My Version of Pretty

I was listening to the radio yesterday, on my way home from visiting a friend, and Selena Gomez’s “Who Says” started playing. I’m going to admit this right here, right now: I like it. It reminds me a lot of some of my other favorite songs, “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, and most recently “Fuckin’ Perfect” by P!nk (my all-time favorite singer). It’s an anthem telling you to stand up and declare, “Yes! I am beautiful, no matter what you think or what you say. We are all beautiful!” And I love this idea of shrugging off any ideas that society can dictate how you feel about your appearance.
While I was singing along, I started thinking about these artists who are sending this powerful message to their fans. Do they believe what they are saying? When Selena or Christina or P!nk sing the lyrics, are they feeling just as confident as their words make them sound? I did a little bit of research (only a little bit, I just went to Wikipedia) and P!nk is the only one of those three who actually wrote the song she sings. (Note: This is not me saying anything bad about Selena or Christina. Song-writing and singing are two different talents, and I think Selena and Christina are both very talented singers.)

Then I thought about my own life. These anthems always have such a profound effect on me. I love to sing along, often quite loudly. Sometimes I yell the lyrics while in my car, as if the volume of my voice will make me believe what I’m saying.

When I got home, this idea of empowerment anthems in pop music, I took a long look in the mirror. Selena’s lyrics were still echoing in my head: I’m sure you got some things / You’d like to change about yourself / But when it comes to me / I wouldn’t want to be anybody else…I’m no beauty queen / I’m just beautiful me. My eyes gazed over the little imperfections they always seem to focus on in front of any reflective surface. The belly fat that just won’t go away, covered in stretch marks. The bushy eyebrows that I’ve never quite gotten control of, but at least aren’t almost-uni-brow status anymore. The nose I got from my dad, so prominent but only really noticeable in photographs. The thighs that have been smushed together at the top for longer than I can remember, causing my mom to refer to me as “thunder thighs” in my adolescence. My breasts that used to be too small, are now too big and are always sagging at my young age.

These are the things that sometimes I dream about “fixing” with lasers and surgery and a couple hundred thousand dollars. These are the things that I have complained about in front of T. So guess what happens now? He refers to my belly as “fat” because that’s what he’s heard me say. None of this has reflected on himself, but do I really want my 4-year-old to think that I believe I’m fat?

But here’s the thing. I really do think I’m beautiful. I look in the mirror, and I see my flaws, but I love myself in spite of them (or perhaps, because of them?). I sing those anthems at the top of my lungs because I really don’t want to be anybody else, I think I’m fantastic the way I am, and I want everyone to feel the same way about themselves.

That being said, I don’t really live or act as if I believe it. And I wonder if a lot of that is holding onto the things I feel have defined me.

When I was younger and less confident, I was always playing and experimenting with my looks in an effort to stand out. I dyed my hair pink and orange and blue, I wore clothes that purposefully didn’t match or “go together” and I clomped around in my Doc Martens wearing black lace fingerless gloves. I was “unique” and “eclectic” and a million other adjectives that meant I would stand out in a crowd. All of this helped me declare to the world: “I may not be your version of pretty, but look how different and special I am!” That was who I was. In fact, after I grew up a little bit, I put the pink back in my hair. It was adorable. And it felt comfortable. Because I had defined myself by this one little piece of my appearance. It was a strange thing for a simple hair color to change how I felt about myself.

I am confident with the way I look. I can go out in public without makeup, without doing my hair, wearing ratty jeans and still feel good about myself.

So why do I still participate in self-deprecating behavior? In the Senior Hottie link up, I used “but not really” in my title. Why? I think I was adorable in high school. I wasn’t winning any beauty contests, but look at that beautiful smile! That girl looks so happy, even if she was a complete dork. I actively complain about those flaws I mentioned earlier. I whine, constantly, about how out of shape I am (even as I’m getting my ass to the gym at least 3 days a week). I commiserate with my friends when they complain about their own flaws.

This has got to stop.

My friends I am commiserating with? They are all absolutely gorgeous. And I think they should know it.

I need to stop holding onto the things I thought defined me. I cannot be defined by those perceived flaws. I should be defined by the positive things about myself. I am not my bad attitude. I am so much more.

Plus, this guy right here tells me all the time how pretty I am.
That’s a face I can trust.
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