Friday, June 7, 2013

You're So Vain

One thing I deal with a lot as a plus-size blogger and self-professed fatty is treading the fine line between being confident and being conceited. Last week an off-the-cuff comment of mine on an XOVain article got another commenter all bothered. 

The story in question was the Dove sketch artist parody with the beauty editors describing themselves as total hotties. I remarked that I too would have described myself as being super hot and attractive. If you  know me personally or have read my blog for any amount of time then you would have immediately recognized my light-hearted tone. However, one reader did not, and he lashed out at me for being conceited and for making less attractive people feel bad about themselves.

Oh, Glamour Shots- why do you mock me?
Caked on make-up, bushy brows, buck teeth.
Age 11-12

At first I was certain this was a joke, but no, he was serious. So I clarified myself in another comment, but I’m still not satisfied. I’ll be honest. I was royally pissed off, and I try very, very ,VERY hard to avoid controversy on the internet. I don’t like engaging with trolls or name calling. The point of this post is not for you to run in and defend me on the other site (though several women did and for that I will be eternally grateful), but instead I want to open up a dialogue about the differences between confidence and conceit.

I have never considerate myself a conceited person, so it was a bit of a surprise to have someone call me out on my "conceitedness" in a public forum. As soon as my baby teeth fell out, I was endowed with huge bucked teeth. Right around the same time, my hormones took over and I began battling terrible acne. So I was a fifth grader with awful skin and goofy teeth. Newsflash, kids are friggin’ MEAN! I was tormented throughout elementary, junior high and high school. Nothing like a girl pointing out your zits to make you want to crawl in a hole and die. Or the guy I had a huge crush on telling me he would NEVER date me because I was a “pizza-faced vampire who wore too much make-up.”

Pizza-faced vampire wearing too much make-up... yep. He forgot to talk about my AWFUL hair!
17 years old

I suffered from low self-esteem issues for years. To cope I tried to find acceptance. I dressed in baggy, over-sized clothes that the other school “freaks” wore. I let my long hair cover my face as much as possible and rarely looked people in the eyes. I mumbled a lot, and on the rare occurrence of a smile, I always covered my mouth up to hide my teeth. We couldn’t afford braces or trips to the dermatologist, so I had to deal with it. I literally remember falling asleep with my fingers pushing against my stubborn teeth- trying to push them flat – and praying to God, “Please please please pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease let me be pretty.” I usually fell asleep during my litany of “pleases.” I woke up every morning, the same- ugly.

The day I got braces- the ONLY close up of my teeth
25 years old

It was a subtle shift through the years from self-loathing to self-loving. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I started feeling beautiful. It’s a work in progress. I wake up plenty of mornings and see my reflection and think to myself “Ugh.” But I also spend a fair amount of time looking at that same reflection, and thinking to myself, “Girl, you so fine!” Confidence and conceit aren’t even lines on the same page as far as I am concerned.

Confidence is defined as belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance”

I AM confident. I believe in myself! And on days when I don’t, I pretend I do. How can anyone else love me if I don’t love myself? What kind of teenager and adult will my son be if I hate myself and criticize my looks in front of him? What about the struggling teenage girls I am responsible for and to- don’t I want them to have a positive role model?

On the other hand, conceit is defined as an excessively favorable opinion of one's own ability, importance, wit, etc”

So what’s the difference between the two? When do you cross the line between believing in yourself and excessively believing in yourself? Is it when you look in the mirror and say to your reflection, “Girl, you so fine.”? Is it when you refuse to live by what other people tell you to believe about yourself? Is it when you finally stop seeing that self-conscious unattractive teenager in your mind’s eye?

For me, and when you are dealing with vague definitions like the ones I’ve shared above there’s a lot of room for personal opinion, the difference is this: 

Confidence is feeling beautiful no matter what other people think about you. Conceit, though, is feeling beautiful and expecting everyone else to think you are too. I guess for some people the two aren’t distinct enough to separate. I am fifty pounds overweight- most people will not find that attractive, and that is okay because my confidence comes from within, not without. I have super short hair- most people will not find that attractive, and that is okay because I like it.

If I let what other people think about me dictate my life, then I am no better than I was 15 years ago. So what do you think? Is it wrong to think of yourself as beautiful? Or does it become wrong when you proclaim to others that you think you are beautiful? Where do you draw the line?

Damn, girl! You so fine! Trend-setting at 12.
Suede coat, tights and cut-off shorts
Oh, yeah, and a friggin' beret!


Katie Frost said...

I went and read the article/comments in question, and it's pretty clear that YOU in particular didn't get the commenter all bothered; rather, he's a troll and a dick who has to lash out at women on the internet because he is sad and unfulfilled and wants to blame women for his own faults and problems and he just so happened to choose you to lash out at.

Thinking that you are beautiful and even telling others that you think so is NOT CONCEIT. It's having a healthy relationship with the body you inhabit. I think it veers into conceited territory when instead of just thinking you're beautiful, your appearance becomes your focus and a thing that you are constantly aware of, spending time preening in front of the mirror or leading conversations with comparisons between yourself and others (casting yourself in a favorable light and the others in a dowdy, not-as-attractive-as-you-and-how-sad-it-must-be-for-them condescending light). I think the condescension is a key part of conceit.

Katie Frost said...

As an awkward, geeky, pudgy 9 year old, I met you and always thought you were so cool. You knew my name (I remember that being a big deal to 9 year old me), you were in high school, and you read seventeen magazine. And I was like "I hope I'm like that when I grow up!" Of course, I've always thought you were beautiful, but what speaks volumes about YOU is that none of the outward qualities stood out to me as much as the inward. What came from the inside, kindness, being genuine, dealing with a boy band crazed elementary school girl, made me want to be like you when I grew up. And I'm so thankful that now at 25, I still feel the exact same way about you! And then some. LOVE YOU!

