Does Pretty Have to Hurt?

Queen Bey sang a song quite a little while ago that highlighted what’s wrong with our society’s views on beauty, specifically that of women. Yet, it never seemed to get the radio air time that rap songs about women with tiny waists got.

More and more often we hear of rapes where it’s all somehow the woman’s fault that it’s “too late” because she was terrified to come forward, largely due to the trauma her body and her mind had gone through.

Daily we scroll through social media and see photoshopped or heavily edited photos getting hundreds of likes, while sweet candids of authentic happiness go unnoticed.

If the state of our current views on “pretty” bother you or have hurt you too, you’ve come to the right article.

Quite a few members of the older generations around us have recently mentioned to me that they don’t recall anxiety, suicide, depression, eating disorders, or other various mental struggles being an issue many years ago. However, these mental health concerns didn’t appear out of nowhere and it isn’t just another millennial thing. According to ANAD, “at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.”

Why is that? Depression and anxiety and suicide rates are harder to understand the causes behind, but there is one huge contributing factor to eating disorders that effects other mental health rates as well.

One simple word- PERFECTION.

We’re not perfect. We were never meant to be. We were never meant to PRETEND to be either. Please please hear me when I tell you that you don’t have to be perfect.

So why do we try so hard?

For the sake of another Queen Bey reference, OKAY LADIES NOW LET’S TALK SOCIALLY EMBEDDED BEAUTY STANDARDS!

You might be wondering why the featured photo on this article is two somewhat embarrassing selfies. Trust me, I do not embarrassment myself on the internet for things I don’t believe to be worthy causes. Just hang with me!

In our first photo we have the very polished and put together, posed social media life. These are the typical photos we are conned into posting because they are “pretty”. The filter is what gets all the likes, and no one is worried about whether you’re ACTUALLY happy or not.

In our second photo we have, well, REAL LIFE. Our hair is out of place, our face bares all our freckles and blemishes and worry wrinkles (thanks college 🤬). Reality is messy and unedited, yet still just as “pretty”, if not prettier.

But do we really feel that way? We say it, and it’s easy to type here. But there’s only a 1/1,000 chance that I’d ever ACTUALLY post that second selfie to any social media platform. So why is it so easy to say we believe women are beautiful with or without makeup and Photoshop, but so much harder to act on it? Instead we skip a few meals or try a new pill or throw all our money at some new store.


You could argue it’s pride or sin or any other part of Eve’s fall, and maybe my argument technically is part of that.

Yet history shows that, whether it was ribbons and pearls or panty hose or painted on moles or FIFTY POUND LAYERS OF DRESS or no ankles showing or Leave it to Beaver’s mom or contouring (WHATEVER THAT IS), in every time period there have been beauty guidelines that women starved themselves (sometimes literally) to fit into. Outside of the understandable lines of modesty and religious life, women are taught so many ridiculous concepts that masquerade as “lady like.” BUT WHY?!?

I’ll tell you why- because we’re allowing society to chain us to beauty standards that have nothing to do with our purity or our worth and it is bad- very bad. There’s a reason half the ladies I know look at photos of themselves and hate them, and it doesn’t just effect their online footprint. It pushes them to be cruel to their own bodies and their own self esteem all for the sake of being “pretty.”

Is it because they look different than they do in real life? Is it because they’re dressed improperly? Is it because they have 5 more pounds than they’d “like”? NO! They’re as gorgeous as ever! But we live in a society that teaches us that if we don’t look as amazing as Joanna Gaines (who’s just all together awesome and I have no idea how she does it), then something is wrong with us.

NOTHING IS MORE FALSE!

If you’re happy, it doesn’t matter where your clothes came from. If you’re enjoying life, it doesn’t matter if 10 pounds of your freshman 15 is still hanging around. If you’re confident in who you are, it is irrelevant if your sorority’s president got twice the likes you did.

Why are eating disorders running rampant?

PERFECTION. When society starts convincing girls at 10 that their outfits define them, they’re adding to it. When society tells high school cheerleaders to “lose a few pounds” to “make the uniform look best”, they’re adding to the problem. When society’s only compliment to young women is that they “look thin”, they’re adding to it.

If you’re someone who has had these comments made to them, please know they are wrong!

You are not defined by your “pretty” exterior. You are defined by your heart and your passions and your dreams and your hobbies and your opinions. Those are what make you who you are.

In her spoken word poem, Katie Makkai put it best when she said:

“This is about the self-mutilating circus we have painted ourselves clowns in”

About women who will prowl thirty stores in six malls to find the right cocktail dress, but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy, wandering through life shackled to a shopping bag, beneath those two pretty syllables.

This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-stayed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?”

I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer “NO”.

The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but you will never be merely pretty.”

You are so much more than one simple little word. The depths of your soul cannot be so easily summed up.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, or any form of body negativity, please know that you are not alone. There are hundreds of strong incredible women who have walked through where you are and you WILL make it through!

Pretty doesn’t have to hurt. You were born pretty. You are pretty. And you will always be pretty.

For any guys who read this, start telling women they’re beautiful with their messy hair and zits (also mean it because we can spot your lies 👏🏼👏🏼). Don’t define women by their size or how well they planned their outfits. And for goodness sake we are very far past objectifying women.

Both my women and my men- Compliments don’t have to be romantic. Spread them around every chance ya get!

About the Author

bethanydavis
bethanydavis
Graduate Student, Former Educator, Self-Care Enthusiast, "Multipotentialite", INFP.