Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do You Think I'm Beautiful ... The Plain One

Now this intriguing author is talking about being plain as a kid, and the different strategies she used to combat not being noticed. She talks about being a cheerleader and about being a people pleaser, how it is easier to be liked with those personality traits whether you are really pretty or not. She also talks about how she felt when complimented by others, and again I can relate.

I never was a cheerleader. However, although I wasn't "pretty" I did have my crowd of friends and we were a fairly loyal bunch. I wasn't often lonely no matter how I looked, but I don't suppose I'd have made the cheer squad anyway ... I wasn't exactly cut out for a mini-skirt. Then again, I have always been a little bit of a people pleaser. Once, I took a personality quiz to find out what "animal" I am, and I found (unsurprisingly) that I am a golden retriever, loyal to a fault and willing to be kicked a little as long as I get petted on the head here and there. I don't know if I'd go that far in how true that is.

I can still function when someone is mad at me, and I can even do a good job of playing like I don't care, but I do. I care if someone is mad at me ... but not for the usual people pleaser reason. It's not that I'm feeling some sense of loss or whatever, just that it bothers me to have hurt or upset someone enough to cause a conflict. So I have found a mix between being bold and honest while trying to be nice all the time whether I want to or not (to a point). I try to be polite and mannerly (especially with people I don't know), and I try hard not to hurt other people.

But the thing that really hit me was when Angela talked about compliments, remembering that compliments from her peers felt like "afterthoughts", like they were given as a way to be polite while telling her friends how lovely they were. Nothing like hearing, "Oh yeah, you look okay too ..." I have had compliments like that as well, but mostly what stood out to me in that particular topic was when she remembered having her father tell her how pretty she was, and thinking that he only said it because as her father, he HAD to. I remember that same feeling, vividly, because I still feel that way all the time. Should my parents tell me I look nice, I am sure it is just because they are my parents. And Fiance? Well, he has to say things like that, doesn't he? Everyone knows that a man is expected to compliment his woman whether he means it or not. So I don't take compliments very well, and I will even sometimes disagree. "Who, me? Look good in this ... Are you kidding?" It's hard for me to just say "thank you" because to me, that means I am agreeing. First of all, I probably don't agree with the compliment, and secondly ... Well, isn't that a little conceited to just agree? "Why, yes, I do look FANTASTIC, don't I?" That's just not me.

However, the end of the section was nice. The author describes her transformation from being the ugly duckling into ... the still-invisible duckling. She finds out that contacts look better than glasses, she finally has her braces removed, and she tries out a newer, very successful hairstyle. And yet she is still largely unnoticed. For a time even her friends don't recognize her because her new look is such a difference from the first. But nothing changes, perhaps because her adolescence, her childhood, was spent as a ghost. She was not sensational. Not really ugly, but nothing to shake a stick at either. Friendly, and perhaps not alone, but nonetheless aware of her lack of beauty. And it taught her to become a ghost.

So here's a question. When Angela changed her look and did not experience much difference in her notice-ability, is it because the look wasn't really that different (I doubt it) ... or was it because she had developed an invisible self-image? I believe that is part of why I am still a quiet person, just the same as I was before. I meet people if they talk to me, not because I am bold enough to talk to them.

Since the world is full of people who are just as self-conscious as I am, maybe that is why it is hard for adults to "make new friends". Maybe we all need to hear the voice of God in our hearts, we need to look for what God sees in our mirrors, and we need to open up more to each other, and to the idea of more open and friendly fellowship. Not just obviously playing to other people, but we need to really open up to the idea that we are worth something. We need to change what we say to ourselves, and learn how to say thanks to a compliment instead of immediately believing that the person complimenting us is a liar.

Really, whether the complimenter is a liar or not ... it is easier to accept a compliment if you believe in yourself. Because then you will naturally believe the compliment and it becomes a confirmation of truth instead of a lie, a worthless bit of flattery. We are not all "plain ones", but we are beautiful in the eyes of the God who created us. And we need to learn to see that.