The first time I read the words, “pretty privilege” I knew exactly what it was. It was the reason notes from boys were never passed to me, but through me to the pretty girl next to me in class. It was the reason I was never asked to prom or homecoming and the reason I was assigned to the back row in chorus.
Pretty Privilege followed me every step of my life. It was watching boys playfully swatting at fellow girls and dancing around them like moths drawn to a flame. It was me sitting back, wishing I could be interesting enough that those boys could see beyond my thick glasses and frizzy hair and chubby body and crooked teeth. It was also the reason working for commission or tips sucked because regardless of how good I was at my job, I would never earn as much as the pretty girls who barely cared at all. It was the reason I was passed over for promotions or jobs by male employers, or if hired I was hired at a lower wage.
Like the ugly duckling I grew into my hair, I got contacts, I had my teeth fixed, and my chubby tummy turned into a curvy and flattering physique. By 20 I’d settled into my own version of pretty and while I would never be a super model, I was cute. I had boyfriends and admirers and suddenly I had my share of pretty privilege.
This thing I wanted so badly became my defining trait. I stopped working on my character, I stopped caring about my personality, and focused on my body: losing weight, taking good selfies, getting laid, having an attractive boyfriend. It was like I’d been given this power I was unaccustomed to and I ran wild with it for almost 5 years.
But, humility caught up with me. I was diagnosed with PCOS after having my daughter at 23. My weight skyrocketed, my metabolism was destroyed, my hormones were completely out of control, and suddenly all that pretty privilege I’d been storing up no longer mattered. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see the cute, shallow girl I once was. I saw me: broken and lost.
Getting fat is the best thing that ever happened to me. When I lost my pretty privilege and had to face obesity, facial hair, infertility, and being shamed by family and friends for all those traits, I was left with nothing but who I really am underneath these 300 lbs. I realized I didn’t like myself. And I hadn’t ever really liked myself. But, it wasn’t because of my appearance: it was because of my heart.
In the 9 years since I started losing my pretty privilege I’ve found something so much more important: myself. When I tell people I’m not who I was ten years ago, I mean physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I’m kinder now. I listen more. I care more about others. And I try harder now to do more good than ill. Regardless of the body I inhabit, becoming pretty on the inside is now my top priority and it’s the only thing that’s made me love myself at all.
We can’t always help the genetics and the environment we’re born with. Some humans win the looks lottery. They have good teeth, great metabolism, flawless skin, and families who love and support them. At the end of the day though, it matters not how pretty we were, how sexually appealing we are to others, or how much privilege we inherently have. What matters is what we do with our lives. Are we kind? Are we good? Do we show love to all? Do we make positive impacts on our communities? Do we stand up for others and for what’s right? These are the things that define a life. These are the things I want to be remembered for. Not how pretty or not pretty I was.
I know it’s clichè, but be pretty on the inside first. Everything else works itself out.