How can I compare to a supermodel in training?
May 7, 2009 6:36 AM   Subscribe

My friend is gorgeous like a supermodel. I am not. How do I stop feeling down on myself? I am starting to resent her due to my jealousy.

I grew up in the same type of situation where my best friend was gorgeous and I am not. I always felt invisible when I was with her and overlooked. She was tall, thin, long hair, great features and I am short and not conventionally beautiful. It caused me great self-esteem issues through high school.

Fast forward now to my life as an adult. I've grown really close to an awesome girl and she is definitely someone I have a very close friendship with. We are in the same academic program and have similar backgrounds. She is an awesome, awesome friend and we get along superbly.

She is drop dead gorgeous, though. Tall and incredibly thin and always has on the nicest make-up and clothes. I feel incredibly inadequate when I am with her a lot of the times because I just don't look that good and nor do I have the energy most days to dress up like that. Our program isn't very glamorous either so I'm not abnormal in that sense but I feel once again invisible whenever I'm around her.

What can I do to help myself overcome this? I'm just a t-shirt and jeans type of gal. My husband loves me and I feel good about myself most of the time but when I'm with her I focus on my short-comings and think I need to change how I dress, do my make-up, watch what I eat, etc.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what to say above what I would consider standard advice for something like this. First of all, even if you have a physically beautiful friend it doesn't mean that you don't outshine her in a variety of ways that she herself might be jealous about. One that seems to come to mind immediately is whether she has a husband that loves her. Everyone has something different to bring to life and that's what makes the world interesting. You need to learn to appreciate that one thing she brings is beauty - surely you enjoy looking at her yourself.

I think it gets easier with age, but as soon as you stop comparing yourself to other people and recognize your own inherent worth you will be able to live a much happier life.
posted by sickinthehead at 6:54 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I had a college roommate who was a total knock-out. Tall, slim, gorgeous, and very stylish. I, a shy and pudgy nerd-girl, was totally and completely jealous of her. She turned out to be just as, if not more insecure than me--worried about her weight constantly, played dumb around guys (she was actually very smart), ended up with a couple of creeps for boyfriends. (I, on the other hand, worried about my weight constantly, was completely tongue-tied around guys, and ended up spending my weekends playing Trivial Pursuit with friends.) As I got to know her, I became less and less jealous and just saw her as a person. Yes, she was gorgeous, and when I show people her photo the response is always "Wow!" But in terms of people who know her, there's a really broad range of reactions to her--some are attracted to her because of her beauty, others don't pay much attention to her looks but are friends with her based on their shared interested in some subject, others are intimidated by her looks, others don't understand why she won't just wear a t-shirt and jeans, others are interested (or not) for a host of reasons.

All that's by way of saying that Gorgeous and Not Gorgeous aren't the only two categories by which people will assess you and your friend, nor will everyone share your conclusion that she is attractive and you are less so. You may prefer her brand of gorgeous to your own, and that's fine, but maybe try to see yourselves in a broader context.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:10 AM on May 7, 2009

You like yourself most of the time and are married to someone who loves you. Few people can say that. Can your supermodel friend say that? We often forget that other people have problems we don't see, and insecurities that don't make sense from our perspective.

My advice is to being yourself. If you're a t-shirt and jeans gal, that's who you are and you shouldn't need to change. (now, wearing t-shirts and jeans in a professional or social setting where other attire is more appropriate is a different thing, but unless your academic program is in a big city, there likely isn't a problem). If you think you should be exercising, watching what you eat, etc. you should do that for the sake of your own health (physical and mental), and not for her.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:19 AM on May 7, 2009

Not going to lie, life is easier in many ways for the super-hot girl. She's going to get a higher number of creeps hitting on her, but the wheels of life will be lubricated in a way the average-looking girl won't experience. Every woman, no matter who she is, will find life to go easier if she put four hours a day into appearance. It's fucking sad, but that's our fucked-up culture right now.

However, understand that ultimately, no matter if you put in those four hours, no matter if you looked like her, no matter if you looked better, that wouldn't make you happy. Being attractive probably doesn't make her happy. She's got a great butt, but what about that spot of fat on her thighs? You love her hair, but she's thinking that her nose is a little crooked. I guarantee you that there is no woman out there who is perfectly happy with the way she looks, and that includes your friend.

