The Perils of Being A Pretty Girl

Although I don’t always view it as such – especially on Saturday mornings – I occupy the body of a stereotypically attractive girl. 

Just uttering those words makes me feel guilty and writing them down for you to see is almost agonising. Why do I feel guilty for telling the truth? Because “pretty” is not a label women are supposed to apply to themselves – the verdict on whether one is “pretty” or not is left up to others. Magazine gossip columns with their unison cries of “Go from flab to fab!” and “Hot or Not?” set the rules, while judgmental strangers on the street happily function as the judges in this worldwide beauty contest.

Unlike most beauty contests, participation in this pageant is not voluntary – it’s mandatory. The prizes can, however, be much better than a modelling contract – being pretty can feel like winning the lottery. Everyday, attractive men and women worldwide reap many benefits for their good looks. According to studies, they are better paid and perceived as more likable, healthy and trustworthy. As a result, they often come out on top in terms of self-esteem and social status.

So yes – in many ways, being a pretty girl is like playing the game of life on the easy setting. I am concentrating on women here, but most of the trends I will discuss seem to be true of our male counterparts as well. Luckily for men, however, they are not primarily judged based on their outer appearance, which is why I have chosen to focus on the concept of “prettiness” as opposed to general attractiveness.

But despite all these advantages, there are downsides to being pretty and I believe we need to talk about them more than we tend to. I can see a shadow of doubt in your eye and I reassure you that you needn’t worry, this is not another one of those “I’m so pretty, everyone is jealous of me” rants. My aim is to look contemporary society square in the eye and, instead of letting it size me up, judge it right back.

Many good-looking women complain that they are sometimes perceived as intellectually inferior, but this has not been my experience. In fact, studies have shown that attractive people are perceived as smarter than their homelier counterparts. Some complain about being treated with animosity by “jealous girls” and “rejected boys”, but from what I have seen an appealing physique attracts rather than repels people. Most of us like to be associated with beauty and being friends with an attractive person brings us one step closer.

In my opinion, the real issue with being pretty doesn’t lie in how others perceive you – it lies in how you come to perceive yourself. Ever since I was little, I was praised for my looks. Whether it was a teacher commenting on my cute dress or a group of teenage boys ogling me in class, I was often reminded of the fact that others found me visually appealing. It was one of the main things that, in my mind, came to define me from an early age onward. After a while it stuck and I began to wear “pretty” like a badge of honour. Losing it became unthinkable.

But that is the point when the problems start. The issue with prettiness is just how fleeting it is. You are always one bad haircut and twenty pounds away from losing your “pretty” status, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the majority of eye beholders have been conditioned by the media to think of beauty in a very narrow sense. Beauty as we know it is white, skinny and feminine. Once you begin to drift away from this mould, the amount of recognition you receive for your good looks begins to wane. That might be preferable to some, but those who – like me – derive a big portion of their self-confidence from their appearance soon begin to feel worthless without this attention.

This is why many pretty girls invest a lot more time, thought and energy into their appearance than their less “pretty” friends. The media loves to mock women who were once beautiful for their botched plastic procedures and inability to age gracefully – and I think I am beginning to understand it. “Pretty” can shoot you toward the stars, but it’s only a matter of time before gravity will take its toll and you’ll plummet down to earth in disgrace.

This post is not a pity party for pretty people – as I mentioned earlier, physical attractiveness holds many advantages. Unfortunately, praising girls for their looks instead of their goals or achievements sets them up for disaster in the long run. Many good-looking people could hardly be said to lack self-confidence, but this confidence is directed toward a perishable good – beauty – and hence represents a pending ticket to depression town.

Some solutions sound deceptively simple – we need to diversify our understanding of beauty to make it more inclusive. I understand the motivation behind this solution, but in my opinion it doesn’t address the root of the problem. Why is beauty – a trait we are born with, much like our skin tones or body shapes – so important in life? Pretty does not equal kind, pretty does not equal good and it surely does not equal deserving of better treatment.

