One of my recent guilty pleasures is this dating show where the participants meet, naked, on an island, and try to find love. In one episode of Dating Naked, a female contestant seemed to be hitching her self esteem to the compliments of the naked meathead with whom she was riding horses. “He told me I was beautiful, so that made me beautiful...” she said.
I wanted to throw a pillow at my television screen and yell, “NO! You’re beautiful, period!” The premise of the show is pretty ridiculous in and of itself, but what I found even more outrageous was this woman's inability to feel beautiful without her guy's assessment.
And yet, a lot of women are guilty of fishing for compliments or looking to partners for praise. I'm certainly not exempt from this. The fact is, it's not easy to only look within ourselves to affirm our beauty. I often talk about how confidence is complicated. I know from experience that being confident is a journey, not a destination, and I'll be the first to admit that it's a tough road. While I try to be self-assured and poised, others' opinions (men's especially), have had an impact on how I feel about myself and my appearance.
My dad raised me to believe that I’m beautiful, inside and out — and I'm grateful for that. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay in that protective bubble forever. Growing up, if someone I was crushing on didn't feel similarly about me, I questioned my attractiveness. But, if a boy asked me to a dance, I could feel my self-esteem sky-rocket. In college, when I was single, I wondered if it had something to do with how I looked. But, when I started dating a guy who told me I was beautiful, well, then it was easy to believe I was.
Eventually, I began to realize: I was doing myself a disservice by allowing the men I dated to determine how I felt about myself. I mean, they call it self esteem for a reason, you know? Wanting to get off this exhausting roller coaster (feeling good about myself one month, lousy the next) I decided to return to what my father had taught me so many years ago: I’m beautiful — period.
The thing is, I can appreciate the boost I feel when a man compliments my appearance, but it's far more important that I feel good about myself regardless. I don't want my positive self-image to be defined by the way a man sees me. I was able to put this idea to the test about a month ago when I decided to take out my hair extensions and rock my short, natural hair (you can watch that process if you're interested). As I went from hair that fell down my back to a short cut that hits just below my ears, I knew I loved it.
But, although I felt gorgeous and had a spring in my step when I walked out of the salon, I worried that if my boyfriend didn't like it, my bright mood would dampen. More than that: I knew that I wanted him to be attracted to me with my new 'do. Still, I also told myself that what mattered most was how I felt about it. And, I meant it. The minute my man saw me, though, I could tell by the look on his face that he loved it. That took me from cloud nine to cloud 10.
And, it hit me: When our partners make us feel beautiful, it's not a bad thing — as long as we also feel beautiful on our own. It's kind of like that pair of jeans that makes your ass look amazing. Those jeans aren't magic, but they might just have the power to make you feel hotter than you already know you are.