Are You Afraid To Say You’re Pretty?

March 27, 2013  |


If there was ever a study about black women that I’m inclined to believe, it’s the one about us being more confident in our appearance than other groups of women. Last month, Kate Fridkis, wrote a piece called “Why can’t women think they’re pretty?” I read the title and thought oh, that’s tragic. Let me read. And while Fridkis brought up some salient points about how women often downplay and apologize for highlighting their flattering physical features; by the end of the article I thought to myself, thank God I don’t have this problem. You can call me vain or incorrect if you want, but I’ve always thought I was pretty. And even said it, out loud, in front of people a couple of times. Now, I don’t know if it’s because I’ve consistently heard this from others, because my parents promoted self confidence or because I’m just vain. I’m sure it’s a combination of all of these things; but whatever the reason(s), I’m grateful for this ability to be content, and dare I say very pleased, with what I see in the mirror.

I knew I was good- so I started thinking about other women in my circle. I had to start with the source. My mom. My mother, who I and others regard as beautiful, doesn’t meet European or mainstream beauty standards. She’s short, overweight, has dark skin and natural hair. But I’ve never heard her speak ill of her beauty. She might have talked about wanting to lose weight or wear her hair a different way; but when it came to her natural, physical beauty, there have been times when she’s been downright cocky. The same is true for my aunts, cousins and sister on both sides of the family. Hell, even the men talk about knowing they look good. I realize it may sound like we’re a bunch of self-obsessed jerks, but we’ll just have to be that. After all, in a world where people are constantly insulting folks based on their appearance I’d prefer we be overly confident in our looks, so we can shoulder that criticism than underestimate our beauty and let the naysayers break us down.

But I want to be careful not to dismiss anyone’s experience. I know I’ve had friends on both sides of the spectrum. I’ve had the “can’t tell me nothin'” friends and the friends who would say outright, to my shock and surprise, that they didn’t think they were pretty. I get how one could come to feel this way; but really I don’t understand it. (If that makes sense.) If beauty is subjective and increased exposure increases attractiveness how could you not at least be good with the face you’ve been living with all your life?

Maybe people have just had too many critics. Maybe they’ve internalized too many beauty standards that didn’t match their own. Maybe insecurity is stronger than we could ever imagine. I can’t call it. I’m just always surprised when I hear this type of talk from black women. Unfortunately, I’ve seen and heard far too many white women say they want Jennifer Anniston’s hair, Charlize Theron’s body and Pipa Middleton’s booty. All the while completely trashing their own, perfectly attractive beauty. If there was anything positive to come from a lack of minority representation in media, it’s that black women were less likely to compare ourselves to shapes and figures we could never achieve…naturally. Maybe white women, who’ve been watching their likeness on tv, seeing it plastered on billboards and magazine spreads have come to think that these are the only examples of hotness. While black women who didn’t see themselves represented at all but had the love, affection and attention of men, black and otherwise, knew that the media couldn’t be telling the whole story and decided to be good with themselves anyway.

Again, I can’t call it. What I do know is that every woman, every person really, regardless of what others may say about him or her, should strive to be able to look in the mirror and like what they see. None of us will ever be beautiful to everyone but the least we should try to do is be drop dead gorgeous to ourselves.

Do you think you’re pretty? Do you have problems claiming this either to yourself or others?

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  • Karen

    I have seen photos of this Veronica chick and she’s far from pretty

  • Nina


    with other single black, white girls and men in your city.. It is

    my favorite club for mixed love….

  • AncientSpiritNewDay

    No!!! I’m beautiful inside and definitely outside…..

  • SheBe

    I do think I’m very pretty. Not only because of what I have been told all of my life but because of what I see. Yes I do have problems proclaiming it because of the stigma that is attached to acknowledging it; shadeism. I have it much more attention than I should have. As a light skinned woman there was always the mantra in our community that lighter is better and darker is bitter. If a light skinned woman were to bring attention to her beauty she’s stuck up and has a bad attitude. If a dark skinned woman does it she is trying to get attention or take it from a light skinned woman. Pure foolishness! I have suppressed my feelings about my beauty because of my past experiences with this very issue. The instant labeling based on our multiple shades from an intraracial aspect has stifled some of our self perceptions (and some will take points away from their beauty out of fear of criticism which is not ok) more than just myself but many women who won’t admit it. Im much much better with this issue now that I have matured and have a daughter of my own. I think it’s great that many of our women are comfortable with acknowledging their beauty and should be able to do so without criticism. Just don’t get arrogant with it. Lol!

  • Guest

    I go the Proverbs 27:2 route :Don’t call attention to yourself; let others do that for you.;

  • I am pretty and also slim. I find I have to apologize more for being slim than having a cute face. My larger acquaintances often will fish for reassurance that their thickness is much more desirable than my slimness. You know dumb azz comments like “don’t nobody but a dog want a bone.”

    I find that others who have to brag on their desirability do so because inside they need to convince themselves.

  • Meka X

    I think I’m pretty when I look in the mirror and beautiful on the inside, but I hate how I look, sometimes in a photo. LOL

    • Hazel

      I thought I was the only one! I’ve been told that I am a beautiful woman, and I do believe that I am, (not being cocky) but I HATE taking pictures! LOL!!

    • Hazel

      I thought I was the only one! I’ve been told that I am a beautiful woman, and I do believe that I am, (not being cocky) but I HATE taking pictures! LOL!!

