Why do girls care so much about their looks?

By Amiee Landman, 17, Duarte HS
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Photo by Associate Editor Sue Doyle

My self-esteem hit a low point in seventh grade when my secret crush rejected me. My best friend had told the guy that I liked him. She relayed to me that he gave her a shocked look, as though his life would be over if I did like him. He came up to me right after and looked like he was about to vomit on me.

Then he asked if I really did like him. His tone of voice and expression made it seem like if I answered "yes," it would be the worst thing that could happen to him. When he approached me about it, I gave him this absurd look and said, "NO! I don’t like you." I knew this was the only response that would make this chaos go away, and that sick face he had disappear.

I was devastated.

Before this I thought the guy was nice. But when he looked at me, he only noticed stuff that was on the surface. He didn’t see my great personality or how fun I could be. He ignored everything but my appearance. I wasn’t totally surprised by his reaction, because I knew his type—blonde hair, big boobs and skinny frame—the Hollywood ideal of pretty.

That’s definitely not me. I’m 5 feet 4 inches tall. I weigh about 150 pounds and have layered light-brown hair and brown eyes. Since I don’t fit the stereotype, I sometimes have avoided hanging out with my friends because I didn’t want to hassle myself with other people’s opinions of me. I hid myself in clothes two sizes too big and closed myself up thinking guys did not want to have anything to do with me, which in some cases was true.

I wanted to hide

The summer before my freshman year in high school I went to Arizona with my family. My wardrobe for the trip consisted of sweatshirts and sweaters. My dad said that I was crazy to wear a sweatshirt in 110-degree heat. But I didn’t care. I was constantly rolling up my sleeves, and I could not stop sweating. Yet I refused to wear anything but my sweatshirts.

As I entered high school I brought the sweatshirt habit with me. I felt as though kids were going to be more critical of my appearance and of me. I also hated having my picture taken. I looked at my friends and envied their beauty. I wondered why God hadn’t given me a killer smile, a small waist or big boobs. I began to accept myself as ugly.

When I began hating myself I blamed God for making me this way. Eventually, though my faith played an important role in me realizing I was not a bad person. I have realized that no one is a mistake and that God gave each of us a purpose.

I have never had many guy friends. My freshman year though, there was Mike. He was actually my friend Jessica’s boyfriend at the time, so I did not even think about him and me being anything more than friends. Yet as I got to know him better I began to grow attracted to him. The weekend Jessica and Mike broke up, my best friend came from out of town. She wanted to meet this guy I was always talking about, so we invited Mike to go bowling.

She wore a khaki mini-skirt and a pink tank top, which flattered her skinny 5-foot 6-inch frame. I wore a fitted, black T-shirt and black jeans, which was quite a difference from my baggy look. I wanted Mike to see me as a wonderful, attractive person. It didn’t work. He was too busy touching her arm or playfully nudging her, while she flirted back.

At one point while she was taking her turn, he pulled me aside and revealed to me that he liked her. I had a feeling he was going to say that, but I still felt frustrated, angry and hurt. When we joined back up with her and he took his turn, she tried to find out what Mike had just told me. She knew, but she wanted to hear it from me. I refused.

Throughout the day both of them went through me to ask what the other said, how they felt or if I could tell the other this or that. My hopes of getting Mike to notice me by changing my look were squashed. I missed the security of my baggy attire as well.

I sat in front of the score board with my head on my hand. I was tired of their immature games. If they liked each other, then they could have fun without me. I could barely hold the tears back. I just wanted to go home. In the end they did not get together because I refused to take any part in it.

Eventually this situation blew over. As the months passed, my attraction for Mike grew stronger and he began to have feelings for me, too. At the end of my freshman year he took my yearbook for almost the whole day. When I read his message, I had to catch my breath.

"Dear Amiee, you are so beautiful."

That was the very first time I could remember a guy saying that I was beautiful. I believe that was a key point in me opening my eyes to see who I was, or at least who I could become.

During that summer Mike and I got really close. We hung out together almost every day. Many people thought we were a couple. We’d go to the mall, spend hours at the park, rent movies; yet we were unofficial. Whenever we went to the movies we’d cuddle and sometimes hold hands. Yet he would never ask me out. When I brought up the idea he would find an excuse for not asking me out.

By the end of August we weren’t spending as much time together. He was extremely busy. Meanwhile, I was tired of his excuses for why he wouldn’t ask me out, so I decided to take it upon myself and ask him how he felt about me. I had my friend call him. Although I was determined to find out once and for all how he felt about me, I was still scared to do it. She asked him how he felt about me and he said that he didn’t like me, and never did. My friend, who I trusted, told me that he was mean and cocky about the whole situation. This hurt me immensely because throughout our friendship he always said that he liked me a lot but just didn’t want a relationship at the moment. I distanced myself from him. Since school was beginning and we didn’t have any classes together it wasn’t too hard to push him to the back of my mind.

I was surrounded by skinny girls

My body image got really bad during sophomore year. In part because of the Mike stuff, but also because students were more competitive about everything. As I walked through the halls I caught myself sizing up my classmates. Compared to them I saw myself as ugly.

During sophomore year, my friend and I decided to take a hip-hop dance class. I was a little scared because I hadn’t danced in a class since fourth grade. I wore an oversized shirt that read "I have issues" and some baggy, black fleece pants. The class began to fill up with cute guys and skinny, toned girls. I felt so out of place. The people were nice, but I had this vision in my head of them laughing and making fun of me for being ugly. I hated myself for daring to go beyond my boundaries and entering their pretty world. I never went back, partially because I did not feel comfortable in that atmosphere but mostly because I hated myself to the point where I felt I was going to fail anyway.

Later that year I got sick of never going out, so I tried dieting. Sometimes I ate only one meal a day, thinking that would help. However, starvation only added to my problem, because my I got tired more easily and really bad headaches. In the end I was still hungry and nothing had changed.

When I went shopping with my mom I had her take me to the usual plus-size stores and guys departments, so I could get the oversized clothes that I liked to wear. My mom got annoyed with my obsession with these huge clothes. She brought me smaller sizes, but I said they didn’t fit, because they weren’t literally falling off my waist. She refused to buy me big jeans, because she didn’t want to buy clothes that didn’t fit. It upset me, because I felt she didn’t understand how I was feeling. She was beautiful when she was a teenager, while I could barely look at myself in the mirror, and when I did I could barely hold back the tears.

A better me

It’s weird that I was so scared of what other people thought of me, while all this time I have been my biggest critic and my own bully. I never figured out how I came to this conclusion, I just know I ended up there sometime during my sophomore year. I don’t want to have this perception of myself anymore. I want to feel comfortable with myself. I want to stop wearing sweatshirts when it’s 100 degrees outside. I don’t want to be a prisoner in my own body!

Back-to-school shopping this summer was again a problem at first. Clothes were too tight, "not me" or something else that was totally ridiculous. I was scared of trying something new, so I found excuses not to. Yet in the end I found cute clothes which I feel comfortable in. I did not buy one baggy shirt or oversized pair of jeans, though partly because my mom refused to purchase them.

Things have been going pretty well this year, my junior year. Mike and I are friends but not as close as we were in ninth grade. I am wearing clothes that fit and trying to build my self-esteem. But I think that when you’re a teenager, you automatically have that burden of self-esteem issues. I think we magnify those issues to make them bigger than ourselves.

One day I hope I’ll be able to look at people and not think of them as being prettier than me. Instead, I’ll smile and think, "I’m just as pretty as they are."