it’s fair to be disappointed by how you look

The truth is, my face has let me down. I thought it would turn out prettier, with better bone structure. As a kid, I thought that because I was good at stuff, I was pretty too, or at least should be. Good and pretty should go together.

My belly has let me down. It refuses to be sucked in.

My proportions are not neat, tight, sexy. I see a friend in something glamorous, and I know it won’t work on me. I might wear it anyway, but it won’t look the same.

And I am disappointed, sometimes, in how I turned out, physically.

I think that’s fair.

I used to think I should swallow the disappointment or ball it up and stuff it into a corner, plug the hole where uneasiness seeped in. I should smile more, put my shoulders back and face the world and be thankful and look myself in the mirror and say, “Damn it, you’re beautiful, woman! You’re beautiful because you look like yourself!”

But I have all of these other images of what beauty looks like stuck in my eyes, so that they waver, floating, translucent, over my face. All of these other faces taunt my own. And they’re the pretty ones. They are how I should have looked, might have looked, if I were luckier.

(source)

And I think it’s fair to think that way, because it’s true, there are so many images of beauty that we’ve all memorized. And there is so much certainty about them. And there is so much belief in beauty as something critical for girls and women. And when people don’t like the women who write things on the internet, they call us ugly.

“UGLYUGLYUGLYUGLY” yelled a man from the comments under this blog. A scream of rage. How can such ugly an woman be allowed a voice? Ugly women are worthless! Women who say things that people don’t like are ugly! Being ugly is the worst thing a woman can be! 

But it isn’t the disappointment in my appearance that I want to address, now. Because I think that’s fair and to be expected.

Instead, I want to remind myself of the ways I have surprised myself by being better than I expected.

 

I am better in a crisis than I expected. Although I am sometimes tremblingly fragile and I am afraid I might shiver into tiny fragments that can’t be pieced together again, when something goes wrong, I sometimes become quick and business-like and get things done. There must be some hidden strength there. Some mysterious pool of it, in the depths.

I am a better writer than I was a year ago, when I thought I was pretty good. I will be a better writer next year, and writing gives me more pleasure than almost anything else. It is up there with the Shack Stack from Shake Shack, seeing Bear in a suit and knowing he’s mine, and seeing a bunch of people I love laughing together.

(there is a deep fried, cheese-filled portobello mushroom in it, on top of a burger. i want one RIGHT NOW. source)

I am better at Bear being sick than I used to be. I used to just cry sometimes, when his blood sugar went really high and he’d say hopeless things about how he’s killing himself, because I could imagine him dying. Last night, I just held him and told him it’s really hard to have a chronic illness, and it’s not his fault, and he’s still great, and I love him. Even though he felt sick, we both felt better from that.

I am better at not hating myself for not being as successful as I think I should be.

I am better at being proud of myself for where I am.

I am getting more comfortable about having a body. It seems slightly less awkward than it used to. My limbs have more purpose and I know better what to do with them. I can lean casually on a counter sometimes, while talking to someone, and not even think about it. I can lean against the wall of the elevator sometimes, and not even think that the other person is probably thinking that I’m radiating weirdness.

I am better at waiting.

I am better at eating food than I was a few years ago.

I am better at telling people what I do, without trying to make it sound fancier than it is.

(nope, don’t need any of these. source)

I am better at talking to my mom, I hope.

I am better sometimes when that rush of anxiety, clenched like a fist, hits me, at letting the fist retract, instead of grabbing onto it.

I am better at putting my shoulders back when I walk.

I am better at wearing whatever I want, even around people who I know will be wearing something sexy.

Ignoring the fact that our world has made beauty a priority doesn’t work for me. It has, and I live in the world. But reminding myself of how many other things matter about me and have the persistent power to inform every moment of every day of my life helps put beauty in its place. It is a box in a series of boxes that can be checked or left empty, depending on the day. The list is long. There are things I am that make me happier than looking sexy in a slinky outfit someone else is pulling off. There are things I am that will fulfill me for longer, in my life. There are things I’m not that are harder to overcome than beauty, and I need to work on them more.

“UGLYUGLYUGLYUGLYUGLYUGLY” screamed the commenter under something I’d written.

I rolled my eyes. “That’s the best you can do?” I said, aloud, to the screen. “You think that will devastate me?”

It would have, at one point, years ago. But I’m better at that, too. I know now that the reason trolls use the words they do is because those are the words that are supposed to hurt the most. Being ugly is supposed to be the scariest thing that can happen to a woman.

