Lately I’ve been noticing more and more popular artists releasing songs that seem to follow in the footsteps of “What Makes You Beautiful” – songs that praise insecure women not just in spite of their insecurities, but because of them.
“You don’t know you’re beautiful. That’s what makes you beautiful.”
Perhaps the most notable examples of this on the radio right now are Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You” and One Direction’s “Little Things.” And if you really want to get old-fashioned here, you can go all the way back to Bruno Mars’s “Just the Way You Are.”
These songs have a couple of things in common: they are sung by men, and they are about women. The women are insecure, and the men assure them that they are loved anyway.
Don’t get me wrong: I love that these songs acknowledge the pressure that society puts upon women to be thin and beautiful, and the insecurities that can permeate their self-image as a result.
But they also seem to go somewhere equally as dangerous, a place that praises these insecurities as good and desirable in and of themselves. And trust me, I’ve been insecure, and it doesn’t feel good. Insecure is a painful way to feel, it’s a painful way to think. It’s not something you want to be forever. It’s something you fight against or give in to; not something you embrace.
I’m not saying that people should never feel insecure, or never seek to have their confidence reaffirmed by somebody that they love. I’m not implying that anybody should be embarrassed to have insecurities. Not at all. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve thought or said something negative about myself, I’d already have enough money to bribe Syfy to make a movie about a bear apocalypse, but alas.
People are insecure, and that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be loved. Of course they do. Of course. I just find it slightly unsettling that popular music has begun to glorify and sexualize low self-confidence as just another thing that women are now expected to be. It takes the idea of “What Makes You Beautiful” and pushes it just a little bit further. At first women had to be beautiful, but humble. Then beautiful, but unaware of it. Now they must be beautiful while actively assuring themselves and everybody around them that no I absolutely do not think that I’m beautiful, why would you even say that? Have you heard the way my voice sounds on tape? Blech. Not Beautiful.
Not Beautiful. Another label that we have to carry around, another idea that we need to have so that maybe, someday, somebody (a man, perhaps?) can assure us that they don’t mind how Not Beautiful we are. It’s okay girl. I know you’re a little chubby, but that doesn’t bother me at all, honestly:
You never want to know how much you weigh
You still have to squeeze into your jeans
But you’re perfect to me […]
You’ll never love yourself half as much as I love you.
You’ll never treat yourself right, darling but I want you to.
If I let you know I’m here for you,
Maybe you’ll love yourself like I love you.
The sentiment is sweet. Really, it is. I just can’t get behind the idea of loving myself because somebody else assures me that they love me. Ne-Yo’s song follows the same pattern:
You can’t be blamed for the way that you feel,
Had no example of a love that was even remotely real.
How can you understand something that you never had?
Ooh, baby if you let me I can help you out with all of that.
Girl let me love you,
And I will love you,
Until you learn to love yourself.
Self-confidence and self-love come from within. You can’t love another person so hard that your perception of them seeps into their subconscious and affects how they view themselves. It doesn’t work like that, and I wish Ne-Yo and Harry Styles would stop trying to convince me that it does. The only thing they’ve ultimately convinced me of is that it’s okay to deviate from male-dictated standards of beauty — but only if I feel badly about it.