So come to terms with that. Come to terms that all those nagging insecurities affect her too. And even if you looked like her, they'd still be there, because it's not about how you objectively look but how you think you look and how you think you should look. Once you stop getting hung up on those, and start accepting how you really look and that it's OK for you to look that way, you will go miles to getting rid of that jealousy.
posted by schroedinger at 7:20 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Personally I find the whole dolled-out with makeup, supermodel figure poster girl style a complete turn off. There are people out there who will think you're far more appealing for the simple fact that your looks aren't so model-perfect. And that's just in the appearance department, sickinthehead is quite correct in saying you will outshine her easily in other areas.

The main thing I would say is that you seem to be viewing this as a competition that you're losing. You don't need to be racing against her, you've won your own personal race already seeing as you have a husband who loves you.
posted by fearnothing at 7:20 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, I've so BTDT. I went to a school for professional children and that included, you know, ACTUAL models.

So okay - she's prettier than you are. She's probably prettier than MOST people around you. Why do you care? What difference does it actually make in your life?

I mean, you realise people probably glance at her think "Wow, she's really pretty" and not "Wow, she's so much prettier than that troll she's standing next to..." right?

There's nothing you're competing for based on looks so I honest to God am not seeing the issue here. What would you gain if she suddenly woke up ugly? Anything?

This sounds like it's less about her and more about your own self-esteem and self-acceptance issues. You, like the rest of us, are going to be surrounded by people better looking (and probably even more talented!) than you throughout your whole life, both personally and professionally, so it would be a good investment in yourself to do some work in those areas.

You asked:

What can I do to help myself overcome this? I'm just a t-shirt and jeans type of gal.

It's totally not about changing the t-shirt and jeans. It's about being comfortable and confident IN the t-shirt and jeans. You're not "just" anything - if that's who you are, that's who you are, and you better like it because you're going to be you for an awfully long time.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:26 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

A few things in your favor are a) beauty fades, and b) the people who really know you both won't be around you for your looks, but for your personalities. Strangers and new acquaintances might be enchanted with her looks now, but it's something people get over once they get to know a person, when you know their shortcomings and quirks. And think about how you resent her, there must be a hundred other people that don't like her or are uncomfortable around her just because she's pretty. Odds are people will always be more comfortable around you and warm up to you faster.
posted by lizbunny at 7:32 AM on May 7, 2009

the movie "The Truth about Cats and Dogs" immediately came to mind.

As for what you can do, I believe that this is probably a grass is greener situation, as well as a "you're selling yourself short" situation. My best friends throughout my life have almost always been the skinny bombshell type, where I am a short fat woman, so I definitely know where you are coming from, except I also saw that knockout beauty like that comes with a whole stack of problems, ones that I frankly am glad to be able to circumvent. People don't take beautiful people seriously, they have to deal with lecherous horn dogs always hitting on them, and it always seem like while they may date more often, they usually don't date for long because the people they are with tend to only want to be with them for arm candy/bragging rights. This isn't true in all cases, but it is hella common, at least from what I have witnessed in my 27 years of life.

It is natural to compare yourself to the people in your lives, and like other people have and probably will say, you might feel you come up short in some aspects, but I can promise you they will come up short in ways when compared to you. Maybe you are smarter, or have a job you really love. Maybe you are really artistic, or are a great singer.

Beauty does not a happy life make. I'm short and fat and am deliriously happy in my life, much happier than my beautiful friends are (which they themselves say). In fact, I would hasten to bet you could find studies that show it is the average looking people that rank the highest in happiness.
posted by gwenlister at 7:34 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Joan Rivers said something like: "Being beautiful is like being born rich, and slowly getting poorer your whole life."

Also, it's not all in your head. Research studies have shown that people will judge your appearance within the context of who you're standing next to. It's in the book Predictably Irrational.

Also, see this letter to Cary Tennis in Salon about the annoyances of being popular.
posted by metaseeker at 7:37 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have a friend whose daughter is drop dead gorgeous. She has literally stopped traffic and caused fender-benders from men slowing down to look at her.

She told me once that she could never be sure people liked her for her, and not for her looks. You know for sure that they do.

It was a really sad conversation and it made me take a fresh look at the whole thing.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 7:39 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

And think about how you resent her, there must be a hundred other people that don't like her or are uncomfortable around her just because she's pretty. Odds are people will always be more comfortable around you and warm up to you faster.

THIS, a hundred times over.

Don't think she isn't aware that, at some level, no matter how kind or affectionate or genuinely respectful she is towards you and other women, there will almost always be an undertone of jealousy (ranging into cattiness and even hatred, among women who are less mature/secure/cool/married than you are) from many women she'll never be able to do anything about. Especially if you have academic or nerdy interests that push you more towards wanting friends/colleagues who aren't exactly the glam set, you will have painful encounters with this dynamic over and over again-- especially among the under-40 and single set.

