I know I’m beautiful, so deal with it

“You don’t know you’re beautiful. But that’s what makes you beautiful.”

BULLSHIT. Could I be rolling my eyes any harder?

Today’s rant is about why our culture seems to think it’s so bad for a woman to know that she is beautiful and to be confident in that beauty. I’ve been reading a couple YA books lately, all of which I’m thoroughly enjoying, but one thing that gets on my nerves to no end is that almost all of the teenage female protagonists are insecure about the way they look, but they feel beautiful when their significant other tells them that they are beautiful.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this is how most teenage girls feel; it’s certainly how I felt as a teenager: insecure, unattractive, tubby, gross, unlovable. That’s largely part and parcel of being a teenage girl. However. That doesn’t mean that our characters have to share all of those traits with us. Sure, characters aren’t supposed to be perfect, but why is feeling insecure/unattractive always the go-to imperfect trait in fictional teenage girls? What about rage? Oh that’s right, anger is unfeminine if allowed to go past a certain point. What about gossip? Oh that’s right, that would make her a bitch. What about being bossy? Oh that’s right, that would also make her a bitch.

Obviously I don’t think being prone to gossip or being take-charge or losing one’s temper makes one a bitch. But I don’t think I’m too off the mark to say that our society does. After all, would this Beyoncé GIF be quite so powerful and amazing if it wasn’t also something we’re not used to seeing?

We shouldn’t be surprised by this, but part of its power comes from its being unexpected. A woman in charge (of anything) should be just “the boss”- she shouldn’t have to explain herself or worry about others perceiving her as “bossy” or “bitchy.” But she does.

Characters should above all be honest, but what I can’t stand to see is when a girl feels beautiful only when someone else tells her she is beautiful (usually this is spoken by a teenage boy, because God forbid another girl tell her she’s pretty in more than a “oh no girl, you’re like so pretty, I can’t believe he didn’t call you” way). One, until a girl or woman feels beautiful for herself and by herself, it doesn’t matter how many other people (friends, family, significant others) tell her she is. No right combination of words will make her truly believe it until this knowledge is internalized and she knows it to be true on her own. Two, that doesn’t mean you should stop telling women in your life that they’re beautiful; definitely keep doing that, but understand that you don’t get to decide what makes her feel beautiful. Whether she feels beautiful wearing makeup or none at all, dressing up or not at all, etc, etc- that’s her decision.

Three (and back to the One Direction song lyrics I started with), what the hell is wrong with a woman actually KNOWING she’s beautiful? That is some leftover patriarchal bullshit that has no place in today’s world. I could easily paraphrase the lyrics so they read: “You’re only sexy because you don’t know how pretty you are, so let me tell you how beautiful you are so I can define your beauty for you and you will subsequently want to sleep with me.” Or equally as valid: “Damn girl, if you knew how fine you were, you wouldn’t be nearly as sexy. Also I probably wouldn’t have a chance in hell with you because you’d be so confident and badass.”

People always say that confidence is one of the most attractive things in a man. The same should be true for a woman. A woman who is confident in herself, who knows she’s beautiful- this same woman is often labeled “vain” or “shallow” or worse, a “bitch” because her standards are too high and she has too much self-worth to sleep with you in order to validate herself.

Your standards don’t define me. I’m beautiful, bitches.

Wait up, let me just grab my confidence heels

Wait up, let me just grab my confidence heels

So if you follow me on Twitter @BronwenCarlyle, you’ll probably have already read this story more times than you care to, but I promise I’ll say something about it more than “ermigerd I met a celebrity.” Yesterday when I was flying home to visit my family, I ran into the hockey player Robert Bortuzzo, formerly a Pittsburgh Penguin who just got traded away to St. Louis, which in my opinion is a great loss and a terrible decision for Pittsburgh. But anyway, I happened to share a brief plane ride with him and also managed to snag a picture as proof, since otherwise no one would ever have believed me.

me and bortuzzo

But rather than me gushing on like a giddy schoolgirl (which let’s face it, is how I acted because I was so starstruck), I want to instead talk about confidence and personal appearance and Murphy’s bloody Law.

Very rarely do I leave the house with no makeup on. There are many reasons for that. One, I just like makeup. I enjoy putting it on and I enjoy the way it makes me look and feel. Two, I always feel much more confident when wearing makeup. If I have on a pair of heels and some red lipstick, there is nothing I can’t do. And finally number three, it never fails that if I leave the house without makeup on or just wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt (which I almost never wear out because in the same way that I love lipstick and heels, I also love dresses and jewelry), I will inevitably run into someone I know and someone before whom I would prefer not to be wearing ratty old sweatpants.

So of course when I ran into the NHL hockey player in the airport, I was wearing “airport clothes” or “I’m-tired-and-dehydrated-and-just-want-to-get-home-clothes” and had no makeup on. Which I’ll be honest is why it’s me it took me an entire flight plus ten minutes of deboarding the plane to work up my courage to run up to him and tell him how much I love him and think he is an amazing player and I’m a huge fan and would he take a picture with me. I have a feeling that if I had been wearing lipstick and heels per usual, it would’ve taken me about two minutes to work up my nerve to do all this.

The point of all this is to say that while I love being dressed up, I certainly should not have to be all dressed up to have confidence. When I was relating this story to my best friend, she was quick to point out that even when I’m not wearing my confidence heels, I basically always am. I guess it’s just hard to remember that all the time.

How I generally feel when I’m wearing heels and lipstick

How I generally feel without my makeup armor

The point of all this is to say-well, many things- but thinking especially in terms of my writing, I find myself often wanting to be more like (some) of the characters I create. Thinking of my female characters alone, they are all wearing confidence heels even when they’re not. Even when they’re terrified or insecure or overwhelmed, they have the ability (even if they don’t always use it) to tap into some deep power. Now I don’t want to go all “I am woman hear me roar” but: Rawr.

My female characters are by far my most powerful. And it doesn’t matter if they are wearing sweatshirts or ballgowns or tiaras or sneakers, they are powerful simply because they are powerful. Sometimes it takes a while for them to realize this power but even then, that doesn’t mean they have to change their appearance in any way to look more traditionally feminine (whatever that means, that’s so culturally loaded).

the ever-wise Dita Von Teese again

They are powerful because they believe they are powerful. Here’s to hoping I can learn something from my own creations.