Follow TV Tropes


I Am Not Pretty

Go To
You're looking at the one person who thinks so.

Stereotypical Barbie: I'm not... pretty anymore!
Gloria: What? You're so pretty!
Barbie: I'm not "Stereotypical Barbie" pretty.
Narrator: Note to the filmmakers: Margot Robbie is the wrong person to cast if you want to make this point.

When a girl (or, in some cases, a guy), regardless of their looks, believes herself to be unattractive. Usually, it's because they're lacking in conventional beauty, but it's rare for them to actually be ugly. Tomboys and Girl Next Door types are especially prone to believing this when comparing themselves to other women, who have more feminine qualities. At least, until someone dolls them up, or helps them see that they're perfectly fine as they are.

Amazonian types may feel the same way, because they often think guys aren't into them. As are pettankos, who may feel inferior to other girls' bigger endowments. While for others, it may have to do with being over their 'ideal weight'.

Sometimes she might be a standard beauty, but feels unattractive because she's the wrong kind of beautiful. A girl with Raven Hair, Ivory Skin who's an absolute knockout to anyone with eyes might still feel she's unattractive because she's told the "ideal" is blue-eyed blonde. This one is especially common in the U.S.; the standard of beauty is an ideal that could be considered Northern European (blonde hair, blue eyes, tan complexion), which leaves a lot of girls in minority groups feeling this way. note 

This is often the basis behind a Beautiful All Along or She Cleans Up Nicely event, when a character who is seen (rightly or wrongly) as unattractive is gussied up and made the 'Belle of the Ball'. However, the main issue at hand is not how other characters see her, but the fact that she sees herself as unattractive. If the girl can realize her worth and attractiveness without a makeover, so much the better.

Subtrope of Appearance Angst. Compare Obliviously Beautiful, where an attractive character is simply unaware of their beauty. Related to Hollywood Homely, where we're either told that the girl is unattractive, or the rest of the cast simply acts as if she is. See also Sexy Flaw for when some kind of disfigurement or physical abnormality is seen as attractive.

May occasionally be deliberately invoked as a form of Self-Deprecation or Compliment Fishing. But it can often be Truth in Television, if the girl in question has a poor self-image and/or unrealistic ideas of what constitutes beauty.