Have you ever had someone instantly take a disliking to you or have an urge to spread vicious gossip about you just because of the way you looked-- regardless of how much you liked that person or tried to befriend them? I guarantee you she's dealt with that over and over again.
posted by availablelight at 7:43 AM on May 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

This is an issue you may want to address in therapy. I am a guy, but I have many friends who are better at getting girls than I am. I don't begrudge them this, because their looks aren't something they can help.

If you've had this problem in the past and it's popping up again, you need to explore why this is such a problem. Otherwise, you may miss out on a lot of awesome friendships due to this fear.
posted by reenum at 7:53 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Realize that "tall and incredibly thin" isn't very attractive to a lot of guys. You're oppressing yourself with that standard. Open your mind about what counts as beautiful.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:17 AM on May 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

Yeah, gwenlister mentioned "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" upthread. The reason I can't stand that movie is because when I saw it, I couldn't get over how sexy Janeane Garofalo looked, when Uma Thurman looked scrawny and drawn to me. I hated the assumptions the people who made that movie made about me.

And that's the thing about your friend: She's attractive by the standards set by fashion magazines and TV shows and the E! Channel and all that stuff. And while that stuff is pervasive, it's still arbitrary. And there are probably more people than you realize who know that, and whose definition of "attractive" is broader than the cover designer for Cosmo would have us think.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:03 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I couldn't get over how sexy Janeane Garofalo looked, when Uma Thurman looked scrawny and drawn to me.

So true! Look at the cover even. If you didn't know who was supposed to be the gorgeous girl, would you have gotten it right?
posted by small_ruminant at 9:11 AM on May 7, 2009

Found this today.
posted by toastchee at 9:18 AM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm a t-shirt and jeans girl too and I have very many friends who are better-looking than me, but I don't care because ... I don't know, to be honest. I just don't.

I guess I think about it this way: beauty is, when it boils down to it, a talent like any other. To be good at tennis, you have to train for hours each day; to do math you have to practice; to be beautiful you have to work at it. Sure you have to be born with some natural good looks (or athletic ability for tennis, or a head for math), but you have to nurture it by watching your weight and learning to apply makeup and paying attention to fashion and whatever.

You mention your friend always has the nicest makeup and clothes - how long do you think it took her to learn all that? How long do you think it takes her to get ready in the morning? Certainly longer than you, or at least, she's doing makeup while you're checking your email or something. Being beautiful takes work.

Once you think of it that way, it's not so hard to 'accept' being less pretty than your best friend. It's just a skill... it's as if you were worse at tennis. If you really cared that much about your looks you can always start using makeup and high fashion too, but you'd probably have to give something up to make time for it. (Tennis, maybe.)

And yes, I do know that more people care about beauty than tennis. That's just the way life goes.
posted by Xany at 9:20 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Your friend is going to be approached by people who find her attractive.

She will also be approached by the much larger group of people who want to be close her for the social status it gives them. They might not actually like her, but they want to be close to her because being seen with her will make other people envious.

You will not attract this latter group.

You will only be approached by people who like you for you.

This is a good thing.

You are in a better position than her. Remind yourself of that. Let your natural confidence and personality shine, and you will attract people who like you for you, while she's fighting off the droves who want her for what she will give them, perhaps to that point that she can't even recognize someone who likes her for herself.

Don't envy her. Pity her. Help her.
posted by sid at 9:21 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Relevant self-link: I did this drawing, Even if I was a tall, skinny blonde, about this exact subject. It can help to get all those feelings out there, even if you feel like the most emo mope in the world in retrospect (raises hand).

The biggest part of it for me is realizing that the people I envy have problems just as real as my own. If I woke up tomorrow and I was a skinny white girl with giant tits, I'd still be me. Looking like a model would not magically solve all my problems. Living in New York, or working a glamorous job, or having a lot of money, would not magically make me happy. There's plenty of miserable people out there in all situations.

Another thing that personally works for me is thinking of all the people in the world lined up from the least attractive to the most attractive, one big long line with the elephant man at one end and Angelina Jolie/Salma Hayek/Halle Berry/whoever at the other. I ask myself these questions:

Is my ranking in the line really all that bad?
Would I really want to be the first person in line?
Are the people at the unattractive end of the spectrum horrible people who don't deserve happiness?
Are they any less worthwhile and wonderful than the people at the attractive end?
Are the most beautiful people in the world really all that much more blessed than the rest of us?
Would I automatically want to be friends with all the hot people?
Is this really a competition?
Wouldn't I rather judge people on some other criterion, or evaluate them on the basis of all the factors that make up their personality?