And the thing is, it just isn’t.

You know what’s scary? Believing that it is. That’s when things get dangerous.

I am disappointed by my face. Honestly, I am. When I was sixteen, I thought I’d be even more beautiful when I was in my twenties, and I’m not. Honestly. I’m not. In all those objective terms we assign beauty, that I know so automatically and so well. And I am disappointed for my past self.

(and I don’t want to be the one to tell her)

I recognize that I will only look older now, and that older will mean “more complicated.” There will be more that would be photoshopped neatly away. There will be less to get acknowledged as pretty. There are aspects of beauty that really are just luck, and when the coin was flipped and that exact sperm wriggled into the egg, I got tails. And no amount of “no, no, you look great!” will ever airbrush or reinvent my reflection in the mirror at Macy’s or in my bathroom.

So I think it’s fair that I’m a little let down sometimes. It would have been nice to be prettier. Of course it would have been.

And at the same time, damn, am I getting better at plotting a fantasy novel. When I think about the book I’m working on, I can feel the excitement in my stomach. I can invent whole lives on this screen. I can give them hope and complicated, messy love and enemies and magic. They don’t even have to worry about tampons and where to poop when they’re on some quest in the ancient forest, if I don’t want them to. They are too busy fighting evil to agonize about the size of their nose. But hey, sometimes they have a moment, and they agonize, because that is life. It’s just not most of life, or even the interesting part. The interesting part is the magic, and the quest, and the fighting evil. Let’s get back to that.

*   *   *

What are you better at now that you thought you would never be?

Unroast: Today I love the way I get really excited about eating something I haven’t eaten in a long time.

P.S. I always debate whether or not to include a photo of myself, especially when I’m talking about beauty. I never want my pieces to be about how other people think I look (“but you’re pretty! why do you feel this way? it’s ridiculous!” or “you’re not pretty, but you need to get over it!”). Body image is about how we feel about the way we look. I included this photo because it’s of me, at sixteen, clearly thinking about how I look. And I thought that worked well with the post.

60 Comments »

Kate on November 30th 2012 in beauty, body, nose, perfection, weight

60 Responses to “it’s fair to be disappointed by how you look”

  1. Kande responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    Very few people in the world are actually stunningly beautiful. And of those that are, we probably don’t even see them, as they are hidden away in their own homes, villages, lives – not all beautiful people migrate to a life of fame. Hardly anyone famous is actually stunningly beautiful rather than the lucky recipients of expensive smoke and mirrors. Why people are so driven to achieve physical perfection while neglecting all other areas of self is beyond me, as the most beautiful people I have ever seen did not have traditional or even unconventional physical beauty – they had beautiful personalities and souls and it shone through. Which sounds like a load of BS, I know … but it isn’t. Anyone who doesn’t see this needs to people watch more. Or just think about anyone in your life that you love – is your Mom really conventionally stunningly beautiful? Your spouse, your kids? Yet do you not think they are perfection just because of who they are, when you see them do you pick apart their appearance or do you just light up because you see THEM the whole, not a collection of parts?

    Today I am better at exercise than I ever thought I would be – yet also excellent at eating a chocolate bar or Christmas baking with gusto, because so long as I am healthy overall, life is way too short to calorie count (or to worry about the never-leaving pudge roll courtesy of two pregnancies)!

    And I am better at having sex – with the lights on! ;)

  2. lacy davis responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    It’s so crazy- and I know this is not even the point!- but you’re a mega babe! and also, sometimes i feel disappointed in how i look, and I will remember how you do too but how you’re also out of your mind because you’re adorable, and then maybe I will feel better because maybe that means I am out of my mind too.

    This comment is one big run on sentence, but you get the picture!

  3. lacy davis responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    Also when I am feeling ugly, I work on my book too and it changes everything because WHO CARES WHAT I LOOK LIKE, I AM WRITING A BOOK!!!!

  4. Abby responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Wonderfully written! For me, a lot of it is similar…except that instead of thinking I’ll look better when I’m in my twenties, I end up thinking, “I should be happy with the way I look now, because I’ll look back and miss being this young and this beautiful.”

    It used to kill me, when people called me fat. Now, I use that word in a completely honest, non-insulting way to describe myself. Now, if someone calls me fat, the response is, “Yes, and…?”