Contrast Delusions of Beauty, where a character claims to be beautiful, even when everyone else thinks they're not.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In The Wallflower, where Sunako believes she is ugly simply because a boy she liked told her she was. Cue the whole series revolving around her "ugliness", even though she's a bishoujo.
  • Male example: Natsume Takashi from Natsume's Book of Friends has been used to being ostracized or bullied most of his life because people considered him a Creepy Child. Thus, he's a bit surprised to find out that many of the kids at his high school consider him quite attractive.
    Natsume: ...Good looks? Nobody's ever said that to me before.
    Kitamoto and Yushimura: Liar!
    Natsume: Eh? Are you serious?
  • A conversation in the fifth volume of Durarara!! suggests that Shizuo Heiwajima is entirely oblivious to the fact that he looks like... well, Shizuo Heiwajima. This makes sense, as Shizuo has very serious self-loathing issues.
  • Yura of Honey Hunt believes herself to be plain. This isn't helped by how other people tell her that compared to her beautiful and successful mother she's quite plain. However, once she loses the glasses and fixes her hair she can actually be quite good looking.
  • Naruto:
    • Kushina says this word for word when her son Naruto finally meets her, even if she's, well, dead. She even apologizes to Naruto for giving him her face.
    • Naruto is implied to feel this way about himself as well, as he compares himself to Sasuke who all his fangirls are in awe of for his looks and cool bad boy persona. He also can't fathom why someone as pretty and nice as Hinata would fall for someone like him. It's her love and the love he earned from those in his village that gives him the confidence to think more positively of himself and describes himself and Sasuke as handsome to Sarada who is Sasuke's daughter.
  • In Black Butler, the teenage Angelina believes she's ugly, especially when compared to her big sister.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Vietnam considers herself to be plain and not photogenic. Taiwan tells her she's a cutie, though.
  • Sakurako Sanjou from Boys over Flowers gets extensive plastic surgery just because other children, with special importance placed on Tsukasa, called her ugly as a kid. In the Japanese drama, the girl playing her is not at all ugly. At age sixteen, people.
  • A very tragic case is Yuri Tokikago from Penguindrum, who believes herself to be ugly because of her Mad Artist dad's abuse.
  • The Demon Queen in Maoyu is a curvaceous, busty, stunning redhead that believes she's "wasted away" because she has devoted too many decades to her field of expertise (Economical Science).
  • Mako from Wandering Son has very poor self-esteem. Her best friend, and especially her mom (who takes special offense to Mako's self-deprecation because Mako partially gets her look from her), get mad at this, saying she's cute. Her mom even screamed that she was way cuter than Nitori when Nitori was in the same room (to be fair, Mako's mom didn't notice she had arrived).
  • Kiki's Delivery Service has Kiki explicitly say this when Ursula the artist asks to do her portrait, even asking why Ursula is bothering with it. Ursula responds with a laugh and firmly explains that Kiki is very pretty and she will not take no for an answer.
  • Princess Jellyfish: Tsukimi believes this of herself though Kuranosuke tries to show her that's not true.
  • So, I Can't Play H!: Mina's shy and believes she's plain, especially compared to other girls like Lisara. So when Quele tries entering Mina in a swimsuit contest to bolster her confidence, Mina declines the invitation because she believed she didn't stand a chance.
  • My Love Story!!: Yamato doesn't see herself as necessarily ugly, but she does reveal that she's very self-conscious that her short stature and small breasts make her look like a little kid next to the massive Takeo.
  • Surprisingly enough, Minako Aino from Sailor Moon went through this phase: Codename: Sailor V shows that, before meeting Artemis, she was wondering if she could ever be beautiful enough to get the attention of the boy she was crushing on, and Artemis immediately tried to use this to get her to become Sailor V.
  • Ōoku: The Inner Chambers:
    • Averted and defied by Nobu; she knows she's rather plain looking (and this is backed up by others noting she's plain-looking as well), but she's also not particularly bothered by it because, as she herself prefers a plainer sort of man rather than Bishounen, it stands to reason that there will be a man that likes her plainer looks. This so shocks Shogun Tsunayoshi (who was raised to believe her beauty was the most important thing to her) that she ends up laughing, then awarding Nobu land and the masculine name Yoshimune as a reward for the laugh, setting off a chain of events that eventually led to Yoshimune becoming shogun herself.