You, and by you I mean everyone, are never going to be the most beautiful person in the world, or the only attractive person in the world. Aspiring to that impossible goal is only going to drive you crazy. But you've got someone who'd rather look at you every day than anyone else, and that's pretty goddamn good.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:23 AM on May 7, 2009 [18 favorites]

What everyone else is saying.

Plus, I've learned to enjoy the free drinks and meals others will just randomly buy for my ultra pretty friend, and me, her winggirl.
posted by cestmoi15 at 9:34 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been in the exact same situation, any number of times, to the degree that my sisters joke that I only make friends with hot girls (I don't on purpose!). My best friend (since we were 5) is exactly how you describe - tall, thin, beautiful, and well put together. Several of my other friends fall into the same category, but I am none of those things.

I've taken advantage of the benefits of being friends with hot girls such as getting into bars without paying a cover (no bouncer is going to comp my four friends and make me pay because I'm not as pretty), getting free drinks when some guy is hitting on a friend and wanting to show how generous he is, etc. However, I also have the benefit that my friends don't seem to have, of blending into the crowd or avoiding unwanted attention.

Honestly, the main time I find it a detriment is that I'm much less likely to get hit on when I'm standing right next to one of my hot friends. That doesn't really apply to you since you say you're happily married. And sometimes it makes life easier for me since there are a lot of sketchy guys who I'm happy to avoid talking to.

Additionally, as many people noted above, beautiful girls can also be tremendously insecure. A friend of mine from grad school, who I've witnessed get stopped in NY multiple times by people who think she is a model or an actress, is one of the most insecure people I've ever met. Her relationships confound me (why does she try so hard/put up with so much - she's so pretty, she could easily find a better boyfriend!) and she constantly worries that people aren't taking her seriously or believing that she is intelligent (which she certainly is).

Lastly, a silly bit of advice - it's a lot easier to logically think you shouldn't feel bad, than it is to stop feeling bad. I've found that the one time I feel worse by comparison to a hot friend is waiting on a line in front of a mirror with my good looking friends (such as in a bar bathroom). I don't know if it's the lighting or the waiting or just the fact that we're standing next to eachother so that my mind can easily compare, but that situation has been some of the few times when this issue has gotten to me. So I try to go to the bathroom by myself (which I actually prefer to do anyhow - gender stereotypes aside). Probably silly, but it works for me.
posted by Caz721 at 9:55 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Spend less time with her? If possible.

Perhaps you are somehow attracted to your friendship with her because she is tall, skinny and "gorgeous." The same way as your friendshp with your best friend growing up.

Maybe she's a stand-in for your best friend growing up, and you are trying to rekindle, revisit or resolve past issues.

Are you very close to Ms. Gorgeous because, good intentions aside, you are subconsciously seeking out shortcomings in order to make yourself feel better?

I'm not saying stop being friends with her, but perhaps you need to take a step back - and taking a step back could be a step in evaluating and understanding your own insecurities, and then resolving them.

You seem to have had this same insecurity for a long time, and they are resurfacing, despite your adulthood and happy marriage. I think your insecurity has less to do with Ms. Gorgeous than you think.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:01 AM on May 7, 2009

Oh, and toastchee - Harrison Barnes? While I agree with the sentiment, Mr. "My inequalities are that my mom bought me a brand new Yugo while all my private-school friends drove BMWs" can go to hell.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:04 AM on May 7, 2009

At my son's school, I met another parent. This woman is also beautiful. Tall, slender, with wavy blond hair and the face of an angel. My initial internal reaction to seeing her was, "I HATE HER". But I'm actually a pretty nice person and when my son and her daughter began playing together, we started talking. She's really nice, genuine and smart and funny. Both of our kids have some special needs now, and we share our difficulties. Now I look at her and I just enjoy seeing her because she's beautiful, the same way that flowers are beautiful, a Monet is beautiful, an old couple holding hands is beautiful.

I said to my husband, wait until you meet my friend. She is gorgeous. We went out for dinner with her and her husband, and later, my hub said, you're right, she is awfully pretty. And I just felt fine. She is her and I am me. I'm glad she's my friend.

I'm never going to look like her. I look like me. I like to think that who I am is expressed in how I look. I'm generally happy, friendly, outgoing and approachable. I think that shows in my face. And I've always felt like, you know, I'm pretty cute. Even in my jeans and t-shirts. I look good because I feel good and that comes from within.

The peace you seek has to come from inside of you.
posted by Kangaroo at 10:05 AM on May 7, 2009 [6 favorites]

FWIW, guys go through this too. Back in the single days, having the uber-hunk as a buddy was a tad demoralizing, particularly when you did just fine in one-on-one situations with women, unless he were along.

