On Prettiness

 I've been thinking about prettiness a lot recently. In my mind, prettiness is about social attractiveness. It's not that bold beauty, but rather an acceptable one. Prettiness is about achieving the socially acceptable size, hair length, dress sense, skin colour etc. Perhaps this is not your own definition of prettiness, but bear with me for a second (or more) because whatever you call it, women are still striving for an acceptable appearance. 

The thing is, prettiness is a pretty futile quality. What's the point of being pretty if you're dull and self-absorbed? Pretty doesn't make you kind, it doesn't make you strong, it doesn't make you a good friend, it doesn't make you generous. It just makes you look nice. So many of my friends are distracted by their prettiness (or what they consider a lack of) so much so that they forget to applaud who they are and what they have achieved. I am also guilty of grimacing at my reflection rather than celebrating my degree or that the fact that I learned a new song or read a difficult book or looked after my sick brother. I know so many girls who are taking their chosen industries by storm, who are incandescently kind, who are smart and wise beyond their years. They have talent pulsing in their veins and bright futures that will surely change the timbre of society. Yet most of them are obsessed with food and thigh gaps and six packs and 'strong not skinny' campaigns. I know girls who feel the pressure from their parents to be thin or pretty and cannot shake the feeling that, despite all their other qualities, they are a disappointment. My housemate and I would have at least one conversation a day that revolved around working out or eating less carbs and more protein and how much weight we had lost or gained. We didn't stop to think that she was completing a masters in engineering, whilst designing sets and lights for bazillion productions or that I was writing a dissertation and auditioning for drama schools, whilst staring into the void. We didn't give ourselves credit where the credit was due. Now I'm not against healthy eating and exercise, in fact I have a blog scheduled this week about how much I flipping LOVE that stuff. It's about my motivation, it's about beating myself up when I have a scoop of icecream or spending hours trying on clothes to make myself look thinner and 'more attractive'. It's about feeling unworthy in a crowd full of 'pretty' people. It's about spending the summer thinking 'this is the summer I will finally transform myself' rather than preparing for drama school.

A few months ago I came across this quote by Diana Vreeland:

You dont have to be pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female'

After reading this again a few days ago, I had to laugh at myself. I had to see the silliness in my thought process and the utter futility of my desperation to look a certain way. So I made myself write a list of all the things I'd rather be than pretty and, in the essence of vulnerability and what not, I thought I'd share it with you and encourage you to do the same thing. It gave me so much perspective and made me feel more determined to better the RIGHT parts of myself rather than wasting my time on something that really doesn't matter.

So rather than pretty, I'd like to be: thoughtful, selfless, intentional, well-read, tidy, sensitive, wise, curious, fit, healthy, creative, productive, a writer, an actress, an artist, holy, spontaneous, fun.

I'd LOVE to know what your lists are!


  1. What a good idea. I've written mine in my diary so that I'm always reminded of them:

    - Kind
    - Loving
    - Creative
    - Spontaneous
    - Genuine
    - Cultured
    - Funny
    - Confident
    - Unafraid
    - Unapologetically myself

    Thank you for this. xxx

  2. Incredibly well-said, Ellie. If only it were easy to stop thinking pretty is so important! X

  3. Honest, loyal, generous, humble, free, courageous, wise, satisfied, integrity-full (why is there no decent adjective for that?)

    Really like the idea here. Not all of it applies quite so well for guys, but it inspired me to want to write a list, so something must have got across the gender gap! I enjoy your writing style Ellie.

  4. This Italian/Northern Irish dude is simply loving the blog...:)