It is well known that pristine social media profiles and photo-shopped advertisements do not encourage confidence, but neither do other girls. I constantly hear students sarcastically insulting their peers by saying, “You feel so beautiful!”
For me, and likely the other 529 girls at Marlborough, confidence is a rare sensation. If Cody Simpson compliments your outfit or Dr. Banner rewards your essay with an A, I think we can all agree that we are justified in feeling proud. However, if your first shot at a messy bun turns out well and you’re looking cute, that’s also a perfectly good reason to feel fierce.
Saying that someone feels beautiful is not only used to snub girls who are confident about their looks, but also to hurt those who feel self-assured for other reasons such as receiving a good grade, male attention, or any other form of a compliment. Comments like, “Wow, you feel gorgeous!” make confidence synonymous with arrogance. Telling someone in a sarcastic tone that she feels beautiful makes it seem as though we should not feel beautiful because we are not, in fact, beautiful. I can recall being disgusted with my reflection in the mirror and wanting to stay home from school after peers teased me about being arrogant.
While both men and women are capable of passive-aggression, according to McMaster University psychology professor Tracy Vaillancourt, it is much more common in women. Researchers like Vaillancourt correlate this to the competition of finding a sexual partner. Humans attract a mate through self-promotion and belittlement of rivals. Women are notorious for using what Vaillancourt calls indirect aggression to put other women down.
I do not think of myself as a “mean girl,” but I am guilty of feeling annoyed by other girls’ confidence and making comments about their vanity. Whether satirical comments such as “Wow, you are glowing” and “You love it!” come from a place of jealousy and self-consciousness or true annoyance with someone who acts as if she is superior, they reflect negativity and meanness. These comments communicate that feeling good about oneself is shameful and egotistical and result in girls repressing their feelings of confidence.
While confidence is supposed to be the most attractive trait, there is also something alluring about modesty. One Direction sings that what makes a girl beautiful is that she is unaware of her own beauty. However, it would be difficult to live a happy life if we were never pleased with ourselves.
The goal is to find the balance between self-consciousness and self-promotion. We are often very critical of ourselves, so it’s great to feel confident and to let your friends feel and express their confidence, too.