The Best Way to Ruin Your Appearance

The other morning my husband was telling me about an event he had to photograph.

“There was this woman there, she had this flame red hair, red lips, a bright green dress. It worked in some kooky cool way. She had a great laugh, I dug her until she did that damn thing all women do.”

“What?” I asked, wondering what it could be. Gossip? Put on makeup in public? Ignore her friends to play with her phone? Play with her hair too much?

“She caught me taking a candid of her and said I better watch out or she may break my camera with her ugly big nose. Seriously, I didn’t even notice her nose, just the whole great package. But once she said it, it was like nose nose nose all night long. I no longer saw her, just that nose.”

This weekend I bumped into a neighbor. I said she looked great, did she change her hair color? She then went into this whole story about all her gray hair, she had to dye it because people were mistaking her for her 85-year old grandmother. The woman doesn’t look a day over 35, with her original color or with this new shade. However, after her comment I noticed her laugh lines, and was more curious about how much gray she had in comparison to me. Her comment made me notice her age, not her self.

I wrote about this trend before in my post, “The Self-deprecating Comment” but it bears repeating.

Women, you are not doing yourself any favors when you knock yourself down in public situations.

I have done it myself – better to mention the baby weight/zit on my chin/bags under my eyes/stain on my shirt before someone else does. By mentioning it, at least people know I know it exists, and don’t think I’m hot stuff running around town flaunting the baby weight/zit/dark circles/dirty blouse.

The thing is… the world isn’t analyzing every inch of you the way in which you do. You stare at your pores, you fret over your yellowed teeth, you agonize over that lower belly that won’t disappear no matter how many crunches you do. But no one else really does. They see your whole package – the way you carry yourself, how animated you are when you speak, your joyful laugh. They see what you wear in conjunction with your hair, your makeup, your bag, your facial expressions. Most people aren’t picking you apart.

When you make a joke or an excuse for your weight, your features, your laugh, some part of you… you’re not showing that you’re self-aware, you’re showing that you’re self-conscious. And you are making that feature more prominent… and yourself as less attractive.

If that woman in green at that event had not made that comment, my husband would have probably come home, told me about the event, and while mentioning some of the other guests would have mentioned her. He would have noticed her not just because he’s married to a fashion blogger and now knows names of designers, necklines, and Project Runway contestants; he would have noticed her because she was a pretty fabulous and perfectly flamboyant woman. Instead, because of her self-deprecating “joke,” she was mentioned with the creepy guy who kept staring at the high schoolers on the dance floor.

If my friend at the market had just accepted my comment, said she was ready for a change and decided to go a bit darker, I wouldn’t have given her age a second thought. I wouldn’t have even noticed her wrinkles. The conversation would have continued with a more positive tone. After having a friend tear herself down, the only thing you can do is give a pity compliment back (“Oh no, you look amazing!”), or do a “misery loves company” (“I hear you, look at my roots, I’m practically salt and pepper!”). Both feel pretty lousy, and leave both person a bit more depressed.

Have faith in yourself, and the world around you. 
We aren’t noticing what you’re noticing. That is, unless you point it out to us. 

So go to that event in the emerald green dress, and go ahead and dye your hair a color that makes you feel more confident. But don’t ruin that lovely look and your lovely self with a joke about your appearance or a self-deprecating comment.

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33 Comments

  1. Lauren Kennedy
    April 30, 2015 / 10:37 pm

    Amy Schumer has a great skit about this and how women sometimes try to ‘beat’ each other with their self loathing…sad. It feels so much better to never mention any of that anyway, focusing on how people make us feel to be around them, how we feel rockin’ an amazing new hair do, fab outfit or spending time laughing with family and friends.
    M favorite line to stop those comments; “don’t talk about my friend like that,” said with a smile it disarms the conversation.

  2. Erin Gray
    December 13, 2011 / 9:11 pm

    YESSS. i wish more women would realize that they inflict most of the judgement on themselves. thank you for writing this

  3. December 6, 2011 / 12:46 am

    The thing is… we all do it! Especially when younger. It’s society telling us we’re not good enough because we don’t have the skin of the fresh-faced teen in the Noxzema ad, or the hair of the Clairol model. We as women have been taught to be humble to the point of self-deprecating. So you were not alone, and because of that, you were understood and supported. 🙂

  4. Nomi
    December 6, 2011 / 12:46 am

    This is depressing to contemplate. I am in my 50s now, and try to disguise my self-loathing by taking the kind of advice you give here. But I now realize what a horrible, awkward, even psychotic creature I must have seemed in my teens through 30s (at least! maybe later!), because compliments made me so horribly uncomfortable (they still do but I know now to hide it).  I felt compelled to bat compliments away harshly. Not just “oh, but my nose” or whatever, but more along the line of “you’re kidding. I’m so ugly/clumsy/untalented, you’re just making fun of me.”  What a conversation killer I must have been, strewing awkwardness and hurt feelings wherever I went. Ugh.  I’m surprised anyone I know from more than a couple of years back still even talks to me. 

  5. December 6, 2011 / 12:42 am

    GREAT post. I get so self concious sometimes over my acne that I forget my smile. My laughter. My dancing eyes. The things that linger longer in people’s memories than a few red spots. 

  6. December 6, 2011 / 12:39 am

    Oh I do it with my house all the time!  Thank you for the reminder about that part of my life – still holds true for homes!

  7. December 6, 2011 / 12:39 am

    I just discovered your blog and this post could not have come at a better time in my life!!!!  Thank you for reminding me that other people do not focus on all the flaws we fret over. 

