A couple of years the Dove Organization, which runs The Campaign for Real Beauty, surveyed 3,000 women globally. Astoundingly, only 2% of those women considered themselves beautiful. I thought the same thing you are probably thinking right now. Beautiful sets the bar really high. What about cute, attractive or pretty? With other, less loaded words, the results weren’t much better: 9% went with attractive and 7% identified themselves as good-looking or cute, 5% were pretty.
The only two words to garner more than a 10% response were natural with 31% and average with 29%.
I know there is a lot back story involved with these numbers. As women, we don’t want to come across as vain or conceited, and I think that plays a significant role in why we shy away from words like beautiful and, to a lesser degree, pretty and attractive.
But, there is an underlying perception there as well, and that is that a lot of us just don’t feel attractive. We don’t, as the song from West Side Story says, “Feel Pretty.”
Growing up, as one of the few black girls in my class, I didn’t feel pretty. In fact, I felt down right ugly. A fact that was reinforced by several boys in my class who during gym in Middle School made sure I knew that, at least in their eyes, I was “black and ugly.”
I wrestled through high school, college and through my 20’s with this stigma. I even stood up a great guy in college because I just couldn’t believe that he would want to go out with me. I certainly couldn’t see anything good about me and I couldn’t see how anyone else could either.
When I look back, it pains me to see how many years I wasted settling for less because I didn’t feel or believe that I was worth, or deserved, more.
Then, one day, I guess you could say that I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I decided to work on my self esteem, really work on it. With time and a whole lot of effort, I realized that the ‘black and ugly’ seventh grade duckling with the braces and bad hair cut had become, in her own way, a swan.
Here is what I did:
I asked. I asked my closest friends to name something about me that was attractive. They told me I had a beautiful smile and happy, animated eyes. They told me I had a nice figure. They liked my smooth skin.
I looked. I looked in the mirror and at pictures of myself and slowly I began to see those very things. “You know,” I said to myself, “Years of braces paid off, I do have pretty, straight, white teeth. I do have a great smile.”
I was honest. I was honest in assessing that even with the eyes and the smile and the yada, yada, there were still some things about myself that I wasn’t crazy about and might never be crazy about but that was okay. Everyone has things they aren’t crazy about, even supermodels.
I focused. I focused on what I liked about myself and slowly, those positive things, and not the things I didn’t like, were where I focused my thinking.
I looked beyond. I looked beyond the physical. When I asked my friends what they found attractive in me, they went beyond the physical and I realized that I needed to do that too. Listening to them, I found that my dedication as a good friend, my sense of humor, and my willingness to help made me just as beautiful as a smile or bright eyes. And that to truly embrace my beauty I had to embrace the total package … inside and out.
So do I think I’m beautiful? Honestly, I’m part of the 98% that would not use that word to describe myself. But I will take cute, pretty or attractive. : )