Hey Beautiful


When I was in high school, my dear friend Emily would address me by saying, “Hey, beautiful!” It always unnerved me back then, though I would never have been able to articulate why. With my 20-20 hindsight, however, I can quite easily tell you why: I didn’t believe I was beautiful.

I never mentioned this to Emily, of course, because sheesh, how rude would THAT be. And so she kept doing it. And so I kept cringing. But eventually the cringing lessened, and then subsided completely. And on a day to day basis, I may still struggle to believe that I’m beautiful. But what I DO believe is that Emily thinks I’m beautiful. I believe that every day, and it is meaningful and helpful and a generous gift for her to have given me.

I’ve adopted this practice as my own, as many of you already know. It is a subtle but consistent way to remind the women in my life that dammit, I think they’re gorgeous. Even if they don’t always believe that they’re gorgeous. And gorgeous will never be their most important contribution to the world, and I make a point of telling them that they are wise and talented and valued and unique and inspiring just as often. But I want them to know how I see them because it so frequently clashes with how they see themselves. And I can do it so quickly and casually as a simple opener – before we dig into the meat of our conversation and as an almost subliminal reminder – and I just love that. Just a gentle nudge, intentionally difficult to deflect and always a preamble to other topics and discussions.

Helping women recognize and accept their own beauty is an important goal to me, and it’s a daunting one. But some helping is easy. I may not be able to reprogram the fashion industry to want diverse female bodies on the runway, or convince clothing manufacturers that women of ALL sizes deserve flattering, stylish options, or keep teenage girls from developing eating disorders. But I can say, “Hey beautiful,” when greeting all the fantastically beautiful women in my life, and slowly chip away at their disbelief.

Image courtesy Ahd Photography

Originally posted 2014-04-28 06:36:21.

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12 Responses to “Hey Beautiful”

  1. Lina

    My current boyfriend calls me “beautiful” and “gorgeous” all the time. At first, it was really unnerving, but I’m getting used to it and I’m getting more comfortable with it. I rarely call women in my life “beautiful” though — I’ll try and do more of that!

  2. San

    True. I looked up the word ‘beautiful’ in my boyfriend’s native language (Danish) and call him that all the time.

  3. PolarSamovar

    One of the things I love about my brother-in-law is that he says “hey beautiful” to my sister and my niece every morning.

  4. mendotawaves

    It is wonderful to be appreciated by a friend.

    Shine Blackhawk —

    “Every women is beautiful, and what makes us even more beautiful is dancing in the diversity of our magic.”
    Read more at http://stylelikeu.com/themes-2/body-image/positive-body-image-sb/#KqgmRridcZvPkI5O.99
    On another aspect, some men can be taken as insincere or manipulative when they address women in this way….I don’t know if this would also apply to interactions with other women. If there is already a more intimate respectful relationship, then the greeting would be be received as sincere and loving. My father appreciated the inner and outer beauty of people of all types and ages, and if he said ” hello beautiful” to woman he just met they usually seemed to like it and not take it as unwanted flirtation. There was a lot of kindness and acceptance in his manner that people seemed to sense . Sometimes I want to say “you are so beautiful!” or “your Style is amazing!” to a person I see in the store or on the street, but am afraid it would be taken wrong.

  5. Lauren

    I’m going to trust you to know your own friends, but I have to say I would not appreciate one of my friends adopting such a strategy. Sometimes it’s not jarring because you don’t believe it (and because that’s necessarily a problem); it’s jarring because what on earth does that have to do with literally anything? If I’m not thinking or worrying about my appearance at a given moment, I do not want to be reminded of it, regardless of the content of that comment. This is my main issue with street harassment under the guise of compliments too: that it doesn’t respect my right and preference to not think about how I look just because someone else is at that moment.

    But also: I don’t want to be “beautiful” and I don’t want to be perceived as being “beautiful.” I have a lot of thoughts about my physical manifestation, and there are many ways I want to be seen, but “beautiful” absolutely is not one of them. For me that word has been poisoned by society’s obsession with it, and I want nothing to do with it. I don’t *want* to be seen as beautiful, I want to be (physically) seen as brave or cool or composed or queer or enthusiastic or classy or brightly colored or creative or sleek or spunky or matching or like I got enough sleep or any number of things that are not “beauty” per se (but many of which still involve intentional interaction with one’s presentation).

    But, of course, most people who know me know this, and their reaction to my request not to be called beautiful tells me a lot about them and about our relationship. And I guess it’s kind of hard sometimes for guys I’m dating because they don’t know what else to call me, but…you know, that’s kind of the point. Start thinking about me a different way, and a way that’s more in alignment with how I think about myself. Because the way I think about myself is the most authentic way; nobody else is more an authority on me than I am on myself.

    (Though I do understand that it’s a largely different statement coming from a platonic friend who shares your gender and presumably some number of your hangups or at least socialization.)

    I just dislike the thought that “beauty” equals “good,” even when it comes from a place of lifting up.

    • Judy Carpenter

      I’m sorry that everyone seems to equate being beautiful with just the outside. A beautiful person is, to me, a total package and I love saying Hello Gorgeous to someone I love because to me they are gorgeous inside and out and I totally accept them for who they are.

      • Shawna McComber

        That is exactly what I was thinking and if someone who knows me calls me beautiful, I tend to interpret that as meaning something deeper than just the symmetry of my face or the glossiness of my hair. I do not think I am beautiful but I am aware that I have a very warm and friendly smile that makes people feel good. I am inclined to think that is what they are referring to if they call me beautiful.

    • Sally McGraw

      I understand your perspective, Lauren, having seen how beauty obsession can be twisted into something harmful and manipulative. I don’t agree that having a friend greet you in this way should be equated to street harassment, but definitely agree that this tactic brings appearance to the fore unexpectedly. I also think that while one’s own sense of self trumps all else, some of us (myself included) feel surprised and supported when we hear what the people we love think of us and that outside perspectives can create balance.

  6. Judy Carpenter

    I think it’s a sad world when there are people who can’t accept their own beauty. I’m saddened by the inability of many to limit the definition of beauty to just the outside of a person and to ignore the lovely person inside. And for someone to say hello beautiful means so much more that the outside appearance. It means I accept that you are a truly beautiful creation and I appreciate having you in my life. But I also can say good things about people I don’t know. Things like- Your hair is beautiful, I love your purse, I appreciate your help. An attitude of other. Being aware of the thoughts and feelings of others instead of being self centered. It takes nothing for me to look for the best in others. It harms nothing for me to acknowledge their worth. Beauty is, to me, so much deeper than skin. And I think today’s blogger is right on the money. I spent years hating my outward appearance while failing to appreciate the loving and kind person I am inside. I am a total package now and finally I find myself beautiful.

  7. Veronica

    I used to say this to my friends all the time, not sure why I fell out of it but I will be picking it up again.:) In saying it I mean more than just looks, my friends all have great personalities, style, and gumption. While I do believe the word can be used too loosely, I believe more that the sincerity of the voice of the person saying it says more than the word itself. So I cannot agree with Lauren on limiting what my friends/loved ones call me.