    • Gender reversed with Ejima; not only does he have a not very prepossessing face, he has a lot of body hair, which had scared off prospective lovers and wives. The happiest day of his life was when Ikushima Shingoro, a Kabuki actress, said those women had no taste and were too used to beautiful men, had he been among the common people he'd have to beat the women off with a stick, and how she was not at all put off by his hirsuteness.
  • Justified in Re:Zero. Emilia is a very beautiful young woman, but she happens to be an Identical Stranger of the witch Satella who nearly destroyed the world. Therefore, almost everyone who meets her acts like if she's the living portrait of the devil because of her physical features. Emilia can't understand why Subaru would find her attractive and often takes his compliments of her beauty as him joking around.
  • Peter Grill and the Philosopher's Time: Piglette Pancetta is an orc who looks very beautiful by human standards, but since orcs think Humans Are Ugly, they repeatedly bullied her and called her ugly until she believed it. When she is ordered to seduce Peter Grill but he resists, she starts crying that she is too ugly. Peter quickly assures her that she is beautiful and he only resisted because he has a fiance. This leads to her falling in love with him.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Kaguya (Ice) sees herself as "a disgusting person who could never be cute", though she means it in terms of her personality rather than her looks. It makes sense, given that she's meant to be the representation of everything that Kaguya hates about herself.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Suama Oyafune is considered a Hot Teacher by her students, but she has low self esteem and says she isn't pretty.
  • A Certain Scientific Railgun: Harumi Kiyama is a hot teacher and scientist whom one of her students kept begging her to marry him. She has no problem stripping in public if it is hot or if her clothes get dirty because to her, she is so unattractive that no one would want to look at her.
  • Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody: Lulu Watari is an inhabitant of a fantasy world who inherited Japanese features from a distant Japanese ancestor. Nobody else looks like her, so she was bullied and called ugly her whole life. Due to the bullying, she believes them and constantly laments her ugly face. Only her sister Arisa, who has Past-Life Memories of a girl from Earth, and her love interest Satou, who is from Earth, say she is beautiful, with Satou commenting that she looks like an idol.
  • Date A Live: Natsumi honestly believes her true form (a pretty, if messy haired 14 year old) is hideous and no one would want to look at her like that, hence she uses her transformation powers to give herself an adult form which is what she believes is an ideal body. It takes a lot of work, but in the end Shido and the gang manage to get her to accept her true form, and afterwards she becomes Miku's favorite target for sexual harassment, because she finds her so damn cute. It's later revealed that she thought so little of her looks because her mother treated her like crap, called her ugly, and did other horrible things to her before her transformation into a spirit which completely wrecked her self-image.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: Miku Nakano seems to suffer from this, owing to her low self-esteem. Even though she and her sisters are identical quintuplets, she often compares herself unfavorably to her older sisters Ichika and Nino, both of whom are outgoing and popular, while she's withdrawn and doesn't care much for her appearance. During the climax of the Sisters' War arc, Nino angrily tells her that, being quintuplets, Miku is as pretty as the others too.
  • Armed Girl's Machiavellism: Rin Onigawara constantly hides behind a mask and laments her ugly face because her mother bullied her and called her ugly for resembling her father who abandoned the family. When Fudo Nomura sees her unmasked, he says she is beautiful, which shocks her and fuels her attraction to him.
  • My Dress-Up Darling: Shinju Inui thinks this about herself, since she's a Huge Schoolgirl who stands 178cm (roughly 5'10") despite being a middleschooler, and thinks she's "fat" (she's actually absurdly curvaceous for her age), envying her older sister Sajuna whose petite body allows her to cosplay "cute" characters, unaware that her gentle appearance and kind disposition makes her already just as cute as "normal" short girls.
  • SPY×FAMILY: Yor Forger (née Briar) has a low opinion of her appearance, because of all the mean-spirited comments she gets from her coworkers (who are actually jealous because she's very pretty, and she could be a head-turner if she bothered to fix herself up). It takes her for a complete loop when Loid calls her beautiful when they first meet each other.

