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I don’t usually think of myself as a pretty girl. I’m not ugly by any means, but I’m not someone who stops traffic either. That being said, my whole life I’ve suffered with the consequences of what I call “pretty girl syndrome“.
What is this you ask? I see you rolling your eyes “not another post about how hard life is when your pretty”. No. This post is about what it’s like to be judged. And how that can affect relationships. Recently I experienced someone’s insecurities, aimed at me in the form of rage. I recently moved into a new apartment, and my downstairs neighbor, an insecure older woman who I could tell has been having ongoing marital issues with her husband, became enraged with me less than two weeks after I moved in.
The first thing I want to point out is how can I tell she has insecurities? Well, she never once said hello to me, looked me in the eye, or spoke to me, in two weeks, despite my attempts at being pleasant and in that time, I had full conversations with all of my other neighbors, including many down the street. I’m very approachable and friendly. Secondly, in the same two weeks, I heard her have multiple screaming matches with her husband which is also how I could tell they were having issues in their relationship. Minding my business I spoke only of apartment related issues and only very briefly with her husband. However, very late one night, this woman banged on my door, and proceeded to scream at me, and in fact, damaged property of mine, and eventually ended up arrested and charged with charges of assault and criminal mischief and property damage.
This is where “pretty girl syndrome” comes in. This woman, struggling with insecurities, saw me, judged me, and raged out on me, for being “pretty”. Too pretty to be single and living next door the husband she’s having marital struggles with. In this case, I did nothing wrong, but in the midst of a mental crisis this woman got herself arrested (attacking a police officer didn’t help her case). This is not the first time I’ve been judged for being too pretty or too “something”. Countless times it was assumed I’m sleeping with my male friends, or they must be “in love with me” in order to hang out with me, because we can’t be just friends.
In college I was told by a guy he couldn’t tell his girlfriend we were having lunch because my name was “too sexy and she would assume the worst”. MY NAME! so you would rather lie completely than tell the truth?! Getting judged only makes me judge myself more, I end up taking on blame for things I didn’t do. Apologize for things that aren’t my fault. I’m sorry my parents picked a sexy sounding name? I’m sorry you’re so insecure you threw bleach at me because you think your husband can’t keep it in his pants, but did you stop to think that I might have a say in that? Why am I apologizing for being judged? Why do I feel like I should suddenly be unpretty to make you feel better?
So how does this affect my relationships, or yours if this sounds familiar to you? Because I find myself feeling attacked frequently when I’m not. I end up on the defensive quickly because I feel the need to apologize for things that aren’t my fault and then I feel angry for being made to feel that way, even though it’s me who got me there. And that is a sure-fire way to destroy a relationship. Always being on the defensive means you’re always ready to attack what’s going to attack you, but what if you’re not really being attacked? It’s time to take that control back, stop apologizing for being pretty, let the defenses down. And for you and its insecurities, stop assuming every pretty girl is out to get you. You might build a stronger relationship and find you’re able to drop your insecurities if you learn we all have them.
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Ohhhh, yes – I too, despite not really being considered “pretty” until my 30s (in the 1990s) have had a lifelong issue with this. And in my 50s, I am finding to my shock that I have to push back at work against younger women who consider me younger, more inexperienced, and less capable/worldly/wise than they consider themselves to be!
It’s not looks, exactly. I was an actress, yet was never really “pretty” in the 1970s and 1980s – I was “interesting.” Also, I was a bookworm and a brain. Yet I still had, and have, difficult relationships with other women – or to be more precise, they have decided to unnecessarily aggressive toward me.
It’s not “prettiness,” although high cheekbones, a certain way that one carries oneself, and a certain class or taste in clothes and behavior enhance one’s attractiveness, especially with intelligent, equality-minded men. I think it’s my LIFELONG GOOD RELATIONS WITH MEN that really bring out the hatred in some women, just as this is a train that I share with women with whom I enjoy the rare trust of true friendship. We are more than tomboys; there’s just something about us (probably personality, perhaps also a certain pheremoney) that inspires confidence in men. I know that men in technology and science fields often condescend to women, but that’s been very rare in my case.
And this could be what you’re really encountering, that you enjoy good relationships with men that other women do not. I don’t know what “it” is, for surely that’s unfair, for surely for every Grace Hopper or Nancy Roman there are women just as deserving who were held back; but (and this is the important point0, both Grace Hopper and Nancy Roman endured condescension from female secretaries who refused to take them seriously! They actually prevented Nancy Roman from entering her own offices at NASA until she reluctantly took to calling herself “Dr. Roman.”
I hear you. I get it. It’s really not “prettiness” so much as a certain self-possession, even if you don’t think you have it. It’s them, not you, and it’s sad, for women will never achieve true equality unless they finally decide not to teach each other down in the face of someone they should regard as a model and an inspiration, like you.