You’re allowed to think you’re pretty. It doesn’t mean you’re conceited.

There isn’t anything wrong with thinking you are pretty … as long as you don’t think it makes you better than anybody else.” -pandora615

[These are some blogs I wrote in January of 2008 on Didn’t want it to disappear from the internets forever.]

… So, back on the topic of conceitedness. This question from IrisofDimu reallllly gets to the heart of the matter, if you ask me:

“I have a question. It was triggered kind of by your link in today’s n’sider, the “You are beautiful” one, and by a friend of mine. My friend is absolutely gorgeous, in a really unique way. She’s part ‘white’ (lots of different kind of European) and part ‘Asian’ (mostly Thai, Chinese, and Japanese). So she has a really different look, but she’s gorgeous. She doesn’t think so. When I asked her why, she said she felt that calling herself pretty was self-centered. Just because you think you’re beautiful doesn’t mean that you’re conceited, right?”- IrisofDimu

This question is huge. I’ll even tell you this: as I was pasting your question in, I actually started to edit out the part about your friend being half-Asian and half-Caucasian, because I am, too. And I — not even kidding — felt conceited publishing a letter that said a half-Asian girl I’ve never even seen was gorgeous. My hand to God.

And wait, now I feel conceited telling you that. Because it’s like, I must think I’m gorgeous if I thought that IrisofDimu talking about her friend had anything to do with me. There is this pathological fear of conceitedness going on sometimes — I think it’s definitely more of a girl thing than a guy thing but I would love to be proven wrong. But there is this THING that happens to us — it starts around middle school — where suddenly you’re not allowed to accept a compliment anymore. You have to deflect it and say something self-deprecating, or else people will say you’re stuck up. Examples:

Compliment: You have such pretty eyes.
Deflection: Ugh, I hate my eyes. They’re like, lopsided. And my lashes are so short.

Compliment: You have such pretty eyes.
Deflection: Bleah, but I hate my hair. Your hair is so pretty.

And then you do that so often, it becomes a habit; an automatic thought pattern. “Someone said something nice about me, therefore I must find a flaw to point out.” And here are just the first 5 levels on which that habit sucks:

1) We never get to bask in the glow of someone’s compliment. Being given a compliment feels good, and we don’t even let ourselves enjoy that good feeling.

2) Some of us start doing that even when guys give us compliments, and do you know what a lot of them probably take away from that? “Wow, girls don’t like getting compliments.” And then we get bummed when they never say anything nice to us.

3) We never learn how to gracefully accept a compliment. I mean what’s wrong with:

Compliment: You have such pretty eyes.
Response: Wow, thank you! I love your hair.

4) Being able to gracefully toot your own horn is a skill you have to learn, and not just if you’re going to run for office. For any job, promotion, raise, or recognition you’re ever going to get, you’re going to need to be comfortable with talking about your better qualities. When we’ve had that beaten out of us, we are at a disadvantage for opportunities. In life. Not cool.

5) And when I think about what it is exactly that “beats it out of us”… you know what? It’s more girl-on-girl crime. Like I said, there’s this moment in middle school, where if you say something complimentary about yourself, another girl can turn that against you. “Mary said she thinks her eyes are pretty. She is so conceited.” (It’s like that moment in Mean Girls where Regina fixes Cady with that stare and says, “So you agree? You think you’re really pretty.” Eegh, it gives me the chills, the way you can see the gossip wheels turning in her head!)

So to socially survive middle school girl world, you learn the deflection/self-deprecation survival strategy, and then some of us hold on to that for the rest of our lives. Or even if you don’t… I mean, I learned how to say “thank you” to a compliment around my early- to mid-20s I think. And yet, I still had that voice in the back of my head that made me anxious about publishing a letter about an attractive half-Asian girl. WTF?

The interesting thing is that, by definition, “conceited” is in the eye of the beholder. The common definitions all seem to mention “excessively favorable” or “unduly high” opinions of oneself. But who determines what’s an “accurately high opinion of oneself” (which the definition of self-esteem seems to cover), and what’s “excessive”? You know?

Anyway, at the very, very least: that conversation was between IrisofDimu and her friend. We’ve got to be able to say that we feel beautiful to our friends, right? Right?

I would of course love to hear your thoughts on the topic. And I want to hear boy-type points of view on this, too.


The responses you guys sent in about last Sunday’s “conceited” Nsider were so good and honest and thought-provoking that I had to IM The-Alison and gush about how awesome you guys are for like 10 solid minutes. You make my world. I heart you.

