Unlearning Unpretty

Sometimes it takes a close friend challenging the way you’ve always seen something to realize you’ve been looking at it all wrong, for so long. And suddenly everything is changed. #unlearnchallenge

At the beginning of the year, my friend Megan challenged our circle to examine things we may need to unlearn. Things that were maybe who we once were but had outgrown now. Things that were limiting our current growth. Or maybe things that we once chose to believe about ourselves because it was more comfortable to believe that lie than to be brave with our truth and stand out in a crowd. Sometimes the ugly truth is that we camouflage ourselves with average because unique is polarizing and lonely.

I knew instantly what my thing was. I knew because every time I went to share it or say it out loud, it caused this lump in my throat and I could feel the warm tears rising behind my eyes. I couldn’t even type it to her in a dm- I just didn’t want to let this thing go. Megan and I have a special friendship (one day I’ll tell you about how we met. It’s a pretty special story), one that has been honest and vulnerable from the second we crossed paths but every time I went to type it out to her, I couldn’t. I had to get comfortable with it myself first.

I sat with my journal and went to write it and couldn’t. I was so frustrated with myself at how I was letting this get in my way. One Saturday while I was getting ready and Randall was waiting on me, with a little waver in my voice I casually let it out.

“You know what I’ve always wanted ?”

“What’s that?” He asked. I’m always bringing up ridiculous things when I get ready.

“I’ve always wanted to be pretty.”

He tilts his head at me like a confused puppy; “You ARE pretty. I tell you all the time. Why would you say that?”

“No, I’m cute. Cute is different than pretty. Cute is the girl next door. Cute is the best friend. Pretty is the girl that everyone stares at when she walks in a room. Pretty is who you ask to prom.”

We banter a little back and forth, laughing at the idea of being our age and still being concerned about who would ask us to prom. It’s ridiculous in theory but in practice Unlearning Unpretty was exactly the thing it was time to unlearn.

Unlearning Unpretty

How exactly do you unlearn something anyway? The first step is to be vulnerable and transparent enough with yourself to examine what outdated or untrue information you have been holding on to and believing about yourself. Give yourself some space to examine it and then share it.

The sharing part is tricky. You get to say who, when, and how you share it. Like me you may not want to let it go at first. After all it’s probably been with you for a long time. Based on my conversation, I’d been believing that I would never really be pretty for at least a couple of decades. Sharing this thing allows you to release it and make room for the truth that serves you now. The truth that fits and looks good on you today. That other thing is just hanging out in the back of the closet and it’s time to ask yourself if it’s bringing you joy or still serving you. It’s not.

Now for the other hard part, because all of this is hard, you have to start practicing your new truth. For me, I had to start practicing pretty. What does practicing being pretty even mean anyway???

Practicing Pretty

A million people could tell me I was pretty but I had to believe it. I had to walk in the room with the confidence of feeling pretty. It meant that I didn’t deflect eye contact, feeling embarrassed if I was noticed walking into a room. It meant I didn’t change out of an outfit I loved because it might be too noticeable.

Through this whole process, I realized I have been playing it small or shrinking back in a number of ways not just my physical appearance. I’d been afraid to be noticed, to stand out. I had been dimming the thing that made me unique, amazing and spectacular.

I found a phrase, a mantra that helps remind me to never play it small: “Don’t shy away from the spectacular”.

Don’t shy away from the spectacular.

I guess maybe the truth is I don’t want to just be “pretty”. I’m certainly looking for more out of life than a prom date. I want more than to be admired for fleeting subjective qualities. What I really want is to be comfortable being spectacular. I want to be so comfortable walking in a room with all eyes on me, that I can deliver a gaze directly back that offers everyone else in that space a deep breath to be exactly the kind of spectacular they are created to be too.

What I discovered through this unlearning process is that being pretty means more than just soaking in the attention. The kind of pretty I wanted was the kind that was spectacular and confident enough to empower others to be spectacular too.