“Pretty” is not the same as “Beautiful”. “Pretty” has rules. “Pretty” has consequences. “Pretty” can tear you apart, flaw by flaw, and destroy you from the inside out.
“Pretty” can also raise you up, when it’s a path to “Beautiful”.
Sometimes I find a sequence of songs that tell a story that I need to hear, or need to share.
Here’s a story for you, in music from four powerful, pretty, beautiful women, about the difference between “Pretty” and “Beauty”, and why it hurts to confuse them. (For more of my own thoughts on the topic, read on after watching!)
“Pretty Hurts” by Beyoncé
“Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
“Try” by Colbie Caillat
“Video” by India.Arie
Granted, Beyoncé and India.Arie are both more Oshun’s. I’m pretty sure India.Arie is actually made to Oshun, and I’ve heard Beyoncé repeatedly described as an avatar. I could have taken a whole sequence just from either India.Arie’s or Beyoncé’s work alone.
Oshun and Freyja have a LOT in common, including this message.
What’s my point, that “pretty” is bad and “beautiful” is good?
No, not at all.
“Pretty” is a social role. When we choose our own roles, when we revel in them, own them, take joy in them, social roles are healthy for us. “Pretty” can be empowering and fun. “Pretty” can also destroy you. But so can denying someone the option of “pretty” outright. “Pretty” has to be a choice, it has to be consented to. It has to be something we do for ourselves first, and present to others as a willful action. It’s not an offer to be owned or objectified (those exist too, but they’re a separate action, and again, require overt, informed consent). It’s an offer to be aesthetically enjoyed and appreciated by others. Praise is a reasonable response. Entitlement is not. Critique is none of your damned business unless specifically asked for input!
“Beautiful” is something else entirely. “Beautiful” doesn’t describe what others see, but what we embody. The value of our very being, when recognized, is what Freyja has taught me to call “beautiful”. “Beautiful” is knowing who you really are and loving it. Seeing someone else as “beautiful” is recognizing who they are and loving them.
Beauty is the value of being. Everyone has it, but not everyone can see it in themselves, and only the gods can truly see it in absolutely everything. I’m not even sure all the gods can, but I have learned that it is the essence of a deity of beauty to have that ability at the core of Their being. With that ability comes love, compassion, and sorrow for all the pain that comes to and from those who can not share the vision. Cultivating the ability to perceive the beauty in every being, much less all things, is a lifetime of spiritual work all by itself. Even just borrowing the eyes of a divinity of beauty for a little while is a life-changing experience I can barely describe with these words.
Pretty matters. Beautiful matters. But they should not be confused for each other.
If you want to express your own discovered value of being “beautiful” through taking on the role of “pretty”, then enjoy the ride! As long as it’s your choice, and not something someone else is forcing on you, pretty can absolutely be the expression of beautiful. Allowing ourselves to risk and embrace “pretty” can also help us recognise that we are “beautiful” and deserve the love and admiration and praise that come from those both being recognized by others. What matters is that we all realize, accept, and behave according to the knowledge that they are not the same.
Your value of being is NOT grounded in whether others find you aesthetically pleasing.