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My friends are prettier than me, and it's making me miserable.

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La Mama asks:

Growing up, me and my friends always dressed the same and acted the same, but as we started getting older, we all developed into beautiful, young independent women. Since then, I have always felt that my friends were prettier than me and got all the attention. Looks-wise, they totally are gorgeous. But it had really taken a toll on my social life, and I don't even leave the house anymore, cause I'm afraid if I go out with them then I'll just be sad again. I'm also afraid that if I ever had a boyfriend that he would develop a crush on my friends because they are so much prettier than me. What should I do?

Heather Corinna replies:

Whether or not you're going to believe me, I'll be plain with you anyway.

Your lack of confidence and low self-esteem are ALWAYS going to be a WAY bigger impediment to "getting the attention," and more importantly, to having great relationships with romantic partners AND friends...and most importantly, with yourself.

Most people worth your time notice confidence and solid self-esteem above and beyond all else. I say worth your time because, for sure, there are some shallow, surface-y people out and about in the world, people who view others as objects or conquests or trophies. For those people, how someone looks may well be all that matters, or the only real thing they notice, but trust me: you don't want to be noticed by those people because they've got nada to offer you or a relationship, especially when you also consider that how we look changes over the years.

Someone only in it because a person looks one way isn't someone who you're likely to have a healthy, long-lasting relationship with.

There's also little uglier than someone who just walks around coveting what other people have, having a pity party because they don't see themselves as equals to others, and seething with jealousy. Really, you could have a zit that covered your whole face and it's be more attractive than that stuff is. If you are being ignored by everyone around you when you're with your friends, and are feeling the way you say you are, it's likely showing right on your face and sending a clear signal to new people that you're not a happy person with good esteem. When healthy people sense that, they do tend to turn the other way. Wouldn't you?

Want to get noticed? Don't be a sad sack when you're out with your friends, or walk around feeling like some sort of ugly stepsister. Be the cool, dynamic individual you are, and don't question that your worth is no more or less than theirs. Be warm to people, be friendly, and take interest in them. Enjoy yourself, and by all means, be sure you also get out without your same group of friends, too.

If you need some time to get your confidence up, and get over this insecurity about yourself with your friends, I'd suggest going out on your own now and then, too. You may be able to better learn how to accept yourself and feel good about you first without them right now and then bring it back when you're with them. No matter what, it's not sensible to suggest that your two choices are going out with one limited group, or staying locked in the house. You aren't -- or shouldn't be -- dependent on your friends to live your life and have social outlets.

If your esteem isn't so great right now, one great way to amp it up AND get some new social activity is to do some volunteer work for a cause that's important to you. Not only do you get to feel great about yourself for doing things that really benefit everyone, you also will meet other like-minded people, in a setting where you're being competent, capable and kickass.

If and when you date, if you date a person of any kind of substance, what they're going to be attracted to with you is your whole picture. What you look like is part of that, but only part, and you also have to understand that not everyone shares the same beauty standards. What's "totally gorgeous" to you can be completely uninteresting to someone else. As well, the stronger our feelings grow for another person, the more little things we find about them that are attractive, stuff that has nothing to do with beauty standards, and everything to do with how we feel. My partner, for instance, loves my smile more than any other part of me, and part of why is that because when I am smiling with him, he knows I'm making him happy.

Certainly, most people find more than one person attractive. If your friends are cool, beautiful people, then a boyfriend might someday have a crush on one of them. So what? Being monogamous isn't about no longer being attracted to anyone else: if it was, it wouldn't be very meaningful. What makes it meaningful, when that's what we choose, is that we or our partners are CHOOSING to be with one person -- just because that one person is so freaking awesome -- even though we COULD choose to be with others or find others attractive. Certainly, it can be hard for people to accept sometimes that their partner is attracted to anyone else but them, but that's reality, and there's nothing anyone can do to somehow make someone only be attracted to us. Even if we could, what would the real benefits be? Ultimately, it'd just mean someone was settling for us because they had no other choices. That's not very exciting or meaningful.


It's also pretty fantastic that you've managed to stay close with your childhood friends: that's quite a blessing. Do yourself a favor and don't louse up those relationships by falling into the trap of seeing your friends as competition rather than as the friends and family they are.

For sure, it's tough for many young, straight women to escape all the messages and social conditioning that incline women -- even women who care for each other -- to treat one another as enemies, competing for male attention or approval. But it's doable to ditch that stuff, especially if you just remind yourself of how terribly destructive it is: it's never made a single woman's life earnestly better, and I think we can also safely say that it's never made women feel better about themselves in any real way. It also leaves a whole lot of women without close female friendship, and that's one heck of a price to pay for a whole lot of nothing: your friendships are so important. Sure, romantic or sexual relationships are also important, but not any more so than friendships: don't wind up sacrificing all of those relationships because you've gotten yourself in a rut with your self-esteem. heck, this is likely something you can even ask those friends to help you with: if they're your friends, you can lean on them when you need support.

I do want to direct your attention to something you said: you said you ALL grew into beautiful, independent women. Did you see that? That means YOU, too, are one of those, and I've no doubt you are.

Are you seriously going to lock yourself inside the house at a time in your life when you're so full of energy and motivation? Snap out of it, sister! The world really is your oyster: don't let it pass you by, especially when you're young enough to have less responsibility than you will later, and more time to really dig into everything. Would the little girl you once were look up to you right now? No? Then make a change: you owe her and yourself right now that little. You deserve to be the woman you wanted to become when you grew up. People need to take healthy risks, and taking the risk of feeling better about yourself and the people around you is more than worthwhile.

Your friends aren't what's making you sad: it's the flawed ideas you have and have internalized which are. The beauty of that is that changing your mind is hardly the hardest thing in the world to do, especially when making that change is only going to be a positive for you.

Need a little more pep talking? Check this out: Life Lessons from the Third Stall on the Left. You might also take a look at this cool program for building self-esteem from the Girl Scouts (an organization to consider, too, if you're thinking about volunteering). And if you want a great book on all of this, one of my all-time favorites is Gloria Steinem's Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem.

written 14 Nov 2007 . updated 22 Jan 2014

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