First, some honesty about why people have a hard time taking compliments:

“Personally I feel like I have my pretty days, and not so pretty days. But mostly when people give me compliments (especially the unexpected ones) I don’t know what to say to them. Should I pay them a compliment or just say thank you? And when a guy gives me a compliment I just feel really awkward, because then I start thinking that they’re watching me…so I start to act completely different around them. Then it just turns into this ugly mess where I start to think that I have to live up to the compliment every minute of every day (or every time I see that person), and then it never works out the way I want it to, so I get frustrated, and I start to feel down about myself. Yeah….I don’t like compliments.” – MzTigga:

“I know the reason I deny compliments is because I don’t feel “worthy.” … I think that people are lying to make me feel better about myself.“- iMegVideo

i think part of not being able to accept a compliment is that too many girls are fake…for example in mean girls? when regina george compliments a girl’s skirt, but the minute she walks away, its the fugliest thing she’s ever seen. … now that i’ve hit high school though, i think most of the girls i know (especially my friends) are much better at taking compliments, but they always always always dole one back out. so even now, we still don’t get to feel good when someone compliments us, because a lot of people feel the need to immediately find something nice about the complimenter so that they don’t feel conceited for accepting the compliment. which is rather twisted.” – yankee922

True story on the fakeness point. And also true story on that “give a compliment back” rule — notice I couldn’t help but follow that rule in my last blog on this topic when I said “What’s wrong with saying ‘Thank you! I love your hair!'”

But a good rule of thumb that I think addresses all of these concerns (and also happens to apply to that girl on My Super Sweet 16 who freaked about getting the wrong Lexus or whatever) is this: “Accept a gift in the spirit it was given.” A mean girl might give a compliment in a mean spirit, so there’s no point accepting that “gift” graciously. But mean girls are the exception, and if we let their tactics affect how we accept honest compliments, then the terrorists have won.

Here, Basssbabe has it figured out:

“I’m just starting to get good at taking compliments. Instead of feeling weird or awkward, I start feeling really good about myself. … Because you know what? I think that’s how people want us to feel when they compliment us. They want us to know that we’re beautiful, loved, and desired. They want us to know that yeah, maybe we didn’t get the guy we wanted, but there are other people out there that think we’re pretty darn beautiful.” – Bassbabe

And if you want to give a compliment back, that’s sweet. If you don’t, I don’t think there’s anything wrong or conceited about giving an honest “thank you.” Or even, if just “thank you” feels too awkwardly short to say… maybe “thank you, that made my day” or “Thank you, I needed that.” Because then you’re still giving a gift back: you’re letting someone know that they had a positive effect on your mood, that their gift was warmly received. And that’s at least as nice a thing to do as quickly scanning them for something to compliment.

Also: I want every girl to take a moment and read this boy’s perspective. Mandatory. Pass this around to all of your lady friends, print it out, tape it to your mirror, read it, absorb it, know it:

“I would also like girls to say thank you when we give them compliments! I’m tired of them picking themselves apart, and telling us what they don’t like. That makes us LOOK at that part of them, something we may have not noticed, most often we DIDN’T. We don’t go for flaws like most girls think (or, my sister and her friends anyway). [Saying thank you] would just do us a favor, and even yourselves.” – Snowbox

And as for how boys experience the whole “am I conceited” thing, he had this to say:

“As a boy, being conceited is a totally different thing, in my opinion. We don’t get compliments like ‘I like your hair’ or ‘I really like your complexion.’ We get compliments on our muscles, or the way girls stick to us. … I don’t find myself unattractive, but if I say I’m hot, or good looking… I’m most likely going to be called metrosexual or even gay! Why is it like that?”

And here’s a nice sum-up from pandora615:

“This is what I’ve observed and it’s more about one’s opinion of oneself that about being conceited, is that if a girl thinks she’s pretty or acts like she thinks she’s pretty then guys tend to think she is pretty as well, they are attracted to the self confidence she displays. And as to the question of what is conceited, I look at it as someone who thinks they are better than other people because of their looks or intellect or what have you. There isn’t anything wrong with thinking you are pretty … as long as you don’t think it makes you better than anybody else.” -pandora615

Thus spake pandora615. And I agree with her, and I hope we can all get behind that sentiment.

‘Cause you know what? I didn’t get a single nMail that said “if you think you’re pretty, you’re conceited.” No one out there seemed to actually think that.

So now that we know that, let it be declared this 20th day of January in the year 2008: it is now officially ok to think you’re pretty, as long as you don’t think it makes you better than anybody else. You have the world’s permission. K?


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