Be pretty, they said. I heard this sentence so many times whilst growing up. I remember standing on a school bus when I was ten years old and hearing someone talking about me and saying that I will be a pretty girl when I grow up. I also remember as clear as the day is today, my grandmother always pointing out how pretty I am and that other people think the same. All I heard from my grandmother about me and other people were either they are pretty or not. It was so much attention put on how you look. My grandmother even voted for the people who look better. And I would look pretty only if I would wear what my grandmother thought was pretty. If she didn´t approve of it, then she told me not to walk in my village because what will people think. And what people thought, was very important.
Why am I writing about my grandmother so much? Because I grew up with her and until a few years ago I did not even understand how much she impacted my life. I do not blame her for anything, because she did the best she knew. But I have to write about it and talk about it because the more I understand why I am the way I am, and why I do the things I do, and why I believe in the things I believe, the better I will be at changing my life and helping you to change yours. I want to own my story.
Our beliefs shape our lives, and what we believe is not necessarily true. Our beliefs are being formed since our childhood by the things we heard and saw, by the situations we experienced, and what was being said to us by our closest family and friends. When we are little, we cannot distinguish the truth from the lie, and it is easy to believe in the lie when you are small. If we grow up hearing for the longest part of our life that being pretty is most important to be successful in this life, we start believing in it.
I was treated as a pretty child. My grandmother would knit a lot of nice clothes for me, so other kids could see how good I look. Even when taking my sister and me to church, she would want people to see how pretty we were dressed.
Pretty. Pretty. Pretty.
When I started my development journey to heal my life and its heartbreaks, I began to understand things I did not understand. I began to see why I am, how I am, and how past experiences affected my present and will keep affecting my future if I won’t deal with them. I understood why until the age of thirty I was so focused on my looks, mostly my weight. I never felt I am slim enough, or pretty enough, or my teeth are not white enough, my cloth style is not good enough. I was not obsessed about it, but it took some time from me every day.
It is not my grandmother’s fault, she just did the best she could, and she told the best she knew and what she believed in. And the sad thing is, she still believes it. Society and social media also paint similar pictures. Now it starts changing, but still, we are impacted by perfect-looking girls and women every day.
Pretty. Pretty. Pretty.
I do not have anything against being pretty. I celebrate pretty. I like pretty things and pretty people. But what does pretty mean to me? It is not about the face or waistline. Pretty – is how you love and carry yourself. Pretty for me is how you treat yourself and all the people around you. Pretty is how you greet people that you meet your way. Pretty for me is bravery, even if it is waking up in the morning when you don’t feel like it because you have a broken heart. Pretty for me is ambitious, when you set high goals for your life. Pretty for me is creative, and not creating master peace, but maybe creating a nice postcard for your mother with her birthday. Pretty for me is being resilient, taking risks, failing, falling, and getting back up. Pretty for me is being smart, learning new things, reading books, and sharing your knowledge. Pretty also is being kind, being kind by offering help. Pretty is feeling happy, smiling at the stranger, smiling at a bird on a branch on a cold winter day.
Let us not concentrate on looks. Let us talk with our daughters, sisters, mothers, friends about ambitious women, resilient women, about strong and happy women.
Be pretty, they said. And I say be brave, be ambitious, be creative, be resilient, be smart, be kind, be happy. Own your story – be you.
And what do you say?