Don’t Call Me Pretty

Mantle

I am not a super model, but some think I’m pretty.  I have been called all the words for a woman who meets the generally acceptable societal standards of attractiveness: pretty, beautiful, sexy.  I have had male attention.  I have dated.  I have married.

I know that the way I look has been an advantage for me because women are judged by the way we look.  I have probably been offered more help in stores.  I have probably made more money in my career.  I know I have been judged far less than others.  I know there are advantages I cannot see because that is how privilege works.  I get that.

But I don’t want to be called pretty.  I don’t want anyone to give me compliments based on the way I look.  When I was a child, I was always complimented on my appearance … right before I was raped … for money.  When I was a child, it appeared that a beautiful person was someone to be bought, rented, owned or controlled.  A beautiful person was held the same value as a beautiful trinket … a trinket that would be purchased, placed on a mantle and shown to others.  “Look at the beautiful thing that I own”.  “I have always wanted one of these”.  Money talked … and beauty was to be owned.

Some may think that I am too sensitive.  Some may think that my past has damaged my perception.  Some may think that the men from my childhood have ruined my chances of relating to any man in adulthood.  Believe me, I have thought of that.  But I have also seen how society treats women.  The focus on a woman’s appearance is everywhere.  A woman can’t be fat.  A woman can’t be old.  A woman can’t have wrinkles.  A woman can’t have grey hair.  A woman can’t have cellulite.  A woman has to dress for her assets.

I watch the response to my son and my daughter (who are twins).  I see the difference.  Although there is still some focus on my son’s looks, there is much more attention on my daughter’s appearance.  What do they say about my son?  He is strong.  He is smart.  He is a little entrepreneur.  One day, he will be very successful.  He will be a speech writer for the President.

But my daughter is so pretty.  She is so cute.  She is so petite.  She has the most beautiful eyes.  Her red hair is so unique.  She looks like a little princess.  She is wearing the cutest outfit.  As a society, we start the brainwashing as soon as we can tell if they are a boy or a girl.

So don’t tell me I am pretty.  Tell me I am courageous.  Tell me I am strong.  Tell me I am intelligent.  Tell me I am honest or truthful or vulnerable.  Tell me I have it together.  Tell me I am an amazing parent.  Tell me you respect me.  But don’t focus on my appearance.  I am not here to be something you can look at, purchase or show off to others.  I am a person.  I have value.  And that value doesn’t have a price.

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38 thoughts on “Don’t Call Me Pretty

  1. I love this Elizabeth! I still have an issue with unwelcomed attention. Btw, any attention is unwelcomed. Unless it’s from my spouse. I hated it as a child and i still don’t like it. People would just call me shy. They didn’t get it. It just gives me a sick feeling. And, amen, please focus on my personality!

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  2. Very thought-provoking post. I was the pretty sister who followed the smart sister all throughout school, and oh how I hated it. I just discovered your blog, and as the author of the Setting Boundaries book series, I have been reading your posts with great interest. And Elisabeth, you are more than courageous, strong, and intelligent…your transparency makes you inspiring and relevant. I’m a new fan. Bravo to you!

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  3. Wow, how powerful!! I get it. I have been judged on my looks too, especially as a child. For me it was, “you have such a pretty face. If you lost weight you’d be beautiful”. … Hello, I was (and am) beautiful, just the way I was. Regardless of my weight. I still battle with feelings of unworthiness now, at age 41. Looks are irrelevant. Focus on my talent. My intelligence. My loving and caring nature. Those are the things that are important. Much love and support to you for your incredible courage, vulnerability and intelligence in being willing to share so much of yourself. Xx

    Ali 🙂

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    • Hi there, Writing is a powerful healer. I know that. I use it all the time. However, sometimes it isn’t quite enough to reduce the suicidal feelings. Just remember, the emotions you are feeling are old. They are tied to your past and not your present. Also, I am hoping you have a licensed therapist who you can discuss these feelings with. It is critical that you have a therapeutic relationship if you are dealing with such intense darkness.

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  4. Hi Elisabeth. Beautiful post! I must say that when we met, while being impressed with your superficial assets, I was way more moved by your evident inner strength. Your self confidence and self awareness is empowering to those you come across. Keep up the great work! And good luck moving forward, along your own personal path of enlightenment…

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  5. Thank you so much for making this point! I’ve been trying to explain it to people for a long time, but no one around me seems to think the same way.

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    • You’re welcome. It is a hard point to make in our society. We are so focused on looks. And most people think they are just being nice when they compliment someone on their appearance. We just need to keep starting the conversation.

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    • Thank you so much for your affirmation! I actually have two points. I definitely want to educate and inform those who were not trafficked or abused. I also want survivors to know that they are not alone when they are struggling with the everyday issues of life.

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      • I got it. 🙂
        I didn’t have your form of control during my abuse, I had the opposite “you are useless, worthless, ugly” I think I was supposed to be gratefull for my abusers attention? Perhaps if I had been born a fool he would still be pulling my strings now? 😀

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      • I heard the insults too. It just depended on the day. Usually, I was “useless and worthless” if I was fighting back, and I was a “beautiful, good girl” if I was doing as my abusers wanted. It takes a long time to get out from under an abuser even when someone is not born a fool. Congratulations on breaking free.

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      • It did take a long time to “break free” plus a good therapist.
        When I re read my comment it appeared harsh? I didn’t intend to imply anthing with the “fool” reference, sorry if I upset anyone, 😦

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      • Not at all. I just wanted you to understand the enormity of your accomplishments. Us survivors can be hard on ourselves. We are quick to downplay what we have done. I am “up-playing” it. 🙂 You should consider the survivor forum on my blog. I have just started it and I am hoping for some great discussion in there.

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  6. I keep trying to comment and it’s not working – so I hope I haven’t commented a million times haha.

    Thank you so much for your story. I deeply sympathize with the sentiments that you share, although I cannot begin the comprehend the trauma and anguish you experienced as a child. I am so glad that you are speaking about it – I think we have to stop pushing these things under the rug if we want them to change. I write about similar issues on my blog, http://duckyfem.wordpress.com/ (if you are ever interested!). I’m definitely going to follow your blog from now on! Thanks for you inspiring words and spirit!

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    • Thank you so much! I am so glad you like the post. At first, I was afraid to put it out there, but I am over that now. I am following your blog too. We will keep talking until there is change.

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  7. Dear Elisabeth,
    I just wanted to say a big thank you for this post. I have been an abused child myself.
    This year, I was trying to explain to my psychologist (who is an awesome woman and supports me all the time, every time) why I am bothered by people calling me pretty.
    She could not understand. She just continued saying that I should accept that besides that I am strong and intelligent and funny – I am pretty.
    Maybe I should accept it. Maybe I will never be able to accept it. But your words taught me that I am not alone and you expressed the mechanism of labeling just perfectly.
    Thank you.

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  8. Hi I can somehow relate to your article suffering from abuse myself. And i can truly say I found it! I found the liberation i was indefinitely seeking. Islam is the answer – the liberator of Islam. Far from what the media says and portrays, i didn’t need therapy, i didnt need to understand the psychology of people to deal with the issue. I pray that all my sisters that have been abused truly find the happiness and freedom they want.

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  9. Pingback: November Link Roundup | The Story of Rei

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