    I’ve been working on caring more about things that aren’t how I look. Sometimes I look crazy…and I’m okay with that. I’m getting better at telling people what I need and better at being positive. I’m better at songwriting now than I was last year, and I think they’ll just keep getting better. Or maybe I’m just getting better at recognizing that sometimes I can be a really awesome person? I don’t know.

    I don’t care what a person looks like when I follow their blog, I just care about what they write…and you have some pretty fantastic writing!

  5. Tasha responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    I think including the photo was an excellent idea. That picture says a lot. You can see the question in your eyes, “Am I pretty?” You can tell by the little glimpse of skin between the camera straps that you might’ve been doing a full-body examination in front of the mirror, naked. I am somewhat grateful for not having a large enough mirror to do that now. I’m 24, and have definitely been adjusting my view on “pretty” and what the world’s version of “pretty” means to me (and how I should let it affect me) a lot this year. My body has purpose, that is beautiful. I am becoming more comfortable in my own skin, physically and mentally, and that is beautiful to my boyfriend. I see my beauty in his eyes and it’s becoming my own.

  6. skye responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    I am disappointed in how I turned out. Through my twenties there was always hope that I could lose more weight and change in this or that way, or that when a stressful situation finally ended my face would somehow reflect my inner calmness and be more beautiful than ever. Over the past year I have realized that my face is changing for the worse. It’s getting older. There are wrinkles. There’s no longer some fantasy that losing weight or destressing will have an impact. There’s just piling on more beauty products in an effort to beat back the inevitable.

    I’m getting married this spring, and I’m terrified. My fiance looks more handsome with age, and I look worse. What will it be like in 5, 10, 15 years? If I have bags under my eyes now, what will I look like then? What will he think? I already want to elope so people won’t see my looking old on my wedding day. I don’t trust anyone enough to believe they won’t be thinking, wow. She’s changed.

    I hate this culture. I never predicted I would get caught in this particular eddy. I always thought my best, happiest years were ahead. Now I feel like I have no place in the world. No place in which to be myself and love myself. I’m scared that this will never change. The only thing I have going for me is the fact that my fiance wants to marry me. I know this is a horrible and fragile place to hang all my confidence.

    I am really trying to answer your question. I honestly can’t think of one way in which I’ve been pleasantly surprised at myself as I’ve grown older. I’m more confused and less confident than I’ve ever been.

    Okay, I thought of one. I never thought I’d be good at exercising regularly. But 4 years ago I started to run, and it’s a habit I still haven’t dropped. I have good endurance.

  7. R responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Today one of my students told me that she was learning more from my comments on her paper than she ever did in English class. So, I guess I’ve turned out to be a better writer, and a better teacher than I ever thought I would. That’s cool.

    I’m really less of a good writer and more of a good editor, though. I sometimes dream of writing stories, but I never want to be mean to my characters. I don’t want anything bad to happen to them. Happy characters living a happy life doesn’t result in a particularly griping story, unfortunately.

  8. Kristina responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    I am better at making a pastry crust from scratch than I ever thought I would be. It sounds pretty lame and small, but my pie crusts are so good. I use the recipe from my Julia Child cookbook. Family member specifically request the pie crust, really, they demand it. I made a crust for a chocolate cream pie this thanksgiving, it was so perfect and flaky; it was my masterpiece.

  9. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Yay Kande for embracing the muffin top and having better sex with the lights on! THAT is beautiful :)

  10. Tara responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    I like how I’m turning out, and I would have only been able to say that in an intellectual way a year ago, without really feeling it in my bones – things have shifted, lately. I am for sure better at having sex with the lights on!

    I never gave much thought to turning out to be beautiful, I think I was always wrapped up in trying to accept the body I have. I was always labelled “cute” and I guess I took that for granted, somehow.

    You have inspired me to ask this question of myself.

  11. Jess responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Know when you (and everyone, ever) are really pretty? When you smile. Beauty is as much energy as it is structure, and almost everyone’s features, whatever they may be, look better when they’re glowing with happy laughter.
    You are way prettier sometimes than that picture of when you’re 16. Because you aren’t smiling in that one and are smiling in others. But I can tell that wasn’t the point of the picture, of course. :) The intended energy comes across as, well, intended.

  12. Christine responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    You are gorgeous! I love looking at pictures of your face. It is so much more beautiful than any cold, typically proportioned image.

    Looks may open doors, but after passing through, people are judged according to everything else they have to offer.