    Comic Books 
  • The title character from Empowered tries to believe she's beautiful, but rarely manages it, despite being drop-dead gorgeous even by superheroine standards. Sistah Spooky's constant digs do nothing to help. Over the course of the series, she improves slowly, as does Spooky.
  • X-23 is quite clearly a very beautiful young woman, whose looks are frequently commented upon (most notably by Miss Sinister, who remarked appreciably about Laura's beauty while trying to steal her body). Laura, however, doesn't see it for herself, which stems from her abusive upbringing aimed to strip her of her humanity, resulting in very poor self-esteem and sense that her life has little value. When Jubilee takes her out clubbing, Laura tries to deny her assertions that she's "hot," and when on a date with the time-displaced teenaged Angel while trying to figure out why Warren is interested in her, of all people, insists that Jean is much prettier than she is, which Warren insists is not true at all (though he acknowledges that she's correct when she then counters that he is prettier than her).
  • Mister Miracle (2017) gives Amazonian Beauty Big Barda Height Angst, countering every compliment towards her looks with "I'm too tall."

    Fan Works 
  • Dierdre "Nezumi" Mitako from the Inuyasha fanfic Purity 3: Forever is a Wrench Wench who has been One of the Boys for so long that she has a hard time thinking about herself as an attractive woman, even though almost the entirety of the story is about a guy trying to convince her he actually loves her and wants to marry her.
  • The Worm and God Of War crossover My Great Grandpa Kratos has Taylor tell her great grandfather that she isn't that good looking, especially compared to Emma. For reference, the image the author used to show what Taylor looked like was one of a young Wonder Woman.
  • The Hunger Games fanfiction Some Semblance of Meaning has heroine Vale Whitaker being surprised at the sight of her reflection after her makeover because she "had never felt even remotely pretty in her entire life.... She didn't have crowds of friends, and boys didn't even seem to realize that she was alive. So surely she couldn't have been even the slightest bit pretty. Surely someone (besides her parents, who were required to think so) would have told her by now if she was." It seems that not everyone agrees with her assessment, however—or at least, Obsidian doesn't.
  • After years of scrutiny by her emotionally abusive father, Weiss in May I Have This Dance? is insecure in her looks. Her large facial scar also doesn't help her poor opinion on herself. Her girlfriend Pyrrha certainly doesn't believe that Weiss' unattractive.
  • In the Mob Psycho 100 fanfic Everyone Loves Mob a gender swapped Mob is convinced that she's plain and boring looking, despite multiple characters telling her otherwise.
  • In The Demon Who Lived, Hermione uses an aging potion to temporarily age herself to her twenties and sees herself as a "Plain Jane" despite her mother insisting she's gorgeous. In her defense, Hermione's the reincarnation of Kallen Stadtfeld and remembers a world where someone with her looks would be considered average.
  • In TheNamelessDoll's video Anywhere But Here, Anastasia falls for the Pretty Boy Chick Magnet Jim but feels she isn't pretty enough for him. She changes her image for him but Jim is turned off by her new self. It turns out that Jim has been in love with Anastasia the entire time. Anastasia returns to her original style at the end of the video.
  • In The Green Arrow Chronicles, Laurel at one point says she's "not the prettiest of girls", believing herself to be less attractive than her sister Sara, as well as some of the other women Oliver's dated. Oliver immediately reassures her that's not true. This belief is indicated to come from poor self esteem, possibly caused by Oliver's constant infidelity and her parents favoring Sara over her.
  • The Supernatural fic the reach of human sense has an unusual case. Castiel balks whenever Dean calls him gorgeous, but it's not because he thinks his looks are unattractive — it's because the physical body Dean's complimenting doesn't technically belong to him but to Jimmy Novak, the human he originally possessed before Jimmy was killed and he became the body's sole occupant, and his angelic true form is much more inhuman-looking. As he points out, Dean telling him that he's gorgeous is basically him saying that he thinks Jimmy's body is gorgeous when he's never actually seen what Castiel looks like outside of Jimmy's body.
  • Both the main characters from Won't let go are a version of this. Mo Bai cannot see himself as beautiful because he shares a Strong Family Resemblance with his Archnemesis Dad, while Shang Hua is painfully aware he's merely cute in a world of world-shattering beauties.
  • A 16-year-old Misty in Tell Me I'm Pretty gets depressed over the fact that she doesn't get a date for the wedding of her older sister Daisy (on top of being asked to be the flower girl), feeling that she's not pretty enough. She ends up sneaking away and runs into Ash, who after listening to her woes, assures her that she's not just pretty, but he actually considers her beautiful.
  • HV-S03: Self-Incarnation: Mochizuki Chiyome was cursed with Yamata-no-Orochi's power, making her part snake, for example having snake scales for skin and snake-like eyes. She laments her hideousness, and is baffled when her fiancé in an Arranged Marriage, Sengo Muramasa, falls in love at first sight with her, constantly praises her beauty, and enjoys seeing her naked.
  • Stannis Baratheon in Down a Rabbit Hole to Westeros believes his betrothed Selyse is mocking him when she calls him handsome, because he has been unfavorably compared to his older brother Robert — whom he openly describes as "a maiden's wet dream" — his whole childhood. It takes her some time and copious sex for Stannis to gain self-esteem.
  • Queens of Mewni: Minguanta is considered rather plain looking by Mewnian standards, so much so that she was given the sobriquet 'The Bland'. She honestly isn't bad looking (fans tend to gush over how cute she is), but when one's sister is known as 'The Fairest' and has latent magic to make her appear as everyone's ideal standard of beauty, one doesn't stand a chance, and this in fact does a number on Minguanta's self-esteem.
  • Frozen Wight: Elsa thinks of herself as too pale, too thin, and too stand-offish for anyone to actually like, especially when compared to her excitable sister Anna. She doesn't seem to notice that she's drop-dead gorgeous, and she wears form-fitting clothing made out of ice that might be slightly transparent. She mentions that half the castle has confessed their love for her, but she assumes they're just after the privileges that come with being in a relationship with the queen, and is baffled by the suggestion that they might actually like her.

