On Dealing With A Face You Don't Love

Feeling hot is a mindset, just like feeling ugly is.

by Esther Povitsky

“This time, I really won’t check the comments,” I tell myself while literally opening an app to check the comments on a photo of myself I put up. My post-post interactions usually fall into one of three categories: 1. Omg someone relates to me, the internet is a wonderful thing; we are all weird little social creatures just looking for the tiniest threads of connection. 2. This post only got that many likes? 3. Who is Alfred E. Neuman and why do people keep saying I look like him?

I wish I could live in a fantasy world where your social media cachet and physical appearance don’t matter. But they do. Somewhere deep down in the Oprah-est part of my brain, I know that overthinking my own looks is worse than being ugly. Unfortunately, we’re surrounded by reflective surfaces. Sometimes I look at my face and I'm just like, “What even is that? No! Eww. Please let that not be mine.” Other times I see hideous details with perfect clarity. I feel awful for the girl in the mirror, and that feeling quickly becomes horror when I realize that she and I look extremely similar. (At least I don’t have a mole on the left side of my nose. Yikes.)

The bottom line is that convincing myself either that I’m always pretty or that I don’t care what I look like just isn’t gonna work.

What do I do instead? I take that "holy hell I’m ugly" mentality and embrace it. How much cooler is it to go out, live my life, and pursue my dreams with a face that I think shouldn’t be seen in public? That takes courage. It’s easy to do anything when you think you’re beautiful. (I’m sure everyone can agree that I could write an award-winning novel if my hair were thicker.) But if I can go out there bravely with a face I have a very complicated relationship with and make a movie, perform stand-up comedy, and take cool pictures of myself? That's a bigger win.

In fact, what if I could look back on my career and know that everything I've achieved has been only because I'm funny and smart? “She’s hideous, but there’s no one better,” the vice presidents of Hollywood say in my mind, nodding in agreement as they wince at my headshot. “Indeed. Talent alone won the day for her,” one of them adds as I start to regret my own fantasy.

Now, when I’m in one of those phases where I don't like how I look, I own it. So what if your face is weird — who cares? Go forward and pursue your life because after all, you’re a weird-faced spec of dust anyway. And if someone along the way tries to stop you and say, “Hey, you're too ugly to be doing this!” Just say thank you for the feedback and keep on going because you've already decided you agree with them.

Does it take away from these accomplishments if, God forbid, I am actually pretty? Of course not; good-looking people can still achieve great things. Just look at Einstein (a low-key zaddy). I’m not necessarily smarter than EmRata just because I'm uglier than her. But realistically, I probably am more willing to have sex without a condom on a first date. So who's actually hotter? Don’t answer that.

I’ve also learned something recently by auditing an online course offered by Yale. (OK fine, I got it from watching Gen Z TikToks.) Being hot is a mindset, just as being ugly is. Realistically, all I have to do is decide, based on how I feel, if I'm hot or if I'm ugly. And sometimes I actually want to be ugly. How can I ever truly appreciate feeling hot and pretty if I feel like that all the time? Feeling sad and ugly is a normal part of the hot girl life cycle. This is why people in New York have better summers than people in Los Angeles.

Think about it: It's just as annoying to feel super hot and be told you're ugly as it is to feel ugly and be told “shut up, you’re gorgeous.” You just don’t want to hear that on days you feel like a troll. I want the freedom to decide for myself whether I'm hot or that I'm ugly as I please.

So I've reclaimed the word “ugly” as a way to describe a feeling. That doesn’t mean I don't care about how I look. I love getting dressed up and doing some light makeup as a way to feel creative and inspired. I love treating my relationship with my looks the way I've convinced my boyfriend to treat his relationship with sports: We only use it for the fun parts. If our team wins and we look pretty, we can love it and celebrate and have fun and I guess drink beer or whatever sports people do. But when our team loses, we just kind of move on with our day because, after all, that team isn't really you.