Pursuit of Pretty

Giulio Volo

During a recent conversation, a male friend of mine in the beauty industry advised me on a particular Botox procedure that would improve my looks. While Botox is something that never crossed my mind before, I started to really think about it. I imagined my face with this new procedure – how pretty I’d feel, pondered the confidence boost and definitely rationalized how mornings would be easier with one less make-up step.

But as I mused over the temptation of the  ‘benefits’ that may derive from increasing physical attraction, a realization came into my head. Am I on an endless pursuit of pretty? Of perfection? Will this insatiable appetite to improve my looks, my hair, my body – ever be met? Or is there something more deep rooted going on here?

Yes, at a very young age we are primed as little girls that being pretty and girly is rewarded. As a young girl, I learned how being cute would get my way. As I entered grade school, I learned that the pretty girls were the ones that boys gave attention to. And as I entered high school, I learned that looking and acting more “grown up” coupled with pretty and sexuality was what brought attention and getting a dance partner at the high school dances. In my early twenties I thought oozing sexual energy and a carefree party girl energy was empowering. I got tons of attention, albeit, most of it the wrong type of attention.

Now in my late twenties, I look back and see how I was “rewarded” for pretty. And while I have learned that it is my values, my spirit and soul that is what my friends and the few loves of my life cherish about me, and am able to look in the mirror and be satisfied with the reflection – I still find myself at times stuck at the Botox question. Why?

I think that when you are used to getting attention or praise for looks, you focus on that as the point of why people like you. So, a cycle begins, and you want to keep improving that one thing you are getting rewarded or given attention for. However, along the way, it is so easy to get caught up that you forget what really makes you a beautiful being.

During a recent trip to another metropolitan city, I went out to the popular social spots. Being one of the only Asian girls in the crowd, I received a fair amount of attention. I admit, I relished in it – and mentally, I became so focused on continuing to attract that attention that I wouldn’t even step out to get a coffee without mascara on. I ended up attracted a male that caught my eye and found myself at 21 again, wanting to look “perfect” for him. In a sense, I played the “Siren”. The Siren can be referred to as the girl who uses her looks and seductive ways of flirting to gain the attention of the man. By default, she must engage in the perpetual maintenance of that extension presented in order to sustain the attention of the man in the first place. The little girl in her says, “If he likes me because I’m pretty, then the equation would seem that being pretty would equal being liked more”. This has nothing really to do with the male – it’s all to do with the reality you chose to create inside your head, and in this case, my head. And it’s quite an exhausting cycle, and ironically, detrimental to the self-esteem.

Now, I’m not saying to just stop caring about your presentation or how you look, nor am I saying that I’ll never actually go through with Botox one day. But I am saying, try to understand the real reasons behind it. I have had friends that have danced with anorexia, bulimia and pills in the quest to be thinner than a size 2. I have often equated pretty = men will like/love you. It’s an illusion so ingrained that it can actually eat at your true beauty. And whatever the procedure, whether it is fake tanning, surgery or Botox, the pursuit of pretty is an endless one, and one with a destination that can never be obtained.

Photo credit: Giulio Volo

4 Comments

  • Reply November 5, 2009

    lolawest

    You know, I used to envy girls like you. Thanks for writing this article – I now know that it wasn’t easy for you neither. Me, I was a total disaster at using my looks to get attention. Being forced to use my brain to get attention meant that I could con favours from grown-ups but I had no friends my age (and no male attention, obviously). The strangest thing is, I’m 30 now and I feel like I’m playing catch-up. To a certain degree I’ve bought into that concept of pretty = men will like/love you and some days it eats away at me. Maybe I’ll grow out of it in time.

  • Reply November 24, 2009

    nicole

    well written.

  • Reply November 29, 2009

    Arcane

    Amy, what a beautifully written piece.

    Please don’t ever go for it though, i think i understand the struggle but as you said its an ongoing lifetime thing and i truly believe that you are more beautiful now than you ever will be, and that will never change.

    Once you’ve altered your natural look nothing from that moment can truly be real anymore, you’ll be looking at another version of yourself. One that wasn’t happy with the previous one. Sorry to sound preachy but surely that won’t be good for the soul?

    I really hope you decide to stick with your true & inner beauty.

    Besides, are the “men” from which you seek this attention ever really worthy of it? If you met him right now, would he want you to change a single thing about yourself? If they are real and know what love is then my opinion is most definitely not…. If yes, then you should get the hell out immediately.

    I honestly believe that True Love is a combination of elements that are ingrained within all of us and will only be found by people in the same category.

    CHIVALRY IS NOT DEAD…. Not just yet anyway.

    I highly recommend this film to anyone thinking about changing their appearance in any way….

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0497986/

  • Reply September 14, 2013

    Jojo

    I know this is a late comment…but this truly resonates with me. I never quite knew how to describe it, but you have explained it so well it brought a smile to my lips. It feels good to know that I am not the only who has felt this and has had thoughts like this. It truly is a vicious circle. I often find myself always trying to build upon what I look like and improve, but there really isn’t anything “wrong.” Sigh. Sometimes I have days that I am just so tired of being this way that I walk out the door in sweats and fresh faced…and it is incredibly liberating!

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