“She's just so pretty,” I heard my friend's confidence dwindling. She was threatened by a new girl who was hanging out with a guy she was seeing. It broke my heart. I cringed as I tried to come up with the right words to text back.
For starters, there are so many brilliant and beautiful people in the world. It's not just looks that makes a guy or girl fall for a romantic interest. But that's not what matters.
It isn't really about the person you date. Self-esteem comes from within.
So, I wholeheartedly and honestly answered, “So are you.” She's a gorgeous babe, inside and out. All I could say was, "Who cares if the other woman is really pretty?" She is a beautiful woman, but so is my friend.
Somewhere along the lines of being polite, Photoshop and our natural need to categorize the world to better understand ourselves, women (and men) have stopped taking compliments. We've created odd beauty standards instead.
We've all been there. We've compared ourselves to our peers, our opponents, our siblings, our present selves and our past selves. We've not only compared ourselves to strangers, but also to superficial ideas of people who have been edited for television, social media and magazines. I would know: People follow me on the Internet because I'm a blogger and professional Instagrammer.
Travel has taught me to see the beauty in our differences. Here are some thoughts for the 13-year-old I met in Abu Dhabi, for my girlfriends hitting the fabulous 40, for the confident women of all ages and sizes who are letting it all hang out in body paint at Fantasy Fest and for the elementary-school Dominican girls I met who petted my smooth hair (that's not much different from their own afro-curls): I'm pretty, and so are you.
1. Beauty is subjective. Many people think you're beautiful, no matter what you look like.
2. It doesn't matter how many people think you're beautiful if you don't think it first.
3. You should feel beautiful because no matter how many mistakes we make, how our bodies change and how terrible other people can be, we are beautiful if we choose to be.
4. Some people say beauty fades. They're wrong. Beauty is eternal. Perhaps our skin, hair and shape will morph, but these things have no effect on our true beauty.
5. Your beauty is your passion for life. It's the happiness you bring to yourself that overflows into the lives of others, making them happier (and better people, too).
6. Being and feeling beautiful is a choice. It's so easy to love nine things about ourselves, but focus only on the one thing we dislike. Everyone feels crappy sometimes, but we have to choose to keep or change the people, habits and priorities that make us happy and beautiful.
7. Beauty is not defined by whether or not you love or hate makeup, fashion trends or high heels. You can totally be into or not be into certain styles. It has nothing to do with how beautiful you are.
8. Take the compliment, but try to compliment younger boys and girls on their character, instead of how pretty their eyes are, how cute their smiles are or how well-dressed they are.
9. Think about what makes you feel beautiful, and do those things more often.
I love matching my outfits with my mom and doing things together. I realized that it wasn't the fun of getting dolled up together that made me feel pretty. It was that I was doing something with someone I love. In particular, I was doing something that makes her happy. Bringing happiness to the people I love is what makes me feel pretty.
10. What makes you feel pretty? Rather than striving for some else's ideal, take responsibility to define what being pretty means to you. You are more than pretty: You are beautiful. Don't ever let anyone make you feel short of that. Especially don't let yourself bring you down.
This post was originally published Travel Break.