I have a complicated relationship with magazines. I say I hate how Cosmopolitan articles focus more on male satisfaction than female gratification, but my friends point out that I still read every issue, so how much could I hate it? This is similar to my complicated relationship with Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes: I know they’re evil, but I just don’t quit.
In my constant diet of Seventeen up through Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, and InStyle, there are a few pervasive claims I’ve noticed in these glossies. One of these is the idea that shampoo you can use on yourself and also on a horse is a positive. Another is the claim that confidence is the sexiest trait, act, or item of clothing a woman can wear.
I’ve heard my entire conscious life that a confident woman is sexier than a Victoria’s Secret model. The idea of what is sexy obviously varies, but the cultural ideal of what is sexy – even the version that includes “smart” along with “thin” and “attractive” – doesn’t exactly make for confident people. I’d like it to be true that a girl who knew how awesome she is would be asked out before a girl who looked like a Victoria’s Secret model, but that requires more airbrushing of the truth than your average VS catalog.
Because confidence has been elevated like this, trying to seem confident has become more important in the minds of would-be sexy ladies than the pursuit of actually being confident. Instead of pursuing the kind of confidence that involves owning up to cellulite, dealing with jealousy of others’ success, or admitting you struggle with believing the value of your voice, we pretend to be confident because we think it will make us sexier. I know I’ve spent nights pretending I loved myself because I thought it would make me seem more intriguing or alluring.
But unlike other factors that make you sexy, confidence isn’t like new bustier. Confidence is a complicated cocktail of age, experience, and intention – one that doesn’t always get you noticed from across the bar. A short list of things in your closet quicker than confidence are high heels, push-up bras, and leather. They’re also more likely to get you noticed sexually.
Like the fact that chocolate has calories, the fact that the people who are most at peace with themselves aren’t the sexiest, most-pursued people is a deeply lamentable fact. Claiming they are only further jumbles the already-twisted path towards confidence. Here’s some real advice the magazines ought to feature: don’t use the same shampoo on yourself that you use on your horse, and don’t try to be confident because you think it will make you sexy. Trying to be sexy and trying to be confident are both worthwhile at their respective times, but let’s not pretend that one leads to the other.