    Forget about the people who are so unhappy with themselves that they go out of their way to hurt others. No matter how appealing they might appear on the surface, they are not likable.

  13. Kate responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    @Kande
    I love the things you’re better at now

  14. Kate responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    @Kristina
    AMAZING skill. Jealous. I want that one.

  15. Kate responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    @R
    I know what you mean. I sometimes catch myself trying to come up with characters I don’t care about, so that those can be the ones I kill off. Doesn’t work.

  16. Rosanne responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    I am better at believing in myself and trusting my gut on the big issues than I ever thought I would be by now. At the same time, I have a fancy Christmas dinner next weekend and I can’t stop thinking about if I’ll be fancy enough for the rest of the crowd. I know they will be fancy – no problem, but I’m already somewhat convinced they’ll be able to tell that I don’t have the money right now to buy the fancy shoes to go with the sparkly dress and that how I’m living my life is too vague and undetermined for them. Oh, how disappointed I am for thinking about this so much… Hopefully I can get a little bit better at feeling secure amongst ‘fancy people’ this week!

  17. Linda responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    You are so much more than just “beautiful” (which you truly are). Your words have inspired me, made me think about how I feel about myself, my body, my husband, friends, family, and food.

    I always feel warm and understood in your ‘language’. You seem to understand and voice how I form my ideas. Your thought process brings me so close to how I feel but haven’t expressed even to myself.

    Thanks for your wisdom.

  18. Kate responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Oh god, @Linda, that is so, so kind. I’m really touched.

  19. Kate responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    @Rosanne
    Every time Bear has a holiday party at work that I have to go to, I dread it. I realize that of course I have nothing appropriate to wear. I try everything in my closet on. Finally I settle on something, and then, the whole way there, I’m pretty sure everyone else will be wearing something much nicer. And the whole time, I wonder why I care.

  20. Janet T responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    I think one of the things I’m better at, is just not caring what I look like. I mean, I do of course, but in the morning I shower and let my hair dry (curly hair) and put on the barest of makeup, dress in something comfortable, brush my teeth and go to work. I rarely look at myself again until the next morning. Oh, and I think I’m better looking now than I was as a teenager, and I’m 50. Maybe it is the caring less about it thing
    From the pictures I’ve seen of you, I think you have terrific cheekbones, great eyes and a wonderful smile. You are certainly attractive- “pretty” means something different for me. Girly, softer maybe…I can’t find the right words. But I try to live a no-regrets kind of life. So I ask, what do you have now that you would be willing to give up for being prettier or having been prettier as a teen? Maybe you would have dated differently and not met Bear? Your career choice may have been different? I truly love the way you have turned out so far- because you write this great blog and make me think, truly think and gain a little insight into myself as well. I cannot wait to read your first novel- make one of the characters “ugly” and one “beautiful” and see which one you end up liking better.
    I do have to say that leaning on a counter isn’t something I’ve ever consciously thought about- that made me chuckle, but I’ll probably start thinking about it now. I’m just that way- and I’m OK with that.

  21. grenadine responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    I am better at accepting myself. I’m 36 now, and my life has been very stressful for most of the last decade, leading to weight gain that I would have once considered horrifying. But I can still look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman with a not-so-big figure, odd considering how much I hated myself when I was younger and at my slender “ideal” weight. I used to torture myself with nasty inner talk about how I was fat and unacceptable, how gross my large breasts were, and why did I have to have such a defined ass. Now? Whatever. I work hard to take care of myself and avoid excess, but I can’t hate myself if I still fail to be thin or willowy. I accept the appreciation that comes my way without trying to over-analyze it, and I take pleasure in my attractive features. The “too pale” skin of my teen years is now “delicate” and “creamy,” for example. It’s just been a recasting of how I characterize myself, and it has helped a lot with my self esteem.

  22. Beth responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    As a culture with such a strict, tight standard of ‘beauty’ and it’s always external. When we’re shown images of ‘beautiful’ people they are always the ones that fall within this external standard or can be made close enough via makeup, lighting, and other tricks (like Photoshop). We aren’t shown the actions, which I think are what make people really beautiful, like the officer in the news recently who bought that homeless man shoes. That’s something beautiful. And there are so many beautiful things that you do Kate. :)

  23. k responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    Up until I was 29 I planned to get cosmetic surgery, to fix the bridge of my nose, build it up somehow into a long, narrow, bold nose proportioned to my large eyes and cheekbones, instead of this uncommonly short, wide throwback thing I have on my face now.

