Voting To Not Feel Ugly

I always wanted to be a pretty person, but I wasn’t.  I was an ugly person.  That’s the story I’ve always told myself, and always believed.  My hair wasn’t right, my chest wasn’t super big, my nose wasn’t super small.  I could eat a lot and not get fat, my face wasn’t horribly scarred, but my insecurity made me unable to be grateful for what I did have, I only focused on what I didn’t have.

I don’t know if it was my parents, mass media, or the mirror that shaped this stubborn narrative; I suspect it was all three.  My parents had my hair straightened when I was very little.  As an adolescent I complained about my curly hair, but being adopted, no one else in the family knew what to do with a Jewfro.  One “Divorce Dad Sunday” my father pulled up and on the passenger seat was a magazine with Christie Brinkley on the cover.  “You need to do your hair like this,” he said.  He might as well of told me I had to fly in order to be pretty.  And the world told me that, as a girl, in order to be matter you had to be pretty.  In order to get love, to keep love, you needed to be pretty.

You don’t have to believe it to believe it.  I walked through life in a kind of cognitive slumber.  Compliments, feminism, love – nothing could shake the narrative.  Maybe we all have an allegiance to our identities.  Identity’s grip is tight and strong.  I am a this, I don’t do that.  People like me get this, people like me don’t do that.  As painful as it was, this was who I was.  But this story hurts.  It’s limiting and it’s boring.  No spring chicken, I decided it was time to try and break through this script. 

Getting older, this fight to try and be society’s idea of beauty is an increasingly losing battle.  So – choose an different battle, a fight I might win.  I used to be a runner.  I thought of myself as a runner because I ran.  I used to be a bodybuilder.  I identified as a bodybuilder because I lifted heavy weights four times a week.  I felt like those things not because of what anyone thought but because of what I did.  To change who I am and what I believe I have to change what I do.

Every action you take is a vote for the kind of person you wish to become.  People who want to be readers need to read books.  People who want to be kind people need to behave kindly.  Small behaviors might build into evidence of a new identity.  When the votes and evidence mount up, the story I tell myself might change too.

So, I asked myself, “What type of person who doesn’t hate their appearance?  What do people like that do?”  For example, my sweet mother-in-law had a framed photo of my husband and me in her living room.  I had her remove it.  I have no wedding portraits.  People who aren’t ashamed of the way they look don’t do things like that.  What do people who aren’t ashamed of their looks do?  What small actions could I take to start changing my script?  I had an idea: People who aren’t ashamed of their looks take selfies.

So now, before I go out on my daily walks, I ask my husband to take a photo of me.  And I post it online.  This may not sound like bravery, but for me it’s a big deal.  Huge.  It was hard and scary.  But each day it gets less scary.  And the sweet people on Facebook who say nice things about the hair I hate, they actually have me re-thinking a half-century of sad certainty.  In the future, maybe I could go to a doctor’s appointment without a blow-out.  Maybe I could meet a friend for dinner without having to shell out for a blow-dry first.  Maybe it’s not disastrous if my husband sees me without lipstick on.

Maybe I’m not so bad after all.

As each day’s selfie adds another ballot to the battle, I hope one day to win the war.  For me, victory will look like not caring about how I look.  Not worrying about looking good will feel good.  That’s the kind of person I want to be.

 

Dixie Laite - Dame Town Writer

Author: Dixie Laite

I'm Sarah "Dixie" Laite -- a writer and branding consultant in New York City. I love classic movies, animals, flea markets, and "Law & Order" re-runs. I live with my husband, 2 dogs and 5 parrots in midtown Manhattan.All my life I've been obsessed with figuring out how to navigate life as a woman. There are endless books, TV shows, gurus, guys, movies and magazines out there to guide you. But now that I'm closing in on 60, I've noticed that the old rules don't apply, and most of the role models aren't old enough.I'm older now. I know more and I weigh more. I want to be inspired and I want to inspire. Let's get a handle on this shit and figure it out together.

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  • You’re beautiful, Dixie—inside and out. We’re often taught to play small from a young age, but shining one’s light inspires others to shine theirs.

  • Your article is SO inspiring I was going to write a cool comment, but I have so much to say that it would be too long. I’m going to have to write my whole damn essay now. I had no idea I had that much to say! Thanks for the INSPIRATION!

  • I know we haven’t met in person but your blog, your posts, and your fabulous photos not to mention our wonderful mutual friend (who was my first kiss shhh don’t tell anyone lol) make me sure if we weren’t at least 1000 miles apart we’d be best of friends in real life not just on FB. You, my dear are fabulous and I’ll punch anyone in the nose who disputes that. When I was in my 30s a colleague told me, after sprinting across a windy parking lot, how much she envied my “ethnic hair” ( read that Puerto Rican Jew) because it didn’t fly away in the wind. I was highly offended! How dare she label me! Nowadays I take pride in my mixed heritage and live it out loud. So take your daily photo and be who you are because it is FABULOUS!

  • Bravo dear Dixie ! “ Another ballot to the battle “, beautiful idea.
    I too never felt beautiful, Funny , smart …maybe. but certainly not someone who would attract anyone simply based on my looks.
    Thank for your bravery . Thank you openly and honestly sharing your thoughts and your struggle.
    I so admire you . I agree, you are fabulous.
    Looking forward to meeting in person in the not too distant future . ❤️

  • Dearest Dixie!
    I’m reminded of the
    Robert Burns poem, but with a modern interpretation:
    “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us!”
    You are lovely.

    • Agata, you are an idol of MINE. All those cool books — you are D.P. reincarnated, and I’m lucky enough to know you. xoxo

  • Dixie, I feel exposed to the world. My loathsome beliefs about myself have been splayed on the internet in your words. My story, too, has been that I am the ugly one. It’s amazing how actively I completely bought the beauty “truth” of the media from an early age. I was a curly brownish headed girl in a Brady Bunch straight blond hair world. “But you have a great personality” is not the compliment people try to make it. I’ve struggled to stop the negative thoughts that I know are false yet whose hold remains firm. Thank you for sharing your journey. I look at you and think “Why can’t I be like Dixie?” because I see beauty and strength and creativity. Reading your story both breaks my heart at your struggles and yet thrills me that we can work for another version of ourselves. Maybe some day we can have drinks and laughs and fellowship. Blessings to you.

    • Cindy, my heart goes out to you. I completely empathize with your story. We have both been so hurt, and we have suffered — yes, suffered — so much. My self-image has made me shy away from so many things, and made me feel so inferior. But as I approach sixty, I’m just tired of the whole thing. As you know, self-loathing is exhausting! Also, as I get older, trying to be pretty enough becomes more and more a losing game and increasingly irrelevant (if it ever was relevant to begin with). 
      You and I, we will commit to looking to other parts of ourselves to feel good about. And maybe we can even learn to embrace, our least accept, our appearance. Let’s start embracing our best authentic selves. nd if someone or someones don’t like it, you know what they can do! 🙂

  • BULLSHIT!!!!!YOU ARE SO FESTIVE AND PRETTY!yOU SHOULD SEE ME WITH NO UPPER TEETH!!!!!tHEY FELL OUT FOLLOWING RADIOLOGY TREATMENTS. NEVER SAY AGAIN YOU ARE UGLY! I LOVE YOU 483777566400001/2 🙂