Maybe I shouldn’t complain.
I am beautiful.
I like the way I look but that may be part of the problem.
Women think that once you are happy with your appearance, you live “happily ever after.” Right? I mean every magazine talks about losing weight, exercising, and looking pretty and then magically your life will be perfect, right? I’m here to tell you that at least for me, feeling happy with my appearance was not the fairytale ending that many women think or pretend it is. It’s not nearly that simple.
I realized very young that I have a certain amount of power just by my appearance. This false belief of confidence helped me feel included when many times I felt excluded. I didn’t have many friends in middle school. I would sit before class and listen to people discuss where the party was, in hopes that one day, I too, would be invited.
Picture by Seule au Matin
I still remember vividly the first time I received attention for my looks. I was walking down the hallway right near the cafeteria wearing a black dress that had a zipper that went down in the front. All of a sudden I saw a boy staring at me. He was just simply staring at me—no one else, just me. I had his complete undivided attention—I felt important, included in a world I felt continuously excluded from. It was a high.
I began to notice my impact on other men. Having grown adult men stare at me empowered me. I remember going with my mom to the upscale hair salon on Long Island and looking forward to the attention I received from husbands waiting for their wives.
That sense of power from my beauty has followed me into my twenties and thirties. I might even call it one of my daemons. Not the beauty itself, but my relationship to it. People, including family members tell me that I shouldn’t be complaining about my looks but I like analyzing and exploring my feelings. By interviewing women for a play I wrote called “Ideal Beauty,” I found out I’m not alone in my thoughts about the power of beauty.
Through lots of introspection, therapy, talking to other women and by tapping into my strengths that were completely independent of what I look like, I became aware of my curiosity, sensitivity and intellect. Yes, while I do still take pleasure when people look at me and tell me, “You’re beautiful,” it doesn’t give me that high like it used to. Instead, I am excited to impact the world with my gifts that are not obvious just by looking at me.
Danielle Sonnenberg is a writer and a graduate student in psychology at the New School For Social Research. She also publishes a blog on women, appearance and power at blog.daniellesonnenberg.com. She can be contacted at [email protected] and at twitter at Dsonnenberg.