From the minute we are born, we are shoved full of contradicting notions that our bodies are both beautiful and not good enough. We see the images of gorgeous models and wonder why we are not more like them, but then hear campaigns telling us that this is all Photoshopped nonsense and that "real women" are beautiful.
I find that these "think pieces" about real beauty and body image are great for a confidence booster, but they carry very little weight in the real world. I've found that there is something that works for me and carries me through because it is the only, sometimes heart-crushing, reality I have. I have accepted the fact that I am the ugly friend.
I see it in pictures, in my social interactions, in the way that people speak to me. I will never, ever be conventionally beautiful, especially in the culture that I live in. I am blessed to be friends with some amazing and strikingly beautiful women. I go out with them and I get the impression from men that I am simply an obstacle to keep distracted while they hit on my more attractive counterparts. So I've accepted it.
You see, beauty is nothing more than a social construct created by the people of a certain culture. There is nothing that scientifically says that skinny thighs and long hair are beautiful, but it is culturally ingrained in us from day one. So, while we can preach on and on every day about how everyone on the entire planet is drop-dead gorgeous, that is simply not how the world works.
It's always hard to talk about this with my friends, especially women, because naturally, we are also programmed to make our friends and even strangers feel good about their appearance. Everyone, down to the most beautiful woman on earth, has insecurities, but to some of us, those insecurities are just cold, hard facts. I know that my thighs are too big, I don't have a very defined face and I could stand to lose more than a few pounds. I know that people see that. I know that it's looked down upon in Western culture.
So, what do we do? Everything in my gut is telling me that writing this is somehow a betrayal to my gender. The idea that anyone could call himself or herself less than attractive feels wrong and somehow searching for attention. But, I choose to believe that my strength lies in other areas. And I don't want this to be a think piece that tells women how they should define their attractiveness. I think that everyone has a right to value their beauty or any other trait they feel the most pride in without shame.
I'm good at making "30 Rock" references. I'm a loyal friend. I make a mean Funfetti cake. All of these strengths have nothing to do with my weight or bone structure. For those who are conventionally attractive, that is a mere notch on their belt and certainly something to pride themselves on, but since that is not in my wheelhouse, I choose to focus on things I have control over.
I'm not saying that I never have days that I do feel attractive or that everyone I've ever met has thought I'm horrific-looking, but what I am saying is that being attractive is not the end-all be-all of life. There are things that are much more insulting than being called ugly. And that's what matters to me.
Originally posted on Literally, Darling, an online magazine by and for twenty-something women, which features the personal, provocative, awkward, pop-filled and pressing issues of our gender and generation. This is an exact representation of our exaggerated selves.