“But you are such a pretty girl!” – – – “Why, thanks for the guilt trip”

Today when I woke up, what was on my mind were the words of one of my former therapists. I had just turned twenty, if I recall correctly, and was in the same glum mood my birthdays always bring about, so I spent the therapy session looking out of the window, mute, ignoring my therapist’s attempts to help me the best I could. I felt ‘what’s the use anyway?!’ about everything.

So after the session was over and I was on my way out, the therapist took me by the arm to stop me and shook her head while looking me in the eye. Then she said something like ‘I really wish I knew why you don’t grasp that chance you’re getting here’. In the sullen mood I was in I just shrugged and mumbled something about ‘what’s the use’, to which she shook her head again and said: “But you’re such a pretty girl!”.

I remember that at the time I was confused more than anything, because a) I don’t think of myself as pretty at all, and b) even if I was, what have looks to do with therapy?! Not knowing what to make of that statement I tried to do what I did with the rest I learned in therapy – forget it. But I couldn’t. The sentence kept coming back to me later that day, and the following day, and the following week and month and years. Crisp as if she’d said it only yesterday, I have ever since heard her voice in my head saying it over and over again.

“But you are such a pretty girl!”

It was probably meant to be… what… encouraging? Uplifting? Well, shit, I don’t really know what way she even meant it. But I know what her statement did.

I started to feel guilty. People consider me pretty, so I ought to be better. I shouldn’t be feeling so low, after all I’m “pretty”. Whatever “pretty” is, pretty people are obviously not supposed to be feeling shitty. I’m not feeling pretty, but people think I am, so I should be living up to that expectation. Should I be feeling pretty, too? Am I ungrateful for not feeling pretty? I must be ungrateful! Ungrateful and repulsive, because here I am feeling afwul and despicable, despite being so “pretty”.

People seem to believe that physical looks are like some special gift – and in a way I see where they come from, after all everyone has been given a face and you can’t do much about the way you look, unless you pay lotsa bucks to some plastic surgeon. So you could probably say that physical looks are a “gift”. But hey, most people look perfectly fine, not disfigured or anything, and entirely okay to look at, so what’s the big deal? Why that statement? Why the implication that someone who’s nice to look at, should not be neglecting herself so? Would it be more okay to do that if people considered me ugly?! Would my therapist have said “yeah, well, just go on feeling crappy because you’re ugly to look at anyway”?!

Looking back, I think that after I had heard that comment I got a lot worse than before. I stopped putting effort into looking nice. I didn’t wash my hair often and was probably not smelling good because I dodged showering whenever I could get away with it. I started using black eye liner and lipstick and nail polish. I didn’t care if my clothes were dirty. I tried my best to not look pretty, just to get rid of the guilty feeling.

I got better about it after I met my family and moved in with them. Mom insists on hygiene, I get new clothes if I want or need them, my clothes land in the washing machine when they’re dirty, and I kind of started to want to look pretty so they would like looking at me. (With frequent lapses to the opposite, but altogether I do want to look nice now.) But with it the worrying guilty feeling came back, making me feel like I shouldn’t be having a mental disorder, shouldn’t be struggling so much when, after all, I’m “pretty”.

Inside of myself I think ones outer appearance does not really say much about what that person looks like on the inside. I sure don’t feel pretty, but more like the way I look is some curse. Who knows, maybe if I had been a really ugly child, maybe my stepfather wouldn’t have wanted to abuse me then. Maybe he would have been repulsed, left me alone and put his dick elsewhere. Maybe my mother wouldn’t have felt threatened and would have thought “gee, she’s ugly, but at least she can be useful around the house” or something. I don’t know. And maybe if I was ugly, it would not be so darn easy to find some willing moron who doesn’t hesitate to let his pants down to fuck me. Maybe I’d be way better off now if I’d been looking less appealing. But even with those thoughts on my mind, I can’t really shake the guilt off.

So thanks a lot, therapist M, for the ongoing guilt trip. What a stupid thing to say. I wish people were less focused on looks.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. prideinmadness
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 17:14:59

    First, your therapist crossed a line (in my opinion at least).

