Pretty is a six-letter word that can’t encompass your entire being in its arms. You were born to a mother who wore pain like trees wear their rings, as marks of fierce bravery and battle cries. You almost split her insides open coming out, wailing so hard the plaster cracked, but she grinned and bore it like a champion, even though the walls of her womb felt like one giant cigarette burn that no one cared enough to put out.
You are Icarus incarnate, with a body stitched from wings, flying toward the sun every day no matter how low the storm clouds hover. Pretty is not a synonym for learning how to put together a body that fights itself every day with pocket knives, like assembling letters to form words that flame in the mouth. That’s called survival. Pretty is an ugly word. It leaves behind a bitter residue that apologies cannot erase. Pretty is just an excuse for playing darts with a woman’s confidence.
When told you are not pretty, always remember how your body expanded to fit its widening cage, its blooming hips, how the growing pains were less like pain and more like cracking fault lines. How your body turned itself inside out and spilled over and over again. Getting emptied is not pretty. It is dark and wounding and it requires strength enough to move mountains.
On your worst days do not look in the mirror and call yourself pretty. Call yourself trying, call yourself surviving, call yourself learning how to get through a day, a week, a month or year. Call yourself still learning. Pretty is just six letters for lipstick, false eyelashes, combs for hair that never gets tangled, not for women who earn a victory every day just managing to exist.
When told you are not pretty, do not suck in your stomach. Pretty is a discriminatory word, but having a body that knows what it wants and gets what it wants is not a hate crime. It’s a healing hymn.
Don’t forget how trees shake their last leaves in winter like they’re shedding skin from the old year. Shed pretty. Shed it now. Teach yourself to replace it with heart-wrenching, brilliant, clever, artistic, unique, understanding, fighting. Always living.
When told you are not pretty, don’t fall in love with the ground. Get back up. This is not an apocalypse; this is not the end of the world. A six-letter word doesn’t have the power to burn down every building in site or freeze the entire world in epic proportions. Your body is not wreckage or refuse left over from a world on fire. Your body is just fine.
Look in the mirror. Tell yourself, Pretty is not me. Pretty is an ugly concept. I am more.
Say it. Say it.