    When I was 14 years old I became terrified of aging. I would look at my mother, who’d additionally had me in her 40′s, and see all the ways my skin would change, my hair, my body. My mother would frequently tell me how pretty I was, but all her comments were about my youth.

    But mysteriously, now in my late 30′s I have found happiness with all of it. I really dig aging, its beginning changes on my face, the backs of my hands, even my breasts and bottom. And I just love the way my face looks, all mismatched and confusing as its parts are. I never, ever imagined that I would have this kind of peace in this body! its presence, its years, its daring to not look right.

    I believe so passionately that as much of our culture deteriorates further and further into being so enslaved to appearance, so many people so willing to alter themselves in all these ways and offer their spirits to this 24-7 lifesuck, that the beauty of the “imperfect” ones stands out so much more. Maybe I am fooling myself? But I really feel this way.

  24. Miss responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I found you after your Huff Post article on female friends and I have to say you have me mesmerized! I can relate to so much of what you write. I felt pretty in high school and college but then went through several years of very hard partying that left me overweight and dissatisfied with myself. For several years now I have been figuring out who the adult me is and who I want to grow up to be (at 34 its about damn time!). For the first time since my teenage years I have a direction and a passion. I am better at being true to myself, I am better at not worrying about the words that come out of my mouth (sometimes I lack a filter), I am a better writer, I am a better wife and partner than I was even just a few years back, and I am better at taking care of my body and mind than I have been in over a decade. Thank you for this article. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves how well we are doing in this crazy life!

    I know you weren’t asking for compliments but you look just like a girl I went to school with. I always thought she was pretty but she had no idea and still doesn’t. My favorite people are often the ones who have no idea they are beautiful.

  25. Jennifer S. responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    I am better at talking to people now than I thought I EVER would be. It was bad..I couldn’t call up the dr and make my own appointment…I wouldn’t ask someone in an establishment where the restroom was. Why?? Ugh, such a waste of time!! People are people…and kinda cool!

  26. Sheryl responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    I certainly would agree that sometimes I feel disappointed by my face and level of prettiness in general. I wish I’d been born with more inherent prettiness, and there are some magically slightly different proportions I would like to assign myself.

    But. I disappoint myself in other ways too. In that I’m not patient or social “enough”. I’m awkward and spacey and I like to think about things that annoy other people. It’s like the pieces of my personality came out somehow mismatched and don’t come together to form a particularly great person as a whole.

    I may not like all the cards that I was dealt in those respects, but there’s lots of other good going on and lots of good ways to look at things. I may not have natural patience or social energy, but I’m constantly striving to learn more patience and learning more about how to maximize the time I do want to be social. I’m a little offbeat, but that makes me unique and thinking about weird/annoying things gives me a very different perspective in life.

  27. Brian responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    As always, I am amazed at your insight and thoughtful writing. Yours is one of only three or four blogs that I read regularly. Thank you for sharing your writing and your thinking and your feeling with us. We are truly blessed.

    Sure, it is nice to be “pretty”, but it is far better to be beautiful. And beautiful is not just a pretty face. Beautiful is that deep and exciting self that looks out through the eyes and creates far more than a pretty face. The Mona Lisa is someone we can still all look at for hours, and have been for centuries, yet she is not a pretty face by modern standards. She is beautiful.

    A bunch of carnations in a vase is pretty, but nobody is going to do more than glance at them and say “how pretty!”. Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings of irises capture the eye with sinuous movement that makes you want to stare and stare and lose yourself in their leaves. Yes, there are far prettier pictures of flowers but An Gogh’s irises are beautiful.

    A cottage with a picket fence and rose bushes is pretty, but Georgia O’Keefe’s landscapes and paintings of cliffs and rocks (like “Part of a Cliff”) have a beauty and power that captivates the eye and makes you see as much about e shape of yourself as about the shape of rocks. These paintings are beautiful.

    So, I will not comment on whether or not you were pretty when you were 16 or are pretty now. It does not matter what I or anyone but you thinks about that. But I will say that the young woman in that photograph, the photo itself, every other picture of yourself that you have shared with us, your writing, and the woman that comes through that writing, is beautiful in a far more real, enduring, and meaningful way.

  28. Rapunzel responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    @Brian

    Awesome. Well said.

