Like most people, sometimes I have moments – usually while Facebook stalking a woman who just commented on the status of a guy I’m interested in – where I sigh inwardly and say to myself, “I wish I were pretty.”
Over the years, there have been different women who I’ve secretly (or sometimes not-so-secretly) kind of hated because they are gorgeous, put-together, well-dressed, have a perfect smile, are well-accoladed on social media, turn men’s heads, and are always peppy, friendly and outgoing. I would look at these sorts of women and think to myself, “I wish I were pretty (and well-liked and outgoing and confident and positive) like her.” Before I got in bed tonight, I was on Instagram doing this exact thing.
But I think if I were honest with myself, I don’t think I really even want to look like them. I freely admit that I’m a rather wonky-looking person, but that kind of fits my personality. Most of the time, for the most part, I like the skin I’m in. There are a couple things I would (and might) change…Straight teeth would be nice. Though part of me respects middle school-aged me for deciding not to finish orthodontics and just embrace my wonky smile. But I also realize I probably look like a hillbilly vampire. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have voluptuous breasts like Victoria’s Secret models. Or really just most any normal woman who has passed through puberty. But I have come to accept my flat chest, even to like it.
The point is, I think what I really envy about these women is not their appearance, but their attractiveness, the way they naturally draw people to like them and pursue their companionship. Women want to be their friends, know how they did their hair, like their artsy selfies on Facebook. And men, men flock to them in an odd daze of fearful infatuation. Frequently men who I’ve had a connection with and pinned my romantic hopes on end up getting hung up on one of these hot, peppy women who they feel like they can’t obtain but still hang around, drawn to their beauty and radiance. They might not ever even make a move, but they can’t seem to let go of the girl.
Duke Gardens, NC (photo by Rebecca Gale)
As someone who has written enough songs about unrequited love to make Fearless-era Taylor Swift proud, and who frankly is still waiting to even experience a requited romantic relationship (there…I admitted it to the world), this really pisses me off and preys on my own insecurity about not being attractive enough to interest anyone because, well, historically that’s been pretty true.
I’m not sure what makes people attractive. It’s more than just their physical features, it’s their clothes, their voice, their energy, their personality, their mannerisms. I don’t know what the right combination of these things is that makes you attractive or how to obtain it. I suppose we all have different traits we find attractive in other people too. The people who will really value us will love us for who we are.
The one time I have come close to falling in love was with someone who was quite different from my ideal man or physical type that I tend to fall for. But I was quickly won over by who he was, and the traits that were especially quirky and different are the ones I found the most endearing. But overall, while I can point out certain physical and personality traits I especially love about this person, it’s his entirety overall that captured my heart – his presence that can’t be recreated or replaced or made up for. Someone could look just like him or have similar interests to him, but they still wouldn’t be him.
I guess it’s good to keep in mind that people who love and care for us love our entirety. When we compare ourselves to others, we tend to fall into a mindset of picking out parts of ourselves we would change, but the reality is we each are individuals that people love or hate for who we are, if that makes sense. It’s not worth trying to be different or wishing we were different. I think at the end of the day, most of us just want to be myself and be loved and appreciated for the unique conglomeration of traits that make us who we are more than we actually want to look a certain way.
I’ve had a million pieces of advice given to me over the years on how to magically make yourself attractive to people. Be confident. Wear spanx. Let your body run free and burn your bra. Don’t wear makeup. Wear more makeup. Put on heels. Wear sweats. Focus on yourself. Focus on other people. Go after the men you want. Never, ever pursue a man. Concentrate on the energy you put out. Get involved in what makes you passionate.
My favorite that I constantly get is some variation of “Once you stop pursuing a relationship and focus on yourself, the right person just appears.” This sounds like a fantastic idea, only every time I attempt it, the thought in the back of my mind is constantly, “Awesome. Once I do this, whatever it is, I’ll finally find love!” So that kind of undermines the exercise.
I’m not sure why I’m sharing all this personal information with you, except that I think most people, men and women, probably can relate on some level. And I think the more we admit and are vulnerable about the things we struggle with, the more we get out of our own head and can move on, and the more we help one another deal with the things that keep us up at night and keep us from being our best selves and living a happy life.
Jealousy resulting from personal insecurity can really eat you up inside. It can destroy relationships with friends and significant others. It distracts us. It preoccupies us. It’s not easy to get rid of…I’ve been in therapy long enough to know that. But admitting our insecurities, considering whether we really want to be that person we envy and why it might not solve our problems, naming our own strengths and realizing that our attractiveness lies not in individual features we pick apart but in a collective essence of a person – their appearance yes, but their quirks, their unique physical and personality traits, their voice and walk, their talents, their conversation, their interests and passions…It’s about so much more. Which I guess means we should be ourselves and embrace who we are. Because that’s who and what people will love when they love us.
And unfortunately we can’t always find people who appreciate our uniqueness, whether platonically or romantically. I’m sorry if that’s true for you right now. And even though it might not seem like it, you’re not alone in experiencing that. But I hope you can start to embrace yourself, your loneliness, and turn it into independence.
I’m not about to prescribe to anyone a treatment plan to magically fix insecurity. I’m not even going to condemn you for envying someone else. I’m tired of those didactic, condescending pep talks in articles and during conversations from friends, telling you to embrace yourself and go on a fast from men (usually given by people in happy, committed relationships, may I add.) I believe there’s a process to everything that you have to feel out for yourself. Rules and regimes work for some but not others.
Maybe we should stop forcing ourselves to try and either 1) fit into a mold of attractiveness or 2) force ourselves to stop caring about being attractive. I’d rather just accept myself – clingy, desperate, coming on too strong sometimes and being way too shy at others – and start from there. Maybe first with finding kinder ways to describe myself.
You do you. And enjoy it.
Be your own free koi spirit. (Duke Gardens, Durham, NC; photo by Rebecca Gale)