IE Grapevine Updates

Sweeney: Not being pretty was foundation for pessimism

For something so unimportant, wanting to be attractive has plagued my self-esteem for years.

Katlin Sweeney

Katlin Sweeney

Sure, looks are important to a degree. But they are not deserving of the amount of attention that we give them.

Everybody has stories of times when they have felt uncomfortable with their body or with themselves as a person. But because we all have experienced this, I think that we start to overlook how prevalent and severe of a problem being unhappy with your appearance is.

For me, the problem has persisted since childhood. When I was in elementary and middle school, I had friends that had naturally slender frames. I was what people seemed to call ‘average’ size. I was not heavier built, but I was not abnormally skinny either. I was a healthy medium, but because I did not see the same in the kids around me, I was not fond of it.

People would make comments, whether an adult or one of my friends, in ways that they did not realize resonated with me. They were little things, like how I would need my own chair because I was not small enough to share with someone else. Or how if my friend were to borrow my clothes, they may not fit because I was ‘bigger’ than her.

In high school I found myself especially uninteresting. When I was 15, I wanted to be as thin as possible. The women I idolized, and the ones that men I was interested in liked, were always petite, skinny, and unfathomably pretty.

The girls that bullied me my freshman year of high school made comments about how I was the ‘less pretty version’ of someone else that they knew.

Weight was a constantly negative topic. So naturally, I sought to boast a similar appeal to the women I admired. I figured the only way I could ever get somebody’s attention would be if I were attractive in the way that these other women were.

I never was sure as to why I felt so strongly about this, why I thought about my weight and appearance almost incessantly. I heard people around me echo similar statements of dissatisfaction.

Everyone seemed to have the same problem, that nothing about their appearance was ever sufficient enough to matter. People appeared to be very polarized. Either they were a narcissist or just as unhappy with the way that they looked as I was.

And so it becomes normalized, acceptable, to see oneself through a rigid, perfectionist’s vision because everyone else does. I found the strange and unusual things about other people attractive. But I convinced myself that the only way I could be pretty was if I was skinny and looked like a model, a celebrity.

As the years progressed, those ideas shifted slightly. When I was 18 I convinced myself that I still had to be very thin but needed to have massive curves, thus resulting in a frame that my body would most likely be unable to support.

We exist in an extremely unhappy manner for most of our lives, wasting energy on wishing for things that just really do not matter.

I have spent most of my life shying away from compliments, thinking that I did not deserve them. I hated other women that were prettier than me because I wanted to look like them. I hated the way my hips curved because no matter how much weight I lost, I always looked the same.

Nobody ever told me that you cannot change your body’s natural frame. It is impossible to trim down your hipbones or widen them so that your body mimics somebody else’s.

The way we see ourselves is often through too harsh of a lens. Our focal point for what is attractive is the way another person looks.

We begin to become consumed by another person’s smile, hair, eyes, body etc., so much that we stop appreciating our own. We do not pause to look in the mirror and find things that we like. Appearance becomes an all or nothing scenario: either you are conventionally attractive or you are not.

But the problem is that we criticize what we are and what we are not. Being ‘pretty’ is just one of the ways that we compete with each other.

We live in a culture of ultimatums. Instead of rooting for one another, we resolve to blaming and criticizing others for being good at something, thus leaving us incapable of attaining what we want. You can’t be pretty because she’s prettier. You can’t be funny because you’re not the funny friend. You can’t be successful at all because you didn’t get the promotion that they did. You can’t be interesting because you know people more entertaining.

We need to stop hating ourselves because we desire what other people have. We need to spend less time envying others and more time accepting ourselves as we are. It is not a simplistic resolution that will be fixed within a day. But taking a moment to retrain your mind to be positive, even if it is only a few times more often, can make a world of difference.

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