    And second, I understand where you’re coming from. I remember people would tell me what I had and that just made me feel worse for being upset. When the inside feels horrible then the outside doesn’t matter.

    • Lola
      Nov 06, 2012 @ 17:30:07

      Thanks for understanding. I agree, people telling me all the things I have and should be grateful for is just as downputting and guilt inducing. When it’s all ugly and like some agonizing desert inside, what’s outside is totally irrelevant, and adding guilt isn’t going to make it go away.

      Well, and about my therapist, looking back I think she was among those who I really wanted to help me. I guess that’s kind of a good thing, technically. But I could feel that she took it personally that I refused to be helped the way she wanted it. I figure she assumed that gave her the right to be personal in return. Or something. I don’t know. Therapists can be weird.

      • prideinmadness
        Nov 07, 2012 @ 00:39:04

        They can be weird :p It can be hard at times not to be involved with a client but that’s what being professional is all about.

        One thing I did to help me gain more confidence was I took a feature that people complimented me on (my eyes) and told myself EVERYDAY that, that part of my was beautiful. Eventually I believed it. I couldn’t see why people would tell me I was pretty if I wasn’t. :p

      • Lola
        Nov 07, 2012 @ 07:09:54

        Yeah, I guess I made not not altogether easy for therapists, but I agree, even then they should be the ones who handle it in a professional way.

        Hm, and taking a small feature that people compliment upon and repeating to myself that this part of myself is beautiful, I might try that. Maybe it helps. I’m glad it helped you!

  2. readyplayer14
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 19:17:30

    I do find that sometimes therapists say things that sound right in their head, but don’t come out as intended. They are still people. I’m sorry this has upset you so.

    There’s something about this post that resonates strongly with me. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think I’ll save this post to re-read later to identify this feeling.
    Also, a song with a similar theme, if you haven’t heard it, is Thank God I’m Pretty by Emilie Autumn, which sticks with me too, but your prose moved something in me today. Thank you.

    • Lola
      Nov 07, 2012 @ 07:13:57

      Yes, therapists are people, too, of course. It’s just that they are people who should be helping others feel better, not make them worse. But I guess that can be a hard job at times. I sure wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.

      If you find out later what resonated with you and want to share, feel free to do, cause now I’m curious. 🙂 (I hope the post moved something in you in a good way, not a bad one, though!) I’ll check out the song, too, thank you!

  3. gypsy116
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 22:24:31

    I can relate. You dont know how many times Ive heard, how can someone so pretty/beautiful be so sad/depressed. As if the way a person looks has anything to do with their phychological/emotional well being.

    • Lola
      Nov 07, 2012 @ 07:17:24

      Thanks for saying you can relate. While I’m sad you got the same kind of comments, I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels upset about something that is probably intended to be positive (I guess?) but ends up being a downer instead. Yeah, as if the way a person looks has any meaning for how they feel. I don’t get it.

  4. Leon
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 14:34:41

    Hey im just a passerby but a thought crossed my mind…if itll make you feel any better i think the therapist was trying to say something equivalent to, “you still have such a bright future ahead”…lets say you werent pretty, she would have probably said something like, “but youre such a smart girl” or “but youre such a talented girl!”. she justs trying to point out one of your assets that makes life that much more worthwhile and perhaps chose a too obvious a point…im sorry you had to feel guilty at all for just being the perfect you :< heres to hoping everything in life slides right into their place someday haha 😀

    • Lola
      Dec 14, 2012 @ 15:16:39

      Thank you for stopping by and for leaving a reply, Leon! And thank you for the kind wish! 🙂 It’s probably a good idea to try and see her good intention (assuming that was what she meant) and to put the comment into perspective. In fact, putting things people say into perspective and understanding where they might be coming from is probably good advice for me in general, as I’m a bit quick with drawing negative conclusions, like because of being what she considered pretty I should be better, and should not be allowed to feel bad. After all, I guess that part (the conclusion) happened more in my brain than in what she really said. That’s healthy to remember.

      Thanks again for your comment! All the best to you! 🙂

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