  29. R responded on 01 Dec 2012 at 12:48 am #

    This post is exactly what I needed to read today and I have to say agree with Brian’s comment above.

    I get trapped in these thoughts when I look in the mirror and I forget about all the OTHER things. I am also writing a book, a graphic novel and often I forget that I’ve been blessed with other things.

    Yesterday I realized that I’m better at talking to my parents than I used to. I’m guessing this just comes with age, I don’t know. I’m just happier for it.

    Thank you for your post and for your lovely blog, I’ve only recently found it and have been sharing it with my friends who also love it. Your words are insightful, painfully relatable, hilarious, meaningful and beautiful.

  30. Kat Varn responded on 01 Dec 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Just found you on Huffington. Your honesty and resiliance is impressive and eloquently stated.

    I had to chuckle at your pen’s power to create or destroy your book’s characters. But, I play Oz too!

  31. Tanuja responded on 02 Dec 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Hey, I understand. My grandmother is one incredible woman who has taught me to accept and move on, and to be better at what you do next. She got married at 19, just after high school, and did a college degree after having 3 children. She has always kept wanting more (she’s 70 now and traveled abroad for the first time in her whole life this year) and I guess, that’s true beauty. Beauty isn’t something which you get just by growing older or surgery or anything. I’ve always thought that beauty is what is inside.
    And me? Ah well, at least I can accept that other people are beautiful, and laugh at myself. I’ll say, I’m happy now.

  32. Katrina responded on 02 Dec 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    BEAUTIFULBEAUTIFULBEAUTIFULBEAUTIFUL. You and your writing. :)

  33. Kate responded on 02 Dec 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    @Katrina
    AWWWWW!!!!!!!! Made me so happy!!!

  34. lisa responded on 02 Dec 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    you ..are pretty..I’m so confused by this.

  35. zoe responded on 02 Dec 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    the first comment here says it all. truly. there is nothing more for me to impart, other than maybe expressing the same confusion as lisa. because you are beautiful and pretty, kate. i definitely understand where you are coming from though and i don’t at all want to dismiss your feelings and thoughts (because those are so real, so relatable, and so honest). i am happy too that you’re finding happiness in life outside of your appearance (i think this is where true, whole, happiness is found).

    i want to say getting older will not mean “more complicated”. i think it will mean, hopefully, “more wise” and “more well-versed”. more…lovely, because there is more life in you, more understanding. that is something beauty does not dictate. you know?

    anyway, i am better at being here, now, and not caught up in mental fantasies. i am better at making decisions, better at moving simply. i am better about reacting to anxiety and better at loving. i’m better at caring less. and better at acknowledging that this is all a process anyhow, and to enjoy it vastly.

  36. Lisa @ The Raw Serenity responded on 03 Dec 2012 at 12:35 am #

    great post (as always!)
    I don’t think your 100% right when you say that your not pretty/beauty.
    Everyone has a different perspective on what beauty actually is.
    Yes, the media may seem like it has mapped out exactly what you need to look like to be beautiful but when you talk to people, everyone has different opinions.
    I once dated a guy that I thought was stunning, charming, handsome .. you know, the lot, while all my friends thought he was over weight and ugly!
    I love muscles on guys while a close friend hates big muscles.
    From someone recovering for an eating disorder, I have realised that I may not look perfect and beautiful to everyone but its likely that someone out there will consider me as beautiful.

  37. Jiminy responded on 03 Dec 2012 at 5:48 am #

    I know one more box you ought to tick: you are getting better all the time at making women on different continents aware of the warped models in their heads and at helping them heal. It is no minor accomplishment.

  38. Meg responded on 03 Dec 2012 at 10:22 am #

    I second Jiminy’s observation: you point out the truth about body judgement and general mess-up-ed-ness, and do it in a way that’s more believable and useful than merely offering affirmations.

    I think one of the reasons it’s so effective is that you’re honest about stuff like this. It’s an intelligent dialog about these issues more than just a pep talk, and you encourage people to think about them by telling your own story, and allowing it its complexity. Self-acceptance isn’t cut-and-dry.

    I’ve been thinking about this all weekend, and I wanted to tell you that your blog has been a huge catalyst for me finally kicking my disordered eating and workout patterns to the curb. For the past couple of months, I’ve been eating and exercising in a healthy, non-obsessive way, for the first time in 16 years. Of all the things I’ve done this year, this is the one I’m most proud of and thankful for.