What got me over this (apart from getting a little older and wiser) was a solution that at first appears contradictory. I would only date super-hot girls. Once I realized the super-hotties tended to not be as fun or as smart as the simply decent-to-pretty gal, I realized that being super-hot was a bit of a curse.
posted by teg4rvn at 10:15 AM on May 7, 2009

I certainly know what you are feeling, if for other reasons. It's tough to look at somebody else and just know, "I'll never be that. And I'll never stop wanting to be that." That's one of those things in life that shouldn't be, but is, and you just have to eat it and find a way to reconcile. The answer is as others have said, give yourself unconditional love and acceptance, appreciate what you've got, the grass is always greener, all that.

But I wanted to add one bit of perspective related to what some others have said about the drawbacks of being really attractive. While I'm sure it doesn't apply to all of them, one thing I've noticed about super attractive people is that they often don't develop into full people inside. People in general fall all over themselves to please good looking people. It starts early in childhood and keeps going. You've seen those studies, for example, that show how much more often attractive people get the job, and how they make more money for the same work, and all of that. And you've probably found yourself giving them passes or being irrationally accommodating around them, even if only in small ways. While that's awesome and makes things easy for them, it means they very often don't grow.

When people encounter hardship, suffering, rejection, challenge, etc., they learn and grow. You've heard the old saw about how failure is a much better teacher than success. The suffering sucks, but the growth is good. Well if you rarely have to try, if things are just handed to you, as they so often are to good looking people in so many ways, if you never have to step back and reevaluate your perspective on reality after a hardship, then you remain childlike in some respects. You also develop an unconscious sense of entitlement, because all you've ever experienced is people trying to please you. It's not really their fault because it's the only reality they know, but that can become really ugly to other people. Meanwhile everybody else is developing and growing normally and become better able to navigate life.

You, for example, are having to eat this right now. You are hurting, and you are forced to think and reevaluate your life perspective because of it. If this is an effective life lesson for you, you will have a stronger sense of self after this, even if only in a small way. Your outlook on life will be better and healthier. Your human experience will be better. You'll be closer to living in harmony with life. While we can't necessarily know how your friend is being challenged or by what, you can bet that she's not being challenged in this way. She may measure her self worth largely by the affirmation she gets for being hot. She may continue to do that until the looks don't get her that anymore.

Really good looking people can find themselves alone or ill-matched and not well equipped to deal with life in some respects. And then the looks fade. A 40 year old woman who was once hot stuff is still hotter than a 40 year old woman who never was, and that still gets her some advantages, but younger women have since taken over her spot in the limelight. She may find herself, sad, lost, and her identity up for grabs. She relied on it her whole life and now it's draining away. Who is she now? What's left?

Like I said, this is not always the case, maybe it's not even the majority. But it's not something you'd normally think about and is evidence that you never know what it's like to be somebody else, including your hot friends. Anyone can wear a mask, but what's life really like in the quiet of their minds? If you're happy in life, if you are loved, you have won. Trite, maybe, but true. Your feelings are legitimate, but looks are a distraction from what matters at the most fundamental levels.
posted by Askr at 10:39 AM on May 7, 2009 [6 favorites]

You like yourself most of the time and are married to someone who loves you.

Posted for emphasis. My younger sister, who is my light on earth, is a size 2 and light-skinned (which in some circles in the black community is equivalent to having like, three tits or something.) When we're together, people often can't tell we're related (she's a product of my mom's second marriage) and make no bones about the fact that they think she's more attractive.

That said, I'm a grown up now. I know that not every man is looking for a light-skinned size 2 any more than every man is looking for a chocolate, size (ahem). I accept that. I've been loved for it. I'll be loved again for it.

I also think there's something to be said for looking unique. My sister, as adorable as she is, looks just like the Ciara/Ashanti/Everyotherlightskinnedblack girl on the videos. Me? I'm unique. My own tribe so to speak. And that makes me happy.

Being "short and not conventionally beautiful"? Well, it's who you are. I'm sure there's much that's unique about you. Discover it. Embrace it.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:07 AM on May 7, 2009 [13 favorites]

cestmoi15: Plus, I've learned to enjoy the free drinks and meals others will just randomly buy for my ultra pretty friend, and me, her winggirl.

