Yesterday I posted a quote from former Bond Girl Eva Green, who complained about being told she’s beautiful because she’d rather people compliment her for her acting talents. This quote irked me — as it irked many of you — and I’ve been thinking a little bit about why, exactly, I found it so annoying. On one hand, it’s irritating to hear anyone complain about being complimented. On the other hand, I “get” why it would be bothersome to have her good looks seemingly overshadow her other talents. Regardless, Green’s problem is utterly unrelatable; it’s certainly not one I’ve ever dealt with — quite the opposite, in fact.
Put simply, I would just love for someone to tell me that I am beautiful.
I’m not proud of this desire. I know beauty is only skin deep, that it’s in the eye of the beholder, and other such sayings. I know that what is considered beautiful is something that, in large part, has been shaped by the society we live in. Hell, Jessica Simpson has managed to make an entire crappy show about that very topic. I would rather be smart and funny and kind than drop-dead gorgeous — that’s the truth — but I would still very much like for someone to look at me and praise me exclusively for looking lovely.
This desire to be viewed as beautiful by other people stems from being, well, ugly during my teenage years. When I turned 14, I was hit with a triple dose of hideous — very bad acne, glasses, and a mouth full of braces. My mom will tell you that I was beautiful then and she wouldn’t be lying — but then again, my mom, like most, is utterly incapable of seeing her kids as anything but beautiful. But, in my eyes, I was grotesque and I don’t think I have ever gotten over that. I spent countless hours during class staring at my skin in my compact mirror, applying and reapplying powder, trying everything I could to hide my blemishes. It took me years to get used to smiling wide after finally having my braces removed.
Sometimes when I look in the mirror at the person looking back at me, I see “pretty,” but then my memory of just how not “pretty” I was comes back crystal clear and I find it impossible that what I’m seeing in the mirror is reality. I still feel, in some ways, like that unattractive teen, and I desperately want to have someone (oh hell, a man) look at me and confirm that the person in the mirror is me.
I don’t always feel so insecure — I am totally secure in my abilities at work, in my writing, in my sense of humor, and in how I am as a friend. There are days, a lot of them even, where I feel cute and sexy. Usually this is without any “help,” but I am guaranteed to feel good about the way I look if I get some sort of validation from a man. But even during those moments, I never feel beautiful. I can’t remember the last time I was told that. That’s why insults — intentional or not — directed at my appearance cut so deep; that’s why criticisms about my clothes and style are a dealbreaker.
Every single time that I meet a guy or hook up with someone and it doesn’t go any further or it does and then ends, my gut instinct is to assume that it’s because of the way I look. There is still a teeny tiny part of me — which I know, in my brain, is irrational — that thinks that my ex-fiancé ended things because he just wasn’t attracted to me. Having such a lame time online dating isn’t helping matters either — when I “wink” at someone (never “out of my league” physically, by the way) and they don’t respond, I am sure it’s because I’m not pretty enough.
I’m not fishing for compliments here, I promise. I just want to stop pretending that I am completely secure, that by projecting security I can defeat the pangs of low self-esteem I still sometimes feel. Regarding how an innocuous quote from a celebrity can bug the hell out of me, I should probably examine why; doing so might do me more good than pretending it doesn’t.