Unfortunately, ridding ourselves of such attitudes is easier said than done. Media outlets and advertising agencies rule with an iron fist and leave no space for discussion – their products are purely visual and the model of beauty they have created is aimed to simplify their jobs and maximise their wages.

But perhaps the winds of change are blowing in the right direction, for we no longer need traditional media to openly talk about body image issues. With that in mind, please share your thoughts with me. Do you think those who fit society’s narrow definition of beauty should be rewarded or do you believe being “pretty” is not an achievement worthy of special treatment?

  • This is an interesting post. I enjoyed reading 🙂 Unfortunately most pretty women are perceived as less intellectual in our society and some even have to deal with extreme jealousy at work as a result they might not even get promoted to upper management.

  • Wow, such a great post! I love how you are so open and adamant about highlighting this. It really is a topic that should be treated with as much seriousness as you just displayed. It’s a shame that such a superficial trait is considered with as much value as it is and does say a lot about our society. Changing this and getting people to realise this problem instead of turning it down as just another feminist remark or first world problem, is another issue. Thank you for your article!

  • The Guy

    Such a mature and fair reflection of the society we have around us. We are conditioned into stereotypes as to what is pretty, beautiful and attractive. It has been said that beauty is skin deep – well I challenge that. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if that eye looks to the soul and character of the person then that is where “true beauty” lies.

    Indeed we all like to look at visually pretty people. It is easy on the eye and raises a natural level of excitement.

    My 40+ years of life has demonstrated again and again that the person inside is what matters. Even people who at first may not visually catch your eye can soon win you over. The more you love someone on the inside is also a creator for the love of their outside too.

    We are born with a certain set of DNA which determines how beautiful we appear. Make up, diets, work outs and the ethically challenging plastic surgery can influence this. Take the hand you are dealt and deal with it. Be a wonderful person inside and the world will love you.

  • That is definitely a brave post to write. Kudos to you 🙂

    I also believe that we can start this change ourselves, in our own daily lives. I think we don’t even realize how much we judge others based on their appearance. For example, we tend to be nicer to certain people than others, simply because they are better looking. So, if we can become more aware of this fault within us, then that is also a step in the right direction.

  • Tess

    I love what you said ” Pretty does not equal kind, pretty does not equal good and it surely does not equal deserving of better treatment.” Cause heaven knows we’ve seen enough of that,people getting better treatment coz of their looks..

  • Someguy

    I was searching the web for “Girl Power” when I stumbled upon your article.
    You definitely have sound points regarding society’s treatment of fair-looking individuals, as well as the effects on (especially young) girls and women. As you pointed out, men are less subject to judgement in all stages of their development and (implied) it doesn’t put a great distraction/obsession on their lives – or not as much (badly-groomed men are still nasty).

    However your solution left me hanging, because I expected you to appeal through yourself to others:
    that one should recognize this as a real, persistant and dangerously addictive distraction from developing your other qualities;
    -that especially “pretty” girls should know, that any interaction they have will be that much less sencere with most people, because -there will be a distracting factor in the way;
    -that instead of having the threat of ‘fleeting beauty’ loom over you, you should have this realisation loom over you and try to steer clear of judgements based on looks as best as you can, while learning, maturing and creating something great.
    TheGuy has phrased it nicely : “Be a wonderful person and the world will love you.”.
    Instead it looks like you put the major blame on our media outlets and incite to obsess further over appearances by asking the question – Do you think those who fit society’s narrow definition of beauty
    should be rewarded or do you believe being “pretty” is not an
    achievement worthy of special treatment?”
    For me, this is an irrelevant question, since you have just established, that this is part of human nature (just the concept of beauty changed, the special treatment never has).

    Please let me know if I maybe got your article wrong in some ways or if you agree with the points I’ve made.

    It’s a ballsy article, I wish you the very best! 🙂

  • Ooo I thought I might not like this post but you spoke so much truth! I was never one of the “pretty” ones so I have nothing to lose haaa! But youth is put on as much a pedestal as beauty in many ways. And I do slightly fear getting much older.
    Keep up the good work 😉