    Thank you, Kate.

  39. Kate responded on 03 Dec 2012 at 11:36 am #

    @Meg
    First of all, I am so impressed with you for working your way to a healthier path. That is awesome, badass, and difficult, and you should be enormously proud of yourself!

    Second of all, I am so touched to be included in your story. I feel like you’re giving me way too much credit, but I’m also incredibly flattered. I try really hard to be honest instead of just cheering “eat cake! eat cake!” And it’s really meaningful for me to have that decision validated by comments and messages like this one. So thank YOU!

  40. Katie O. responded on 03 Dec 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Recently started reading your blog and find myself always wanting to comment yet also unsure of what to say.
    1. You are an amazing writer. Your “voice” is strong and beautifully stated. I read your writing and think, that’s how I want to sound.

    2. I think your perspective on beauty is so intricate. This is a whole level of “is it important to be pretty or not” this is “it is, but it isn’t, but to me it sort of is, but in a way it’s not.” I love that you can make feelings like this, that I have too, seem un-messy and not-so-complicated.

    Thank you for bringing not only some well-written posts into my life but feelings of not alone too! I’m looking forward to reading more.

  41. Jennifer Piwnicki responded on 04 Dec 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    More than anything: Thank you for your honesty and sharing! You verbalize what many of us deny or hide from.

  42. katilda responded on 05 Dec 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    i love this… and i am better at loving other people than i thought i would be. it just kind of surprised me one day a couple years ago, how much i loved other people in an all-consuming way, regardless of mistakes or fights. i’d say it’s my favorite thing about myself, that loving thing.

  43. Eat the Damn Cake » you are not vain responded on 13 Dec 2012 at 10:46 am #

    [...] that there is also war and massive human rights violations and global warming and animal cruelty. Worrying about the way you look is a form of awareness and sensitivity to the world around you. You are influenced by your environment because you are paying [...]

  44. Traci responded on 14 Dec 2012 at 11:15 am #

    BEAUTIFULBEAUTIFULBEAUTIFULBEAUTIFULBEAUTIFULBEAUTIFULBEAUTIFUL!

  45. Rachel responded on 14 Dec 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    I wrote a post today about this same kind of thing. About thinking I am someone I haven’t been for 10 years. So today I am better at believing in the me of today :)

  46. Link Love (14/12/2012) « Becky's Kaleidoscope responded on 14 Dec 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    [...] “And I think it’s fair to think that way, because it’s true, there are so many images of beauty that we’ve all memorized. And there is so much certainty about them. And there is so much belief in beauty as something critical for girls and women. And when people don’t like the women who write things on the internet, they call us ugly.” It’s fair to be disappointed by how you look – Eat the Damn Cake [...]

  47. tijen responded on 14 Dec 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I know this is not the point – but I think you are stunning and beautiful – and would think so if I passed you on the street. I love the discussion around “pretty”, expectations and being good enough in other, non-gendered scripted ways – but maybe the discussion could also include the notion that beauty is only defined as Western European, anglo-featured, white skinned and media driven (not to mentioned “able-bodied”). Although we are told in this culture that there is only one form of beauty, with little variations – many of us see and believe in many more diverse forms of beauty – and that beauty is not even limited to the skin.

    Anyways, as a woman of color with non-traditional features, that is my two cents. :) Really, there are so many ways to be beautiful and pretty (and so much more to all of us).

  48. Violetta responded on 15 Dec 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Beautiful beautiful beautiful beautiful – your raw honesty and authenticity are beautiful.

  49. Iris Ztarr responded on 15 Dec 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    Beautiful writing, and photo! I am better now at being myself than I ever was. I always wanted to be an artist and looked up to people who were creative and felt I could never measure up, I could never be like them, they were in some mysterious world that I would never belong to. Until I started to explore my own creativity and own it. I am now better at being myself than I ever was when I was young, when I was desperately trying to be like everybody else. We are all unique and special in our own way and we all have a unique voice. And it feels good to own that voice and to love it for what it is, to know that you are good enough just the way you are. Thanks for a great post!

  50. A responded on 05 Jan 2013 at 11:58 am #

    You are beautiful.

    (And I’m 52, and am disappointed for my past self who never saw how beautiful she was as a young woman…and I am better at appreciating how I look at midlife than I thought I’d be.)

  51. Dawn responded on 10 Jan 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Thank you for this post -for saying things out loud for the rest of us women to read.

