve equated happiness with beauty and defined beauty as something unachievable. You have now made it impossible to feel any semblance of personal satisfaction and confidence.
Instagram has certainly intensified the compulsion to compare oneself to other women, a habit that media, art, advertising, and pop culture have long embedded in our psyches. The desire to look a certain way, a very specific way, has given rise to the Instagram Face, a literal template of characteristics that even supermodels are not immune from succumbing to (see: why do Kendell Jenner and Emily Ratijowski now look exactly the same??).
And while I do believe that society profits off of our self-doubt, this won’t be a piece where I espouse that looks don’t matter. It’d be very easy to respond to your quandary by saying everyone is beautiful and that caring about your looks is a waste of time. But I neither support nor agree with those statements.
It’s absurdly understandable to find certain qualities in a person attractive or appealing; we all have our taste. It’s not okay, however, to think that only those qualities have value. Your version of beauty excludes so many other types of people, most notably… YOURSELF! This idea that there is one perfect woman is outdated, and honestly out of touch.
Any brand relevant in the world of beauty and fashion is widening their representation and showing the ways that beauty, in all of its forms, can be celebrated. Lizzo was in Playboy! ARIE, among their constantly forward thinking and inclusive array of models, has featured a girl with a colostomy bag in an ad campaign. Her name is Gaylyn Henderson, look her up. Jillian Mercado has muscular dystrophy, is confined to a wheelchair, and just did New York Fashion Week! Lyn Slater and Joani Johnson are both over 60 and are working models; models who only became models in their sixties! And @GirlGaze is often an endless scroll of delicious cellulite, stretch marks, and wrinkles. All of the above are beautiful.
These examples aren’t the outliers; they’re quickly becoming the norm. Collectively, society has woken up to the fact that – capital “W” –We can decide what is beautiful; that there are so many things about us naturally that are beautiful if we just care to cast them in the right light.
You, my friend, are not casting yourself in the right light.
What is it that you feel beauty, as you’ve defined it, will get you that you’re currently lacking? Is it attention? Because there are plenty of other ways, more substantial and interesting ways, to get attention from your peers, friends, or family. Is it love? Because the type of love that will come to you because of the way you look is not the type of love you want in your life. Is it money? There are enough odd-ass looking billionaires to prove ‘looks’ and ‘money’ need not swim in the same bath. Or is it an unshakeable sense of self that will enable you to navigate the world with confidence and conviction? Because that, my friend, is achievable for absolutely anyone and has near not one thing to do with looks.
While you may not ever feel like the most beautiful person of all time, you can certainly feel like the most beautiful version of you.
Beauty is partly outlook, partly effort, and partly persistent and unwavering acceptance that you are who you are, and you look how you look. Express yourself through your personal style. For as long as you want to look like every other girl in your friend group, a sense of personal beauty will escape you, because you won’t be paying tribute to the things that make you unique, special, and thereby beautiful. We respond to people so much more based on their energy and vibe than the specifics of what they look like. Owning who you are, how you look, and what you’ve got is the core ingredient to feeling and looking beautiful.
Instead of focusing on the abstract and impossible idea of wanting to be beautiful like your friends, try: I want to feel healthy; I want to invest in a few staple wardrobe pieces; I want to take care of my teeth, skin and nails; I want to learn a few essential makeup tricks; I want to feel more comfortable expressing myself in front of the camera; I want to find a new way to style my hair or get a new haircut. I want to learn to dress for my unique body type. I want to highlight what makes me unique.
Sure, if you hate your nose, get a nose job… just don’t expect the nose job to make you happy, less empty, or more fulfilled. A nose job will make you happier with your nose but all that underlying stuff… the loneliness, the exhaustion… will still be there under the bandages.
So focus on what makes you you, learn to love it, and own it like there’s no tomorrow. Because why be beautiful… when you can be brilliant 😉