Thursday, February 21, 2013

I'm pretty/smart/nice BUT...

Recently I came across an article over on Jezebel that really struck home with me: Why Don't Women Say 'I'm Pretty?' Here Are Ten Reasons. I especially liked the quote:

We are getting caught in a sticky trap of mixed messages: we are supposed to be modest, even as we're supposed to be confident. But it shouldn't have to be immodest or arrogant just to acknowledge when we're good at something. Or when we look good. That should just be realism.
That they take from this article: Why Can't Women Think They're Pretty.  The author (of the 10 reasons article then goes on to say)

For them, it wasn't that they couldn't think they were pretty. It was that they all knew, after lifetimes of being shown images of what is pretty, cute, beautiful or not in staggering detail, EXACTLY what kind of pretty they are or aren't, to what type of person they were most appealing, to what degree their prettiness abounds. Just saying they were pretty without acknowledging the exceptions seemed to be like admitting that you didn't understand how pretty works.
She then goes on to talk about how women can acknowledge that they are pretty, yet there is always a But afterwards e.g. I'm pretty BUT not as pretty as her.  A lot of great stuff follows so read the article itself if you're interested. 

The reason I bring this up is that I realized how guilty I am of this in my life.  I cringe at the idea of listing a positive trait about myself without including a BUT afterwards.  This goes way above and beyond beauty but into almost every aspect of my life.  I can't imagine saying I'm smart without following up with something like "But I'm not Einstein" or saying that I've been successful at my job "But I'm not famous/rich/a leader in the field or anything".   I have friends who are in higher income brackets who would do the same about their income or yet others who are truly kind/giving people who never actually admit how much they do for others.  

Now, part of it I get.  We have to be modest.  We have to be realistic. God forbid we get big heads and start imagining that we can do anything because we'll end up being sorely disappointed.  Certainly, the statistics are against us.  To be the best at something you have a 1 in 7 billion chance, yikes! And that's not even counting if there's life on other planets. ;) Furthermore, if you're at all scientifically minded, you've been taught to be as honest and realistic as possible.  You should state exactly in what parameters something is true or not.  

So can we then be allowed to say "Of my small subset of 5 close friends I'm the most organized".  Well, no, because that would be comparing yourself to others that you love and care about and that would be wrong

Where does this leave us?  Can we never acknowledge our skills, our achievements without a But trailing afterwards?  

Here's my thought... it's OBVIOUS that it's statistically unlikely that we're the best at something.  It's OBVIOUS  that no matter what we do many of these positive traits are subjective.  There's nothing wrong with discussing our faults and weakness, actually many times that can be a huge stress relief and helps us get a new perspective on life.  HOWEVER, we don't need to mention them in every conversation.  We don't need to always put a qualifier after our positives.  Sometimes it's a good thing to just acknowledge that we excel at something without a long list of Buts afterwards. 

So here goes.  You've heard enough on my blog about my imperfections, I'm sure there will be more posts about some of them in the future too.  But today, in this post I'm just going to say this without any Buts, without any further explanation. 

I'm smart, I'm pretty, and a damn good mother. 

Feel free to add your own in the comments. :)


  1. I'm beautiful, I'm brilliant, and I'm generous.

  2. Just to put in my two cents, I personally think there is a difference between self-knowledge and self-praise that the Jezebel article inexplicably ignores. Just because it is nice to develop better self esteem does not mean that it needs to be said aloud; the benefits are in knowing oneself. I don't have any issue with my own appearance, but I'd never say to anyone, ever, that I think I'm attractive. I'd probably be taken aback if someone said it about themselves. I'd rather compliment someone else's shoes or hair or body than my own, or talk about politics or cats or something. I dunno. Just one woman's opinion. I'm not saying that we shouldn't believe we're attractive and smart and so on--we just should keep in mind that not everyone is quite there yet, so it is best, in my opinion, to know it quietly within.

    1. Although to clarify, I think it is lovely to do this over the internet as you're doing! I just would hesitate at the Jezebel article's suggestion that we should be able to do it aloud.

    2. I can't actually decide if I agree or not! I personally could never just say it in conversation aloud if no one had asked about it because it just feels awkward, but I think if somene asks if you think you're attractive you should be able to say yes without sounding conceited. It seems silly if people ask then are taken aback when someone says "yes." It's like they need people to say "no" or include that "but" for their own self-validation. I've always been the one inctuding the "but" before.