Dude, that is one of my favourite perks of being the wing girl! And my hot friends know to ask for a double dark rum and coke for me, milking the guys for tasty expensive drinks for me. ha ha ha Love it. I get the benefit without having to deal with their shenanigans! LOL
posted by gwenlister at 11:29 AM on May 7, 2009

A lot of folks are pointing out that guys have all kinds of tastes when it comes to looks. (And it's true! Given all the diversity on this planet, you may not be the lowest common denominator, but you're guaranteed to be someone's personal ideal.)

As obvious as it may seem, I wanted to point out that the same is true for clothing and makeup and whatnot. Some guys are into that fancy (and probably really expensive) look that your friend's got. Some guys prefer women who look casual, or practical, or sporty, or kind of geeky, or... well, you get the idea.

And I wouldn't be at all surprised if your husband was one of 'em, for what it's worth. (He married you. That means he likes you.) For all you know, if you started dressing like this friend of yours every day, he'd be asking you what happened to those cute old T-shirts you used to wear.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:52 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

You know, one more thing. I'm a dude, and I'm not held to nearly such a harsh standard as you are when it comes to clothing and grooming. But I'm still not a sharp dresser — and don't have the time or the money to be — and sometimes I feel kind of insecure about that.

When I'm in a relationship, I find that wearing clothes my SO likes really helps. I mean, I'm still just wearing jeans and a T-shirt — we're not talking anything glamorous or impractical here — but if it's her favorite T-shirt of mine, or the pair of jeans she thinks I'm hot in, it's easier not to give a shit about what anyone else thinks.

posted by nebulawindphone at 12:02 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

If this starts to really get under your skin, treat yourself - get a really flattering haircut, indulge in some new clothes once in a while, explore some quick and simple makeup ideas like tinted moisturizer, etc. :) I find that whenever I feel such jealousy over another person's looks, making a bit of extra time to take care of myself changes my mood drastically. And I'm not talking about dramatic changes that turn you into a completely different looking person. A little effort can make you feel fresh and sexy again when you're down, so instead of beating yourself up over your genes, celebrate who you are and how you look. Which must be beautiful, because your husband adores you!

You have something all the drop-dead gorgeous models want - the assurance that the person they're with loves them entirely, and not just their temporary physical beauty. You're not in any competition, you've already won the race.
posted by Bakuun at 12:16 PM on May 7, 2009

It helps to think about who you are and how you want to present yourself, independent of other considerations/comparisons. Like. I spent a lot of time when I was younger with a complex because everyone around me (my family, my friends, teachers in passing, whoever) sort of compared me to the rest of the girls we knew (my sister, my female friends, classmates) and saw me as coming up short because I didn't fit the "tall lithe/slender 'put-together'/cultivated/polished" look. I'm not sure how gradual it was, but my feeling sick of this built up and I finally snapped at some point when I was in my early 20s and went sprinting full-tilt in a different direction, more natural and possible in my eyes, of being the short, curvy, adorable/cute pixie-vixen type. And I loved it. I finally felt at home in my clothes out in public.

The metric you're basing it all on--classy, thin supermodel sleek chic--doesn't have to be a universal one. I guess maybe it's one thing if that's really the look you genuinely love best and aspire to--but for me it just wasn't. I instinctively knew what suited me, I just pushed down those instincts for a long time because everyone around me had a dearth of imagination for any other kind of beauty/attractiveness. Being the adorable, lit-up and approachable/friendly-looking girl-next-door-type has suited me really well, and I am confident because it's a type of image I can totally own. Maybe think about adjusting the image you seek to align more with who you are? It's not a cop-out...some people look better in red than yellow. Think about what suits you and hopefully the confidence will come.
posted by ifjuly at 12:28 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

Antonia and Jane is another movie addressing the plain friend vs. gorgeous friend theme. I like it better than The Truth About Cats And Dogs. They're not competing for a man. They're just getting together for lunches to catch up with each other and going through some grass-is-greener envy.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:33 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm reasonably good-looking. Not a supermodel, but reasonably good-looking.

Supermodely girls, or at least the ones I have met, tend to be rather vapid. Probably because they have gotten so far on their bodies that they have not exercised their minds. And physical looks, keep in mind, are transient.

There is not just one kind of pretty. Some girls who some people think are pretty look hideous and anorexic to me. You know what's pretty? Health. Be healthy. Exercise. Eat good food and eat a healthy amount of calories, not too little and not too much. Men are not on the whole as shallow as you think - the ones who go for the anorexic girls tend to be creeps. Don't attract creeps.

Also, nthing the fact that the people approaching her may be doing so because of social status. These people are probably very shallow. Do you want to attract shallow people? No.

So yes, look neat and clean and well-kept and maybe even show off the old curves a bit. Also, be confident. You are you. Also, you may have a great many things that she wants.

