It’s not all about confidence.
I am tired of people saying, “Just feel good! It makes you look good!”
It might be true, but I don’t like it anyway, because it’s too much pressure.
I know the confidence people have good intentions. They want to make beauty more accessible. They’re trying to point out that beauty is available to all of us, all the time, we already are it. Which is a great thought. But since I’m not already glowing with self-esteem, I have to find another way.
And anyway, sometimes the confidence people get a little snippy. They have no patience for women feeling insecure. “Come on! You’re ruining it for everyone! Why can’t you tell you look fine?” The moment is always being spoiled by women’s insecurities. If only women would just stop whining and love themselves. Then we could finally do something interesting. Then we could have really good sex. I don’t know. The message is: you are suddenly beautiful when you get confident, because inner beauty is the only beauty that matters. Or because your inner beauty magically becomes outer beauty. So just do that.
It feels accusatory sometimes.
I think I’d rather feel good than look good, but I’m not sure that feeling good really changes the way I look. It’s more likely to just make me stop caring so much about the way I look. But somehow, we have ended up with this idea that feeling good means looking good.
Heroines are either naturally stunning or they don’t care even slightly how they look. Often, they are naturally stunning and they don’t care even slightly.
In Disney movies and fairytales, the villainess is often motivated by a desperate desire to stay young and beautiful. Remember Snow White’s stepmother? And probably like fifty other ones I’m writing too quickly to think of. The desire to be beautiful is gross. It’s dangerous. It’s sometimes despicable. It’s always at least a little pathetic.
It’s a lot of pressure. Stop feeling unattractive! Just decide to love yourself! And then you’ll look good! If you look bad, it’s because you’re insecure. Get secure! Be the woman whose smile lights up the room, simply because she’s so happy, all the time. Be the woman whose poise and self-assurance puts everyone else at ease, and makes everything feel somehow more reasonable. Be the woman whose warmth is radiant. Who doesn’t need makeup, who doesn’t worry about her weight, because she knows these things are trivial compared to her radiant warmth. Be the woman who trusts herself intrinsically, all the time. That is beautiful. Supermodels have nothing on that. Be her.
These are mixed messages. Wait…will I be AS beautiful as the supermodel if I feel good about myself? That doesn’t sound right…Or will people just stop caring completely what I look like? Am I supposed to want to be beautiful at all? Or is that not allowed?
This is much is clear: I am not that fabulously self-possessed woman. I am awkward. I am complicated, and not necessarily in lots and lots of cute ways that complicated women in movies are. I am too moody for incessant confidence and too doubtful for vibrant self-trust. I need reassurance. I can sometimes rely on myself and sometimes I really, really can’t.
I am a little of a lot of things. A little beautiful, a little ugly, a little totally messed up, a little ridiculously cool, a little tempestuous, a little obnoxious, a little lame, a little fun, a little full of potential. I am not an easy solution. Because there really isn’t one. I am one day at a time. I am tiny epiphanies.
But I will give the confidence people this much: it’s better to smile, when you feel like smiling.
But I also reserve the right to be totally mopey. To be frustrated when I need to. To not light up the room.
I don’t want to have to light up the room, OK? Not right now. Maybe later. But don’t tell me to light up the room.
Does a smile affect the way you feel? Do you think the way you feel can change the way you look?
Kate Fridkis blogs at Eat the Damn Cake. Her writing has appeared on Salon.com, A Practical Wedding, Jezebel, AOL’s front page, and on the Huffington Post among others. Kate lives in NYC and you can follow her on Twitter here.