You Don’t Have To Be Pretty To Be Beautiful

There is something incredibly attractive about a sequined dress next to two strappy red heels. When the only things left behind after supper are folded napkins and a lipstick stain on a glass. That stain is both insignificant and massive. It radiates maturity, femininity, mystery.

Statistically, pretty people get farther in life. With elegance and poise, they get the job. They get the compliments. They get the guy.

But that’s not me. That’s not many of you.  Although we applaud those who can, some of us are just unable to find our balance in stilettos.

I know you. I get you.

When you were younger, high heels and lipstick were the vision of the future. You were the ballerina. You were the Backstreet Boys fan girl. You were the kid with the 30 bottles of nail polish in your Lisa-Frank tin lunchbox. You were the girl with the imagination and the Pretty Pretty Princess game.

You were the child who watched your mother putting on makeup and then found a marker and delicately colored your entire face. And your feet. And your fingers.

Because you knew exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up; you wanted to be pretty. In fact, it seemed like everyone wanted you to be pretty: your parents’  friends, those Disney princesses, the women in the Herbal Essences commercials…

Especially the women in the Herbal Essences commercials.

It was clear to you that you would never be a bona fide, card-carrying member of the female sex until the slow motion of your weightless, frizzless hair caused men to turn their heads as you floated by.

Except that you never figured out how defrizzify your hair. And you certainly never figured out how to float.

And although you despaired that your frizz could not be tamed, you quickly realized that it could be dealt with. Easily. Your hair was finally long enough to store in a ponytail and your legs were finally strong enough to propel you into a run. You began hiding out at the top of that magnolia tree and instead of dreaming about fame and beauty, you imagined how it would feel to fly.

You replaced your Barbie collection with a collection of scars: from that time that branch cracked as you were climbing, and that time your foot slipped as you were balancing, and that time that dog bit you as you were exploring. And you did not feel pretty. You did not feel flawless.

But that was okay. Because you were young and curious and, although you cared about your appearance and always made sure to look put-together, you did not yet worry about the ‘lasting impression’ you left on others.

You figured that eventually, something would click and you’d naturally develop that ‘feminine mystique’. You were sure that, with time, you’d metamorphasize into someone more delicate, and more demure, and less scarred.

Because according to the Herbal Essences dictionary, that’s what pretty women were.

But you were wrong. After all of these years, you’re still not that attractive girl in that cute outfit with those sexy shoes.

You’re that girl who wears a $9 Durable Waterproof Wal-Mart watch. Because that one time you saved up for a Swatch watch, you forgot you were wearing it and drowned it in a lake.

You’re that girl who stuffs her gear into a backpack instead of a clutch. Because you never know when you’ll need a water bottle, or a granola bar, or a book.

You’re that girl who paints her nails at breakfast because she likes the look of the taste of the rainbow on her fingertips. But the polish is always chipped by supper. Because you still enjoy climbing things. And climbing doesn’t mix well with manicures.

And you’re that girl who stares at others in short skirts as they gently cross one leg over the other and wonders, ‘Should I be more like that?’

But you’re not. You’re not like that.

You wear long skirts so that you can curl up in a ball on the couch.

You choose to sit on the floor because you like looking up at things and feeling small and filled with wonder.

You buy clothing that you can dance in. Because the music moves you. And your body can fly.

You immediately free your feet from their shackles whenever you’re near dirt. There is something about the flavor of it. The earthy feeling of brown. You want to rest your head on it and water the ground with your dreams.

You wear waterproof eyeliner (oh, yes. I know that you still have your ‘pretty’ habits) every day so that, just in case it rains, you will be able to splash freely.

You choose perfume that smells like dew and crystals.

Your scent, your clothes, your chipped nails… they remind you of home. And you’ve resigned yourself to that. Because home is a wonderful place to be.

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I have no way of knowing whether you consider yourself a ‘pretty’ girl or not. And, honestly, it’s kind of irrelevant.  Because it matters little whether you have the best body or the brand name sunglasses or the frizzless hair. And it matters even less whether faces turn as you walk past.

Because whether or not these descriptions seem to fit you, something I know without ever having met you is that you are not only pretty:

You are beautiful.

It doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad acne day, or a bloated week, or a bags-under-your-eyes month, or an I-hate-makeup life.

I’ll say it again (with periods for extra emphasis): You. Are. Beautiful.

And really (as much confidence as I have in the power of my words) it’s entirely useless for me to tell you that. I could write it here over and over and over again and you would still not believe me.

Because you, my dear, must tell it to yourself.

You must look into that mirror and let your eyes feast upon your skin and your scars and the soul of your eyes and you must tell yourself, “I am beautiful.”

And then you must shout it, “I AM BEAUTIFUL.”

And then you must drown out the other voices in your head calling you ugly or fat or unsophisticated by repeating those three words one thousand times or more.

You must repeat them until you have absorbed them into your blood and you know them to be true.

You must arm yourself with that knowledge.

Because you are fighting a battle against the media. Commercialism has shouted it’s mighty battle cry of ‘SEX APPEAL’ and attacks you with images of surface and skin and blindingly white teeth. And it makes you feel… less-than.

Less than what? You don’t know. But you are sure that you are less. And you are sure that you will remain less until you loose those 5 pounds or buy that new coat or wear that flawless makeup.

And with all these subliminal messages of ‘less-than’, the truth often is muted. So I’ll say it again for good measure.

Regardless of style or look – You. Are. Beautiful.

Because the foundation of beauty goes far deeper than the foundation one smoothes upon one’s skin. The beauty that fills you and shines from you stems from your kindness, from your excitement, from your having worked on your character more than any reasonable person should.

You are patient. You are passionate. You are bright.

You are a searcher. You are a finder. You are a sharer.

You are someone’s daughter, you are someone’s friend. You are someone’s student, you are someone’s teacher. You are someone’s reason for continuing to hope in the goodness of the world.

You. Are. Beautiful.

Write those words on a piece of paper and stick it to your wall. Read the lines on that page to yourself every morning before you start your day and every night before you fall asleep.

Read them until you accept them for the truth that they are.

And, when you ask, ‘do I look pretty in this dress?’ I will tell you, ‘no, you do not look pretty in that dress’.

Because that dress looks pretty on you.

Because you, my dear, are stunning.

And your beauty is fierce. It will change the world. Because when you tread, you do not leave footprints in your wake. You leave wildfires.

Photo by Brendan Lynch