  8. December 6, 2011 / 12:37 am

    I had an issue like this with my gay best friend, he always pointed out his flaws and I said “as a whole you are gorgeous” Yeah he had a big nose but it was balanced by his straw jawline. Or if I say “oh I’m not even wearing makeup” my friends are like KIM you look fine I wouldn’t have known!

  9. BoutiqueGirl
    December 6, 2011 / 12:37 am

    Great post! It is a rather ugly trait that we women have!
    I am aware of myself apologising for my casual appearance and “play clothes” on the days that Orla and I nip to the shops and meet someone! I am still clean, well dressed and presentable I just do not have heels and a dress on! I am also guilty of doing the same with my home when people pop by!

  10. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    You go, Allie! I always stop my friends when they insult themselves –which is what they are doing. Drives me nuts!
    But something about what you said here made me realize that I do it too; I talk all the time about how “old” I am. I am one of the oldest in my department — even my boss is younger than I am. But I’m only 43! Not 103. 🙂 So I’m going to watch that. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Teri
    December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Wonderful post!  I know I am guilty of the “self-depreciating” comments myself.  Since you posted this, it makes me fully aware of what I am doing and you are so right!  I love it, I understand it and I will now be very conscious of it when I receive a compliment!  And as Jo pointed out, you are definitely a wise women! 

  12. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Definitely a brilliant post.  Thanks for sharing this!

  13. Jo H.
    December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Well done, Allie. You are a wise woman.

  14. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    I hope this means you’ll never mention your mama pooch again. 🙂

  15. Heather
    December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Hello Allie ….
    I’m a daily reader of your blog but I normally don’t comment…this post deserves a comment. My father is a wonderful man and when I was getting married he gave me a great piece of advice….He told me not to ask my husband over and over “does this make my butt look big?”. He said if you do this one day your husband may begin to think….huh, i’ve never noticed but maybe she’s right and maybe her butt is big. I know I can be self depreciating…hell, I’ll laugh at myself before you can laugh at me…but I think both you and my dad make a good point. We have to be careful not to draw negative attention to something that someone else would never know about us.

    I think we all need to practice taking a compliment by just saying “thank you”. No qualifiers, no excuses, just graciously accept the compliment.

  16. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    True. True. I self deprecate all the time, especially with my husband. I am sure he now notices things about me that he would have never noticed before! I also read in a magazine article recently that scientific studies have shown we generally rate ourselves less attractive than other people actually find us.

  17. Ginger
    December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    My husband out and out told me not to tell him why when I said I was starting a “plastic surgery” savings account.  He says, “if I know what you don’t like then I’ll have to notice it…” 

    So, I think as ffar as men go, keep your self-depreciating comments to yourself.  Most of ’em are not that perceptive and if you dan’t tell them they’llnever know!

  18. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Wise words to ponder.  I am a VERY bad offender in this regard, I’m afraid.  (And see how I just pointed this flaw out to you???? Eeeep!)  I do also agree with Kim that a slight touch of humorous self-deprecation can be ok — it can help us bond, actually — and we can laugh with self-recognition, maybe.  But you’re inspiring me to think a little harder about how and when I do it.

  19. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    So true! The best possible response to a compliment? “Thank you!”

  20. Kim
    December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    I believe there is a way to be a tiny bit self-deprecating without losing your confidence. Not day in and day out, and every single time you receive a positive comment/compliment. Funny women can pull this off. Tina Fey does it from time to time and she’s a confident woman.

  21. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Such a wonderful reminder, and timely too.  Thanks.

  22. lorena
    December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Yes, I am one of those too. 
    It’s like sometimes I feel I cannot take a compliment !
    and I feel ackward and cannot say “thank you” and instead have to answer with a comment that is just uncalled for.

  23. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    This is such a great post and I wish that more women would realize that criticizing yourself is not healthy.  You’re right that most people see us for the whole package and not that one thing that we’re insecure about.  

    That said, I think that a lot of it stems from a society that is constantly telling us to fix ourselves- be thinner, look younger, etc.  It reminds me of that scene in Mean Girls where the plastics all start criticizing their appearances… like, it’s expected that if you’re a woman, you need to constantly be fixing your “flaws,” or at the very least be constantly aware of them.  It’s hard to be confident in yourself when it seems like the world is always telling you that you need to do better.  

  24. Krystina
    December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today.  I am terrible at this very thing.

  25. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Thank you, thank you for sharing this. I do it all the time and it needs to stop.

  26. December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Very well put, Allie. it’s like that old canard – Don’t think of a pink elephant.

    It can also veer into a very self-centered area, too. I’ve had friends who feel compelled to turn all conversation into a big enumeration of their faults, and of course then the people around them feel obligated to ‘pump them up’. “oh no, honey, you have beautiful hair, great eyes, on and on and on…….” 

    When no one noticed those things to begin with. And maybe they had something they wanted to talk about besides giving that person’s self esteem a boost. Have a great day! steph

  27. Patti_NotDeadYetStyle
    December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Amen and amen, plus total agreement with Melissa: at my age I have mostly stopped doing this anti-compliment thing, but I can always use a reminder. Love this post!

  28. Melissapedsrn
    December 6, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Wow. This post really hit home. At 55 I have learned to love myself, my style and am confident in 99% of the situations I find myself in. But I am guilty, at times, of this very thing. I have copied your “have faith in yourself….” comment, and taped it to my bathroom mirror. Thanks for the reminder that we are ALL beautiful and special. 

  29. Anonymous
    September 13, 2011 / 5:22 am

    Thank you so much for everything you post everyday! Reading your blog inspires me, makes me feel good about myself and allows me to start each day with a positive outlook. Focusing on the positive makes women seem confident and powerful!

  30. September 12, 2011 / 4:33 pm

    I love this post! I am SO guilty of doing this. Definitely going to work on it. 🙂

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