*NOT* A Pretty Face

Ladies, grab a mirror and take a good, long look. Like what you see? No? It wouldn’t be a very surprising answer. Research appearing in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence has shown that a girl’s self-esteem goes into a steep decline beginning at age 12 and doesn’t improve until around the age of 20. The fashion and makeup industries convince girls to compare themselves to beauty standards set by airbrushed models, while body positivity campaigns reassure adolescent girls that they’re beautiful just the way they are. Guess what? They’re both wrong.

It may seem like a fanatical opinion, but allow me to explain exactly what I’m implying. First, I wholly believe in the notion of inner beauty. Everyone is equally capable of displaying that special glow Roald Dahl expounds upon in “The Twits”: “You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” One rewording I would make to that: everyone can be lovely, but not everyone can look lovely. And that’s a fact. Across societal and cultural borders, humans are very consistent in their determination of what accounts for an aesthetically pleasing face and body. On the flip side, across the same borders, people share self-esteem struggles. So where does all this negativity stem from?

Comparison is the thief of joy, as they say, and the old adage is never more relevant than in regards to beauty standards. You can read all the body positivity articles Google search turns up, or buy every product from Sephora in the hopes of looking like Adriana Lima, but the truth is, if you aren’t pretty…well, you’re not! And guess what — that’s okay. Let me reiterate that for the people in the back: it is perfectly okay to be unattractive. It’s not bad luck; in fact, it’s statistics. The majority of us are average, or plain, or even ugly, with a very small percentage considered attractive. Often times, however, the first compliment given to girls is how “pretty” or “gorgeous” or “stunning” they look. I’ll be the first to admit it can be empowering to receive these comments, or to dress up and put on some lipstick to “feel pretty”; however, we let these words act as an be-all, end-all for the way we view ourselves and others.

Quickly evolving gender norms are helping to redefine femininity. Understand that beauty is not a benchmark you must meet, or an expectation you must uphold just because you are a girl; if you are, in fact, beautiful, all the more power to you. But for those of us who aren’t, believing the lie of our own outward beauty is just as demeaning and detrimental as holding ourselves to the preconceived ideals of beauty industries. Girls constantly seek validation for their looks because they feel it’s what they are supposed to do; however, completely eliminating beauty as a factor for comparison offers a whole realm of freedom unbeknownst to most young women. Accepting the fact you aren’t pretty allows you to redirect those energies previously devoted to trying to sculpt yourself into a supermodel towards new areas, like your hobbies or personality or worldview and all those other meaningful personal traits that really matter in the long run.

There are so many other kick-a** things to be besides just pretty. It doesn’t hurt to feel pretty, but we as a society need to facilitate a cultural shift away from the constant worrying of whether we actually are pretty. You’re allowed to look just the way you are, unapologetically. So stop obsessing over the mirror and take some time to develop that inner beauty and persona. Your self-esteem will thank you for it. And remember, you are beautiful — just maybe not in the way everyone is telling you in the comments of your latest Instagram selfie.