Be yourself. Fuck what society thinks, fuck it eleven thousand ways from Friday and Monday, and be yourself.
posted by kldickson at 12:46 PM on May 7, 2009

A secret: Knowing how to interact with someone you are attracted gets you more attention and action than looking totally goregeous.

I have a beautiful female friend who cannot get a date to save her life becasue she is totally inept at hitting on guys.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:01 PM on May 7, 2009

Harrison Barnes? While I agree with the sentiment, Mr. "My inequalities are that my mom bought me a brand new Yugo while all my private-school friends drove BMWs" can go to hell.

That's his point -- that the inequality seemed so significant to him but was laughably insignificant, and that he didn't realize how lucky he was to have what he had. That's why he goes on to say:
More than two thirds of the world currently lives on less than $2.00 a day. For most of us, our worst nightmare would represent the greatest dream of most of the people in the world.

When you go into most villages in the world, there is no running water. There is no heat or air conditioning. There is very little variety with the food. There are almost always chicken and other wild animals running around. There is no sophisticated work available and there is very little education. Most people are born into the same village and conditions they die in. Regardless of your current situation, the chances are extremely good that most of the world is living in a much different state than you. You have more money, material possessions and opportunities than most people could ever hope for.

Everything is about contrasts. If you contrast the conditions that most of the world lives in, and the conditions you live in, you have so many reasons to feel grateful. If you contrast the positions of the most successful people around you, the highest achievers around you and others and believe that your self-worth is related to your particular level of achievement, you may feel a sense of lack. One of the things that typically causes us the greatest sense of lack is turning on the television. There we see people who are better than us in one way or another or living lives they would like to live. This sense of lack creates unhappiness in numerous people.
And yes, this is relevant to the OP's question.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:18 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, it's possible you're selling yourself short. Bear with me, I'm not going to tell you that you're hot because people like average girls too and how awesome it is that you look approachable while she gets to be hated for being pretty. What you're not considering is that people of similar appearance flock together. You say this is not the first time you've been good friends with an attractive person, so it occurs to me that you may be carrying many of the current cultural markers for attractive. Screw pats on the back about suffering, I think there's a pretty good chance there's people who look at you together and think of you mentally as 'the beautiful people'.
posted by Phalene at 1:57 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I feel incredibly inadequate when I am with her a lot of the times because I just don't look that good and nor do I have the energy most days to dress up like that.

You are conflating two things here, one of which you can easily change about yourself if you desire and the other of which is less easily changed. Accept that which can't be changed, and for that which can be changed decide if anything you would like to do about it. If you don't want to change it, accept that too.

If you want to wear something a little bit less "jeans and tshirt", it takes the same amount of time to don a pair of slacks and a blouse. If you wear sneakers and switch to a more put together looking slip on shoe you will probably even save a little time in the morning. Basic makeup can be done in about 5 minutes if you are into that sort of thing.

The other alternative is to repeat to yourself how glad you are to have more time and energy for studying and relaxing with your husband since you choose not to worry about such things. If your friend is singe she may even be jealous that you have a husband who loves you no matter what you wear while she feels pressure to dress up and look attractive to potential partners she might meet.
posted by yohko at 7:01 PM on May 7, 2009

People are on to something with beauty not being the greatest thing in the world. Have you ever read Infinite Jest? The Prettiest Girl Of All Time ends up hiding herself because she can't deal with the attention and ultimately, her prettiness is a sort of genetic deformity keeping her from ever having a normal interaction with anyone. Now, I'm not saying that's really a "normal" example, but if you think about it - beauty is a kind of "deformity" as no one has any control whatsoever over their overall physical structure (short of surgery, of course).

Anyhow, what's really, truly beautiful on anyone is self-confidence. So you're a tshirt and jeans gal? Be confident about it. Define your own "image" as what you're comfortable in and stop comparing your style to that of "prettier" girls. If you're a tshirt gal and you put on a fancy suit, you're not going to look sexy. You're going to look awkward because you're going to *feel* awkward. Wear what makes you feel *good* as in "Yeah, I'm happy. This is good."

Building your self-confidence is absolutely the #1 thing you can do to make yourself "prettier." I'm not talking about becoming arrogant or vain, but just confident that you are an awesome person, that your husband loves you, that you have just as much to offer as someone who might be "prettier" in a conventional way.