  52. Judy Corona responded on 13 Jan 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    You are gorgeous.

  53. Nina responded on 14 Mar 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    It is a sad reality that I, too, have been let down by my face. I saw all my friends, my cousins too, blossom from weird looking gawky preteens to less awkward looking teens and further to stunning adults (my cousin was picked by the most prestigious modeling agency in my country. I was jealous.).

    My life has been shadowed with self hate and disappointment because I never looked quite right. It still is. I wanted desperately to be perfect, to show the world that I too am a wonderful aesthetically pleasing work of art. I guess some modernist might still find attractiveness in me.

    So in my aesthetic shortcoming I have nurtured introspection and intellectual properties. If I can’t be beautiful, that’s fine, so long as I can be brilliant.

  54. Eat the Damn Cake » guys deal with body image issues, too responded on 25 Mar 2013 at 10:29 am #

    [...] me, sometimes. Because, you know, I write about this stuff. I write about my own body insecurities, and the ways that women are pressured to look a certain way, and perform a certain look, and the way…. But sometimes it’s the boys and men in my life who seem to need the most encouragement, where [...]

  55. Eat the Damn Cake » this is not a first world problem responded on 24 Apr 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    [...] should be part of a larger conversation about why so many women also experience that concern, and why our bodies are often the focal point of our self-loathing, and why the messages about weight gain are so widespread and toxic that we feel compelled to [...]

  56. Carrie responded on 30 Apr 2013 at 11:40 am #

    I think it is probably pretty normal to be disappointed in some aspect of your look, no matter what you look like. And often, it’s something other people most likely don’t even notice or think is wrong in any way, I think it’s just that sometimes being that close to the issue one can magnify the significance it has in their life. Focus on the good and positive things and the things you can and want to change and don’t let issues over the rest keep you from living the life you want to live!

  57. Eat the Damn Cake » cosmetic surgery doesn’t have to be shameful responded on 17 Jun 2013 at 9:52 am #

    [...] But maybe people just don’t understand it. Maybe it gets too quickly oversimplified. There’s more to it than meets the eye; more, when you search under the surface. Real people’s stories are always more complicated, and it would be interesting to finally hear them. In fact, I think it is time we heard them. Cosmetic surgery shouldn’t have to feel like a secret women need to keep. It shouldn’t be a secret that women are under enormous, regular, normalized pressure to look a… [...]

  58. I Am Surrounded By Sexy, Naked Women | EguidEz responded on 07 Feb 2014 at 9:56 am #

    [...] are almost always the same bodies. That they are so much always the same bodies that they seem to implicitly ban the contemplation of other naked bodies. I think I’m supposed to ignore that they’re almost always young women, and that they [...]

  59. Eat the Damn Cake » the wound responded on 26 Feb 2014 at 11:22 am #

    [...] into just a few whitewashed, sterilized images of beauty is realistically absurd. But it’s far from absurd to get stuck on the way we look when we’re informed from birth (loudly, but also sometimes too silently to even remember) [...]

  60. TwentySixRed responded on 05 Mar 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    You know, through your suffering, agonising, and introspection, you’ve had to do something quite rare these days… grow a soul.

    Just being good looking is not enough to grow a marriage. Surgically enhanced breasts/lips/butts do not make up for having no soul. Character, empathy, understanding, forgiveness, patience, the searching we do in ourselves through suffering and introspection grows our souls. These are the treasures we draw from through the rest of our lives. It’s what feeds our children with creativity and love. It’s only from the garden of our souls we can dig timeless gems of any real worth for our loved ones, children, and others.

    When I’m 65, I’d far prefer to be an average looking person with a kind soul, a lifetime of wisdom and soul-growth, with real friends and (hopefully) a partner I’ve laughed, suffered, and cried with; than a once-was narcissist riddled with silicon addicted to alcohol and pharmaceuticals with a train-wreck of divorces whose friends loathe me.

    You’re actually a beautiful girl, funnily enough. The way you write about yourself had me thinking you weren’t pretty. You’re not that bad you know :p I can see something beautiful in the thought-lines, intelligent eyes, there’s depth and suffering, character and intelligence in your face. There’s a good soul. You’re never going to be a plasticised soulless marrionette on a magazine cover. But – you’re going to be a quirky, creative, intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful and uniquely different mother to your daughter and partner to your husband. I think there’s more value in that.

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