Pretty Is Just a Word

When I was a pre-teen, I read Seventeen and CosmoGirl! religiously, dressed up at any chance I got, and went to the mall every week. I was very focused on looks and clothes, and, as most pre-teen and teenage females are, trying to be "pretty." Now, I look back at my former concerns and laugh at how materialistic I was. But it also gets me thinking about how the importance of looks is drilled into us from early on. In movies and shows, the actresses are not only just made to look gorgeous, but their characters are usually complimented on their looks by others frequently. In magazines, there are articles about "50 Ways to Get Pretty" and "Makeover your Image." Even in literature, the female characters usually are attractive, with multiple guys vying for their affection. It seems as though it is a societal belief that life is better or love is easier to find just because you are pretty.

Back to my personal story, I got diagnosed with a skin condition called vitiligo in the middle of junior high. Vitiligo caused large white splotches on my legs, elbows, and neck. There is treatment for it that is 100 percent efficient, and the medication never fully worked on my condition. I started to wear long jeans as often as possible to cover my legs. I tried self-tanners and makeup to camouflage the white spots. I tried everything I could to hide my vitiligo because I knew that spotted legs and arms weren't "pretty." Two years ago, I finally decided to stop hiding my skin disease with jeans and cover-up and just wear shorts, skirts and dresses. I stopped using makeup to disguise my vitiligo and just accepted my body the way that it was.

At the time, I thought I made this decision because I had a great summer experience with a college program that made me more confident in myself. While this definitely is not untrue, it is not the sole reason why I decided to be at peace with how I looked. That summer program that I attended in 2010 did not only boost my self-esteem but also made me more ambitious. I became concerned with taking on a rigorous course load, getting a job and doing more community service. Looks just stopped mattering so much to me when I realized how many more things I could be doing instead of fretting over something that I couldn't fix. And I stopped being so caught up in trying to make my legs, elbows and neck "pretty." "Pretty" became just another word, not some goal that I was expected to meet.

As teenagers, we often stress over our looks. We feel that there are expectations to look put-together, have our hair done and wear the right clothes. Basically, we feel that we have to be "pretty." But while it can be fun to get all dolled up and dressed up, it's important to remember that "pretty" is just another word, that there are so many adjectives to describe ourselves with that we shouldn't be so focused on just one, and that there truly are more important things in life than looks. There is so much more to life than having frizz-free hair and perfectly applied make-up with the right outfit. There are so many places to go and things to do that looking good every minute of every day just shouldn't be a priority. Simply remember that "pretty" is just one, single word out of the entire English language.