A few weeks ago I got sick of hearing and reading about Samantha Brick’s highly controversial article in the Daily Mail, “There are downsides to looking this pretty: Why women hate me for being beautiful.”
Instead of continuing to smile weakly or vaguely nodding along in conversations referencing the article, as I had done, I decided to give in and actually read it. In the article, Ms. Brick chronicles the numerous times men have shown her preferential treatment or gone out of their way to be nice to her and how women, consequently, loathe her.
At one point, she even states that her female friends are too intimidated to introduce her to their partners, as evidenced by the fact that she’s never been asked to be a bridesmaid in anyone’s wedding. She insists that being attractive isn’t all it’s chalked up to be specifically because of how difficult it is to create bonds with other women who are jealous of her appearance, claiming that she has few close female relationships because of her looks.
Now, a bit of context: before reading the article, I had conjured up an idea of what I expected Samantha Brick to look like. After all, anyone who has the guts to publish an article extolling their many physical attributes—especially online, where hell hath no fury like the faceless and critical masses with keyboards at their disposal—has to be gorgeous and glam, right?
In my mind, anyone who would shout about her good looks from the Internet equivalent of a rooftop would have to look like a Victoria Secret model. Of course, as one would expect, after her article was published, the backlash began immediately. Not only were people calling Ms. Brick conceited and vain, positing that her lack of female friends stems not from her looks but her arrogance, many critics went a step further, discussing whether she should even be considered pretty at all.
I simply couldn’t believe that, and assumed that the critics were merely saying so in an effort to humiliate and chastise Ms. Brick’s confidence. You can imagine my surprise when it turned out Samantha Brick, while certainly attractive, looks similar, if not slightly more smiley, to many middle-aged women—at least, to me. So what’s so different about Samantha Brick, if she’s not a Gisele Bundchen doppelganger?
What could possess someone who looks fundamentally like most middle-aged women to come out and say something like this?
When amazing, yet ordinary (and I mean that in the sense that the paparazzi don’t follow their every move because they aren’t superlatively famous, even if they have the looks, talent and/or some amazing skill that could make them so), people with many attributes—physical, mental and emotional—beat themselves up over every little mistake they make or every perceived flaw they think they have, I find it extremely aggravating. However, in our society, it’s really no wonder.
After all, saying anything positive about yourself is seen as akin to burping in public or refusing to give up your seat for an elderly person on the metro. It’s a strange double standard. Confidence has long been extolled as a value, even a necessity. We see ads telling us how to cultivate more confidence everywhere, on the windows of gyms and yoga studios; in brochures selling aspirational products and services such as evening language classes and juicers; developing and maintaining self confidence is even part of many elementary school curriculums.
Yet, even though we’re outwardly told—and taught, to some extent—to have confidence, it is considered poor form, if not completely rude, to appear confident in public.
Anything more than a tacit recognition that you’ve succeeded in something, that you’re good at something, that you’ve done well or that you’ve just been blessed is perceived as bragging, showing off and/or overstating facts. More than likely, if you acknowledge your talents, abilities—even something you can’t help, such as your looks—you’re deemed conceited and, like Samantha Brick, criticized mercilessly.
We tend to forget, for some reason, that there’s a difference between bragging and being confident.
Bragging is often repeated, aggressive and somewhat intimidating behavior. Confidence is an air that you have about yourself, knowing who you are, what your strengths are, and not being afraid to leverage them. Putting yourself down, even if you’re doing it in the name of modesty, is not only disingenuous, it’s unhealthy. Even if you start off believing in yourself and simply try to brush your strengths under the rug to appear modest, you may just start internalizing what was once simply an outward display of self-doubt and deprecation for the benefit of others.
Samantha Brick wasn’t bragging about her good looks. In her article, she simply states that others’ find her smile attractive and her appearance pleasing. She even talks about how she works at her appearance, and she’s proud of the outcome of her hard work—and why shouldn’t she be?
I personally applaud Ms. Brick’s sense of confidence—it is refreshing. Further, I cannot believe others have lambasted her simply because she is confident enough to discuss in public what she believes to be her personal assets. Granted, maybe she could have communicated her message differently—taking the “poor me, I’m pretty” approach is understandably grating—but, fundamentally, I think we should all take a page out of her book and be more prepared to display what we like about ourselves a bit more publically. While we might alienate—though possibly inspire—our less confident peers, we may all be getting bottles comp’d on our flight, and wouldn’t that be something worth talking about?
Known as the girl who could talk herself out of a paper bag, Khaleelah Jones (www.khaleelahjones.com) has always loved sharing her voice with others. An avid fan of reading, anything Francophone, travel and dance, you can usually find Khaleelah gazing longingly at travel blogs or in the yoga studio. Khaleelah currently lives in London working as a freelance writer and yoga teacher.
Editor: Hayley Samuelson.