The Heartbreaking Truth Behind Every Pretty Face You See

The dark side to "pretty privilege."

Last updated on Apr 02, 2024

Beautiful woman and sad woman CoffeeAndMilk, itsmejust | Canva 

Editor's Note: This is a part of YourTango's Opinion section where individual authors can provide varying perspectives for wide-ranging political, social, and personal commentary on issues.

Judging by the insatiable demand for celebrity news that seemingly worships the young and glamourous and the sheer volume of money spent on cosmetics, plastic surgery, fitness, and other age-defying technologies, you'd think being incredibly fit and attractive is great. But what if that’s not always the case? I've shared this story on stage a few times and whether I'm in New York, London, Sydney, or anywhere else, I've gotten incredible, heartfelt comments from both men and women in the audience afterward and by email months later.


It all started when I met a couple of new friends at a personal development event some time ago. Throughout a few events, I got to know them. He was a very successful surgeon and a man with a heart of gold. His girlfriend was a stunning beauty who also had a very kind and tender heart. At one particular event, I got to join them for lunch. While talking about plans regarding what we were learning about (building wealth and living your passion), I was surprised this woman who at first glance seemed so stunning and poised had really poor self-esteem. She kept saying she had no idea what she was passionate about or even what she wanted to or could do to take her life to the next level. She said the only thing she could do was be a mom (which, let's face it, is no easy task and requires a multitude of gifts and skills to pull off effectively.)


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As I was asking her questions designed to help her find her passion, it became clear that I was hitting a glass ceiling in her self-worth and personal esteem. She said she'd grown up her entire life never feeling good enough. While we were talking, she told me how men pursued her constantly, but instead of making her feel good, it made her feel bad. That's because her beauty attracted the attention of men who pursued her hard to prop up their fragile egos. Her experience was that men weren't coming around, not to give — only take. She believed they would lie, cheat, and steal to get her attention, so she understandably had difficulty trusting men. It was clear that she was burned so many times she was just shut down even though she had managed to attract a good and available man. 



But it gets worse. That's when she told me something that just kind of blew my mind because I hadn't considered it from that perspective: The reason that she downplayed her stunning beauty to some extent was actually that she'd suffered so much pain from other women. She said other women could be cruel because they considered her a threat, so they didn't take the time to get to know her. Instead, they resented her. She even gave me examples of past events that were quite painful for her. The surprising thing was that there wasn't a trace of conceit or being full of herself in her story. It was clear that this woman had suffered serious trauma from both men and women her entire life.


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It became abundantly clear to me that her obvious beauty — which just about anyone would consider a blessing or gift — was in fact, far more of a burden. I came away from my lunchtime experience with a different perspective, and I'm hoping that some who read this may come to a similar conclusion. Too often, we idolize and idealize those who have gifts in some way that we admire or respect, and we lose sight of the human being and the emotions they feel beneath that exterior. I was as guilty of it as anyone because it never occurred to me when we first met that this woman who seemed so blessed could be so tender and wounded. Too often, we project our values, beliefs, and ideals onto another without bothering to consider their accuracy.



I remembered to write this today because of another new client experience with a woman who is also very beautiful. On the outside, she came across as very confident, yet when I called her on some of the ways she was over-compensating, she was relieved to let down her guard with me and just be honest about how uncertain and panicked she was daily when it came to knowing her worth. To cover her insecurities, she could be very aggressive and demanding, and it often sabotages her business and personal relationships. 


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She had a huge breakthrough when she told me about a contest she had just entered and, much to her surprise, she didn't fare nearly as well as she expected. Even though one part of her was mortified at the result, she said she was surprised at how well she handled it. She also shared how thoughtful, sweet, and supportive her boyfriend had been afterward. She said she was surprised at how well she handled being disappointed, and she was even more taken aback when I said, "Do you want to know why?" That's when I told her it was very clear by her actions that when push came to shove, she much preferred the feeling of being loved unconditionally over the win. She was shocked because as soon as I said it, all she could do was admit I was 100% right. Plus, she also started to see her well-worn pattern of pursuing feelings of significance because it was less scary than the perceived risk of being vulnerable.

What's the lesson in all this? If you take away nothing else from this article, I hope you'll remember that outer beauty inevitably changes over time and is no match for true, timeless inner beauty. I hope humankind will embrace its value and the inherent gift of nurturing and be less inclined to rip down others for their own "gain." Lastly, I hope you'll come away with a more compassionate view of other people's truth and experience and just be a little kinder. That might be the most beautiful result I can even imagine.


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Dave Elliott is a relationship coach, human behavior specialist, and author of The Catch Your Match Formula. He has appeared in multiple media outlets and publications, including eHarmony, PopSugar, Latina, Psych Central, and Fox News, among many others.