      • chanela

        same here! for me i look ugly in pictures. i don’t know what it is, but friends and a few other people i’ve talked to have told me that i look better in person than in pictures. i’m the opposite of

        • Meka X


      • Meka X

        If you only knew. Smh I get low really quick when it’s photo time. LOL

    • Hazel

      I thought I was the only one! I’ve been told that I am a beautiful woman, and I do believe that I am, (not being cocky) but I HATE taking pictures! LOL!!

    • SheBe


    • Agreed!

  • kb

    it’s just not polite to say, I have a pretty good looking family, even my grandmother, still, but nobody ever talks about it like that. Being pretty is like having a lot of money, it’s tacky to really go -on about it. Anyway , I do feel that black woman (save hair issues) have more self confidence than white women who at times seem neurotic about beauty. It’s ironic bc the people that society says are the prettiest seem to have doubt themselves the most.

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  • rococo

    this has been an issue for me. I know I’m good looking maybe not drop dead gorgeous but I know if i walk into a crowded room chances are i won’t be the ugliest there and i’ll probably get hit on by more than one person. What bothers me is people have such high expectations based on my looks; I should have a better job, live in a better place, have better friends and date better looking guys basically my life should be rainbows and roses but life doesn’t work like that! I have, and I quote “trouble with my friends, trouble in my life” not that these areas are super problematic for me but things happen to everyone but I just hate when I tell people about the ish going on in my life, they look at me like really, but you’re too pretty to have such crap happen to you.
    Another thing is I’ve always preferred putting emphasis on my personality and to be honest all this focus on my outside appearance is the reason why I’ve been slow to cultivate a strong and interesting person cos you do get a lot of passes if you’re good looking which doesn’t very little to develop character, which to me is much more important.

    • SheBe

      I actually like and appreciate your honesty and agree with you.

    • chanela

      i’ve always thought it was silly for people to say that certain things SHOULD happen in your life because you’re “pretty”. a lot of old folks would say ” you don’t have a boyfriend/husband? you’re too pretty to be single!” looking good has nothing to do with keeping a relationship alive. getting a job has nothing to do with attractiveness (unless you live in korea or are going for a job as a model or something )

  • DinaLineth

    I know for a fact, that I look better than some of these hood baby mommas we got walking around here. I look at them like, “who nutted in that?”……sorry

    • Drew Smith


    • chanela

      OH NO!!!! or when they have multiple kids ” seriously? somebody banged them more than once?”lol

  • CocoaFly

    Interesting article about beauty. I think people don’t open say they’re beautiful because it can be misinterpreted as cocky. And there’s also the issue of women not wanting to project their pretty because they don’t want people to see it as their sole value. Some people don’t think you can be pretty and smart. I do disagree with the author at the end of her article about black women not comparing themselves to mainstream images because we’re not represented in the mainstream. The absence of our beauty in the mainstream has been very, very damaging to how many black women perceive themselves. Often we lighten our skin, straighten our hair, sew in some hair and wear colored contacts because we’re trying to have those European features that the media has been telling us is beautiful. And so many of us have internalized our natural features as not being beautiful. Just for clarification, I’m not saying all black women who wear a weave and straighten their hair are trying look like a white girl. But a lot of us do that kind of stuff because we don’t like our natural features.

  • jjac401

    Well, it is true that if you don’t believe it – nobody else will. I think i look pretty darn decents (to say the least) but I think self confidence can more loudly be shown in the way one carries themselves. Sometimes I find it akward when I hear a woman make a proclamation that they know they are all of that. I wonder if the person is trying to convince me or themselves. Real confidence is in ones energy.

    • chanela

      hmm the beginning isn’t necessarily true. everyone around the world agrees that halle berry is gorgous…. yet she still feels that she is ugly and dislikes herself. like most celebrity women. people have told me “you’re pretty” or “you’re beautiful” and i’m so puzzled cause i seriously don’t see it. everybody has their own set of beauty standards. i don’t consider myself beautiful (maybe pretty.. MAYBE) because i don’t think i fit with what i PERSONALLY consider beautiful.

  • Just saying!!

    I do hesitate to own up to it around some other people, particularly insecure people. But deep down I know I’m drop dead gorgeous! I do think it’s a mixture of people saying it and my parents’ good parenting. Heck an older woman just told my mom 20 minutes ago about how beautiful I am. Why should I be ashamed? That’s how every woman should feel! (especially because beauty is a relative, fairly made up concept). Women should not be made to feel guilty for acknowledging their beauty, the issue comes when you can’t acknowledge anyone else’s and you think you are the end all be all.

  • Zahin

    I am afraid to say that when dating because it sounds so cliche.

  • bluekissess

    Is this a grown women article or an article for high school girls? Yes, I think I’m pretty and no I don’t feel the need to gloat. I want to be presentable everyday but my main focus is character and my love and respect for people.

  • clove8canela

    I do think I’m pretty, and I’ve been told so by others, but my mother always impressed upon me that looks aren’t everything & intelligence is more important than beauty so I do try to keep that in mind & only bring out the cockiness when necessary.

    Also, I do agree with you on the cultural aspect, although my family isn’t over the top with it, I don’t recall anyone ever obsessing over themselves. On the other hand, with my white friends, they would often complain about the “big” butt (they didn’t have), and their desire to lose weight (from an already slender frame).

    And so, that’s what I love about our culture, regardless of what we look like, if we think we got it, we flaunt it, with no apologies!