And from the other side of the coin: I've been "the pretty one" in any number of friendships. I feel terrible when my friends start complaining that they're not as pretty as I am, or even worse, make comments comparing my weight and eating habits to theirs. I think my friends are every bit as attractive as I am, but there's no way I can make them *see* that. Know that your pretty friend absolutely NOT, I can guarantee, EVER thinking "oh man, I'm so much prettier." That's just not happening. If the subject ever comes up, she's probably just as insecure about some things as you are, and probably wonders why you don't see how attractive you already ARE.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:34 PM on May 7, 2009

Jaltcoh, click through to 'About Harrison Barnes.' I, personally, am not open to the message 'The Universe is Structured to Have Inequalities and therefore you should just accept them' when it is told to me by a CEO and University of Chicago-trained lawyer. It's astounding. Is he for real?
posted by umbú at 8:54 PM on May 7, 2009

I wanted to say that a lot of the comments on here (and in real life) are to the tune of "she has flaws too!" "she is probably a bit dumber than you!" "she likely HATES herself and wants to drown herself in the lake!"

Which isn't really helpful. You shouldn't have to mentally consider her a beastie to get over this.

What I can say is that I've lived with someone who was a knock-out, for whatever reason. I've gone through jealousy, hating my looks for the first time in my life, being overshadowed... and it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I've learned tons about myself.

You say you don't have time, etc. to look like her or dress like her... if you are interested in fashion, you def. have time. Wake up a bit early in the morning and treat it like a hobby (not trying to be flippant, I consider clothes a hobby of mine much to the chagrin of my mother). Seriously, not necessarily about looks - but if you make yourself the best you can be, and I mean by picking up hobbies you've always wanted to, campaigning for whatever the hell you believe in, getting a puppy - I DON'T KNOW - you will seriously find it hard to find time in your joyous life to feel jealous.

And how terrible for her to possibly lose a friend over her looks.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 9:24 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

all the people in the world lined up from the least attractive to the most attractive, one big long line

I think this linear perception of beauty is part of the problem, actually. It just doesn't work that way, really - beauty is n-dimensional. It depends heavily on culture, personality, context... If you asked me to rank women based on beauty, it would probably vary widely from day to day, mood to mood, context to context. What comes out on top for everyone is the average best - which means that, in specific situations, there's probably something better (e.g. you). I definitely find the stereotypical "hot" to be hot, but as soon as I start to think about what goes with it - the money and effort spent on maintaining an appearance that will eventually fade anyway, rather than on lasting improvement - I get really turned off.

This is how I think of it: the American concept of beauty is basically analogous to the most popular TV show. Yes, by the metric of the highest average interest, your friend might be the hottest thing ever. But for how many people will she be the best? And what kind of people are those?

So... sure. You can try to be more like American Idol if you want. But wouldn't you rather be (yes, I'm going to do it, turn away now if you know what's good for you) The Wire? Or Firefly? Or Freaks and Geeks? Or any other beloved show that lasted too few seasons? Mass appeal to the lowest common denominator until you're a used-up, shriveled husk, or fantastically, perpetually the best thing ever to a small group of people with impeccable taste? And, no offense to your friend - she is undoubtedly someone's Firefly, too. But that is separate from her mass appeal.
posted by McBearclaw at 11:56 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm a bit late to this, but I have to put this out there. I nearly had a beautiful friend once. She was the most amazing looking woman I've ever known. She was an incredible artist, a remarkable chef, and she had this magical, dramatic, open, magnetic personality. Everyone she met fell in love with her. And for some reason, she was drawn to me. Short, round, average, sarcastic, suspicious me. She made me mixed CD's of music she thought I might like and left complicated, home-made French pastries on my desk in the printmaking studio we shared. And even though I was just as in love with her as anyone else, and I longed to be her friend, I kept her at arms' length because I was afraid of seeming even more round and average in her presence. One night in the studio we were alone, and she asked me why I didn't like her. And I told her. It made her cry. She told me she longed to be as funny and tough as me and she thought she could learn from me. Why couldn't I see the things I admired in her as something to learn from instead of something to be jealous of? We talked for hours and I think we would have become once-in-a-lifetime friends.

But the next week, she died in a freak accident. And every day I regret how petty and stupid and jealous I was.

It makes about as much sense to be jealous of a beautiful person as it does to be jealous of a flower, or a sunset.
posted by Wroksie at 2:08 AM on May 8, 2009 [10 favorites]

Have you talked to her about it? I can't say I relate (I'm a guy) but letting thoughts like that stew inside me just makes them worse. Getting them out in the open makes me see they're silly and built on my own insecurities.
posted by chairface at 5:09 PM on May 8, 2009

Yeah, it sucks, but she would be just as pretty if you didn't know her. Learn what you can about being put together and beautiful. The rest, discard.
posted by metametababe at 4:18 PM on May 2, 2010

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