Katie Frost said...

I have to say that since I've started reading your blog regularly (about a year ago), I have felt a lot better about myself. I'm a lot like you physically (same body type and I also recently cut off all my hair, in large part inspired by you). And while I don't think I'm in love with myself just yet, I've definitely come a long way and no longer hate myself for the way I look. My husband has been talking for the past several years about wanting to lose weight, and I realized how far my thinking had come when I recently responded to him that it was okay to be a bigger person. I told him if he wants to lose weight for health reasons, then I would support him, but I'm really tired of everyone being on a diet just because of some ridiculous notion that everyone has to be thin. We all can't be thin. And we all can't or shouldn't look alike. As long as we are physically healthy, there is no need to be smaller. There are things my body can do that a thinner woman can't - like lift 60lbs without blinking an eye. And I'm good at making people feel comfortable with themselves because lately I've been doing a whole lot less judging people for how the look. I don't know why I wrote all this out, other than to say - thank you. Thanks for this blog. As the kids say, haters gonna hate, so let's band together to ignore them.

Katie Frost said...

I recently starting reading your blog and I'm so glad I did. You are inspiring for being who you are. Thank you!

Katie Frost said...


That is all.


Katie Frost said...

I honestly think you were a beautiful teen (and adult), and I'm not just saying it to be nice. Most young adults are so concerned with conforming to fit in that they only consider girls who look just like models and actresses to be beautiful. Then we all grow up, and most people end up having a much broader and more individual view of what is attractive. For those of us not considered attractive as teens, it takes a lot of work to build up our confidence as adults. For a long time, I thought being a pretty girl just wasn't in the stars for me. Then I figured out that pretty comes a lot more from attitude than from the shape of your body or face. It's an achievement to go from feeling that being attractive is not even achievable to feeling like a confident, sexy, beautiful woman. I am proud of my unique face, curvy body, and confident attitude. That's not conceited; it's being happy with who I am. It's a healthy attitude that brings joy and success in both my work and personal life. I agree 100% with what you said: "How can anyone else love me if I don’t love

Katie Frost said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderfully thoughtful post, Katie! It really resonated with me - I think growing up I felt a lot of shame (not sure where it came from) about my appearance. Dressing stylishly, wearing makeup, and feeling pretty all seemed to be the province of the cool, popular kids. I didn't imagine that I could experience the same things. I felt that if I started doing those things, someone would figure out I was an imposter!

Through reading blogs and running my own, I've realized that style, beauty and confidence can be mine, and are the birthright of every woman (and man, too). You made a thoughtful distinction between confidence and conceit. Unfortunately, a lot of people are so lost in their own struggles that they see your confidence as a threat.
In short, keep doing what you do, Katie! :)

Katie Frost said...

I completely agree with you on the difference between confidence and conceit. One of loving yourself no matter what others think, while the other is thinking everyone loves you no matter what. It's so funny that in today's society there is so much talk about how women should have confidence and should learn to not expect to look like models... yet when someone shows that kind of confidence, they are immediately scolded as being conceited. How do we win? Why is it of anyone else's concern how we feel about ourselves? Why do women have to walk such a fine line all the time? The mixed messages is what is wrong! Sigh.

Your awkward photos look a lot like my awkward photos... back when I used to have permed hair with bangs and giant glasses. That was fun. :)

xo, Yi-chia
Always Maylee

Katie Frost said...

I love your definitions of confidence and conceit. Here's to a world that can deal with women's voices, especially when they are strong and true!

Katie Frost said...

Once again, you've inspired me. I have been waiting around for so long for that moment when I finally "feel beautiful..." but it really is a choice. Since I started reading your blog, I have been feeling little bits of confidence at a time ;) Thank you!

Katie Frost said...

There is just no pleasing some people, like that commenting dude. That type of person finds fault with anything anyone says if they don't completely agree with him. And that is a reflection of what is going on inside of him, not what is going on with you.

I love the message of confidence you give to other women. We are ALL beautiful. We don't all look alike but the world would be a pretty boring place if we did! I do makeup on other women and that's my philosophy - every woman is already beautiful. Whatever size, whatever hair, whatever skin, whatever teeth, whatever anything. We are beautiful. That is how I choose to see myself (well, most days anyway!). That is how I choose to see the world.

Katie Frost said...

Katie, how you could ever think you were ugly is insane. You are beautiful! The photos of a younger you are so adorable! There's so much "meat" in this post and I love everything you've written. I like how you've defined confidence and conceit and how you've labeled the troublemakers trolls. ha! I call people like the man who got offended "toxic folk" and like you, I make it a point to not lose any sleep over what people think. The older I get, the less crap I give about what people think or say. And I will scream this from the roof top, I AM BEAUTIFUL! If anyone has a problem with that, too bad. To me, this is a daily affirmation that helps me maintain healthy self esteem and self worth. Yes, there are days that I feel "fugly" but during these times, I concentrate on how good it is to be alive and to have loving people in my life. Thank you for this post. It's a great reminder that we have to work on our self confidence daily and believing we are beautiful is the first step! :)

Katie Frost said...

You are a confident woman & it makes me sad that anyone would see your inner-light as anything negative. Some people don't know what to do with women who actually DO love themselves, but I am so happy to have friends, like you, that do justice for confident women everywhere, every day. You keep being you Katie, you are a good one!

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