Well that title got your attention 🙂
As many of you know, I began a blog series featuring women and real beauty during Women’s History Month in March and have continued it into April. This post is the conclusion of the series.
As many of you also know, I value transparency and vulnerability in my relationships and in my writing. Throughout the last two months I have felt a constant a tugging on my heart to share more honestly about a certain side of my relationship with beauty. It’s a tough and extremely vulnerable part to share, so I trust you to read with openness and grace.
So here goes.
Whereas many of us wrote during the beautiful blog series about ways that society has caused us to feel ugly, some of us referred only vaguely to how our female relationships can also impact our view of our own beauty.
Let me start by saying that I am extremely defensive of, and cringe at, the oft-heard phrase by women (and men) that “I just can’t trust women” or “all women are so catty.” These statements, though at times true, are certainly not always true.
But, there is a truth in the fact that women can- at times- be intimidated by, or resentful towards, women who they consider to be beautiful.
I am also guilty of this.
We see a beautiful woman and we think she is stuck up at worst, or too good for us (she has it all together, doesn’t need me as a friend) at best.
Here is my own experience with this:
In both undergraduate and graduate school I had candid conversations with other women (to whom I am eternally grateful for their honesty) who shared with me that they (and others) were intimidated by me because of my looks. This information was both very hard to hear, as well as a relief.
It was hard to hear because I was extremely lonely and I didn’t want people to think I was unapproachable or “too beautiful” for them to be friends with me. One of the women told me she was uncomfortable going without make-up around me. How sad this was to me as I completely value my days in sweats and no make-up and wished she felt the same freedom with me! It was also hard because I knew that I was too good at hiding my flaws- something I have since worked arduously to change (more on this later).
It was a relief because- particularly in undergrad- I didn’t understand why it was so hard for me to make friends with girls. I was shy, and I realized that being shy and pretty comes across as being stuck up. So, I finally understood that I wasn’t unlikable or the loser I felt like, but only that people had false perceptions of me based off my looks.
The conversations with those women and others since have taught me that I have to be very conscious of how I’m coming across to others. Since then, I try to be very honest with my imperfections and flaws. I try to initiate conversation and be outgoing, even when I feel unsure of myself. But I also accept that it will just take some people time to get to know me and my heart.
This is vulnerable for me to write about because (A) I’m acknowledging my own beauty (according to others) and (B) I am confessing that I, too, have the tendency to see women in this light at times. How often have I met a beautiful woman and assumed she has all the friends she needs, leaving her as lonely as I was starting out at U of M? How often have I assumed a woman who looks stunning in the perfect outfit and is shy is also a bit of a snob?
I try to be conscious of these misconceptions but they certainly rear their ugly, unwarranted heads from time to time.
So here is what I am not saying:
I am not saying that I think I’m beautiful all the time, but that I have gotten feedback that other people’s perceptions of my beauty have impacted their attitude towards me.
I am not saying that everyone needs to feel sorry for me because I’m “the poor little pretty girl”.
And here’s what I am saying:
I am saying that our relationships to our own beauty are deep and complex (ie- knowing intellectually that people think I’m beautiful, but feeling ugly most of the time).
I am saying that women who are perceived as beautiful can sometimes be subject to unfair judgment (as can women of several different shapes, sizes, and appearances- noticing a theme here?).
I am saying that I have to be incredibly intentional both about how I come across to others, and about how I may be judging or misperceiving others.
And I’m saying thank you for taking the time to read this, for extending grace to me, and for reflecting on what this stirs in your own soul.
If you have thoughts you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear them in the comments section.
 When I do this (am honest about my own flaws) poorly it looks like being self-deprecating (“Oh, you like my hair, but did you see my bald spot?” “You like this shirt? I got it at a garage sale for $3 and it has a hole in the elbow. See?”) It can also contribute to my tendency to buy my clothes too big, because I fear it might look like I think I’m skinnier than I am or like I’m showing off if I wear something too fitting. When I do this well it means that I accurately and honestly point out how I’ve failed at something like not getting accepted to any schools for my PhD or times when I feel overwhelmed at work.