The Meaning Of Being "Pretty"
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Health and Wellness

The Meaning Of Being "Pretty"

What does the construct mean to us as a society?

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The Meaning Of Being "Pretty"

I remember the first time a boy called me "pretty." It was the summer of my 16th year and I was wearing a pair of American Apparel high-waisted shorts and a lace crop top with my hair in a topknot on a warm August day. I felt anything but pretty in the hot, humid moment, though my skepticism over the statement stemmed from something other than my appearance. I couldn't help but think about a more vivid memory: the first time a boy called me "ugly."

That happened when I was 11, over an AIM conversation a friend of mine was having with a guy about the girls in our sixth grade class. The guy doing the judging wasn't very important to me, but having him type out an exuberant "EWWWWW" when my name was presented followed by an explanation of my unattractive and fatness was jarring. It left an indelible mark on a young Rachel.

These memories lead me to think about what value "prettiness" has in our society. While we have increased our efforts to tell young girls they should not require the validation of young men (or anyone, really) to feel good about themselves, how whole-hearted are we in these efforts? We still continue to produce stories where attractive individuals — whether in the physical sense or the personal — win out. But is this decision based on our own selfishness, or is it just art imitating reality?

The labels we place on people will always be important because what we preach is so rarely practiced. No number of body positivity campaigns or words of kindness will stop the inevitability of mean middle schoolers or the basic truth that "pretty" people will experience some advantages in life. And while, yes, there is something behind the "if you believe it, you can achieve it" ideology, it's kind of hard to force people to fancy you if they aren't attracted to your aesthetics. So how do we handle this issue of dwindling self confidence?

Well, again, I turn to myself, to compare what I looked like when I was "ugly," when I was "pretty," and now, which is probably somewhere in between:

Looking at these pictures, the differences I see are less in the appearance (though I certainly don't miss my glasses or braces) and more in the person I was. The girl in later years has a plan and a passion, neither of which are dependent on what someone thinks of her. She is interesting, and she cares more about that than others' opinions. "Pretty" is a combination of internal and external factors, which is the reason I'd argue it falls second to confidence, something you can have regardless of and even in spite of others. Confidence is what gets you places, maybe even gets you to being considered "pretty," if you want to be.

OK, so maybe the scars of my not-so-pretty past will always be there, and perhaps I'm still not sure if I'm "pretty" or not, but here's one thing I do know: there are definitely some things about me that are pretty freaking cool.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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