      So here goes: I am pretty, smart and I am a darn good cook.

    3. I work at a high school with teenage girls, none of whom (or very few of whom) believe they are even pretty, let alone beautiful. When I say aloud that I think I'm beautiful (in context of the conversation, not randomly) those girls are taken aback, but it makes them think that maybe they are allowed to think they are a little bit attractive. I make sure to tell them they are beautiful, but they're used to people telling them that. What they are not used to is the idea that they are allowed to own their looks because everything in our society says they cannot think anything good about themselves.

      Perhaps in the future everyone will know they are beautiful, smart, funny etc and then there will never be a need to say it aloud, because we're all so secure about ourselves. Until then, I will be saying aloud that I am smart, funny, beautiful, witty etc because I need it for my own self-esteem (there is a difference between telling yourself quietly and telling others, because if you tell others there's a risk they will disagree and you must still believe you're beautiful if they do) and because I believe other women and girls need an example of women owning their good characteristics instead of belittling themselves.

    4. I think this is hard cause we are often tought to be valued for what we are good at, after our looks and what we achieve. (This is of course super bad for everyones self-asteam but can be good for some peoples self-confidence.)
      As we all want to be humble about ourselves it often feels wrong to speak out loud about what we're good at. Then it sounds like we do value or praise ourselves higher than others.
      I like to be able to tell if im good, or bad for that sake, at something without using this to measure my value. I can do that quite often, even acknowledge that Im attractive and intelligent, but maybe its easier with people I know well and who I feel have a decent confidence/selfasteam.
      Its a fact for all of us that we are good at many things and that we also have many sides to improve.
      If we can see and focus on our good sides we tend to feel better for ourselves. The other things might still be there but not as much in the way.

    5. I, too, (like most people at some point or another) had trouble acknowledging my own beauty, brains and unique talents,instead choosing to focus on how my "faults". I've slowly made progress towards acknowledging that I *am* beautiful, smart, and talented and I believe the catch here is to NEVER brag. This self-knowledge is like a wonderful secret; you never feel the need to tell anyone, since the world will either see the truth or refuse to acknowledge it at all. And when someone does notice, you accept the compliment like a lady, and continue with your life, though the nice words still warm your heart.

      Of course, there are still moments of self-loathing and self-doubt. Bad hair days. PMS. Failed exams. Breakups. Life doesn't become perfect when you gain reasonable self-knowledge; often, it barely seems any easier. But half of knowing yourself is knowing your limits and acknowledging them, whether it's a limit you must accept or a limit that can be challenged and improved. And these limits shouldn't be "bragged" about any more than your other qualities. They don't define you.

  3. I am super smart, resourceful, and have all the love in the world to give :-)

  4. I've never been able to see myself as others see me. When someone gives me a compliment I always laugh it off or downplay it or insert the "But" you mentioned. I can't ever just say "thanks!" And accept it.

    So *deep breath*

    I'm creative, driven (Sometimes called stubborn lol) and yes, I really am pretty.

  5. I think I am attractive - in a cute way. Even though according to mainstream media's standards I have a whole bunch of negatives that negate my attractiveness.

    If I get a compliment, I try to just say thanks. Without a but. But occasionally, I might add a clarification. :) Someone told me I had a lovely smile, with dimples, the other day. I don't have dimples, although I often wish I did. I do have smile lines though. ;)

    I think that for me, since I am supposed to be "ugly" according to mainstream media, they just think it is "cute" that I think I am cute.

  6. Thanks everyone who participated, I loved hearing what you had to say about yourself! I'll try to come back and comment more on the discussion above too, but I really enjoyed hearing everyone's differing opinions on how they received compliments and on how they talked about themselves.

  7. This reminds me of the time someone complimented me on one of my photos on Tumblr, and after I said, "Thank you," (the way you do), I got a couple of unpleasant messages from other people who basically said, "Oh, you think you're pretty now, don't you?"

    It was such a weird response to me, like, because I didn't offer an excuse or be self-deprecating or undermine the compliment, then I was somehow being vain and arrogant. And it's a horrible Catch-22 for women to be in.

    1. Wow, really? That's very sad. You photos always look gorgeous that you post and you have ever right to just say "thank you" without any qualifiers afterwards!

  8. I am incredibly smart, caring and passionate.