    Film — Animated 
  • Fiona of Shrek was cursed to become an ogress and later becomes one permanently after sharing a True Love's Kiss with Shrek. At the end of the first movie, she tells Shrek, "I don't understand. I'm supposed to be beautiful." Shrek responds, "But you are beautiful." And indeed, she's still pretty for a Cute Monster Girl.
  • Tanya says this of herself in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Ms. Kitty, (as well as most fans of the movie) begs to differ, and gives her a makeover. At the end of the movie though she gets over it, and washes her makeup off.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Lizzie in The Rainmaker insists she's plain. Starbuck takes her hair down and convinces her otherwise.
  • Adrian in Rocky, which is not particularly helped that her mother raised her to believe she was plain and she needed to become educated and intellectual to compensate. Later she gets the makeover which reveals her natural beauty.
  • Subverted in Shallow Hal, when Hal (Jack Black) doesn't understand why Rosemary is always deprecating her own looks, despite looking like Gwyneth Paltrow. He assumes she's doing this, then comes to believe that she has poor self-esteem because of her upbringing. In fact, he's been hypnotized into seeing her as thin, and she really weighs 300 lbs.
  • Samantha Baker in Sixteen Candles describes herself as "utterly forgettable" and bemoans her small breasts. She is played by a young Molly Ringwald who is later described favorably as having "smallish tits, decent voice, she drives me crazy" and is pursued by two guys one of whom is the Big Man on Campus.
  • Celine in Before Sunrise. Actually, the trailer for Before Midnight and a scene in Before Sunset. In the latter, she asks how she's different, and Jesse responds that she's thinner. She then says she was a "fat French girl." And in the trailer for the former, she describes herself as a "fat-ass, middle-aged mom losing her hair." This is Julie Delpy !
  • The whole first act of Funny Face involves almost every character expressing disbelief at the idea of Jo (Audrey Hepburn) being attractive enough to be a model, including Jo herself. Her face is "funny," you see.
  • In Love in the Afternoon, Ariane (Audrey Hepburn again) describes her appearance saying: "I'm too thin, and my ears stick out, and my teeth are crooked and my neck is much too long."
  • The Spectacular Now has the shy Aimee Finicky reacting with shock when Sutter says two guys were checking her out at a party. She says "guys don't look at me like that". Fans of the gorgeous Shailene Woodleynote  heartily disagree (as does Sutter).
  • Subverted in Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo, where Schumer states that every girl, deep down inside her head, suspects... "I am gorgeous", and that maybe they have the wrong hairstyle.
  • Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader envies her older sister Susan's beauty and nearly casts a spell to become her. After having a vision where she had become Susan (and Lucy therefore no longer existed), Aslan gently scolds her for her vanity.
  • This appears to be part of Jack the Ripper's motivation in The Butchers. After revealing her true appearance as a beautiful woman to Nicole, the Ripper asks Nicole if she thinks she is beautiful. Nicole assures her that she is and offers to prove it to her. This ends badly for her.
  • Pollyanna (1960) has a sequence where Mrs Snow snaps at Pollyanna for calling her pretty.
    "Now don't you try to butter me up. I'm not at all pretty."
  • Barbie (2023): After hitting her low point, Barbie ends up claiming she's not "Stereotypical Barbie" pretty despite the other characters claiming she is. The narrator even chimes in pointing out that casting Margot Robbie in the role isn't the best way to get the message across.

  • Sara Crewe in A Little Princess thinks she must not be pretty because she doesn't mesh with the beauty standards of late-nineteenth-century England, being small, skinny, black-haired, tanned, and green-eyed, comparing herself to another child who is fair-skinned and golden haired. There is some Values Dissonance at play here, since Sara doesn't match the Victorian standards of beauty. The narration, however, states that she is definitely prettier than she thinks.
  • In Howl's Moving Castle, it's more of a matter that Sophie lacked confidence and self-esteem to see herself as pretty and sees herself as plain and doomed to a boring life. She also suffers from a dash of Wrong Genre Savvy: Sophie is the eldest of three sisters, and is the protagonist of a story — she just assumes it's a classic fairy tale instead of modern fantasy.
  • Mallory of The Baby-Sitters Club sees herself as this: she has very frizzy red hair, clear brackets for braces, eyeglasses and a conservative wardrobe that her parents approve of (but appropriate for most preteen girls her age). It's often commented by other babysitters that at best, she is cute, at worst "she will grow into her looks".
    • To a lesser extent, the tomboyish and flat-chested Kristy comments that she "is not as pretty as Mary Anne", her more feminine and mature childhood friend who has Girl Next Door charms, or even as gorgeous as friends Claudia and Stacey.
  • Bella of The Twilight Saga complains constantly about not being pretty, but everybody swoons over her. She's an outright Dude Magnet but doesn't see herself as attractive. When Edward brings this up during one of her self-deprecating moments, she gets embarrassed. However, Bella had just moved from Arizona, where the beautiful girls were blonde, tan, and fit while Bella, pale, dark haired and clumsy didn't fit in. In the sun starved Forks Bella finally is among those who appreciate her beauty but her belief in her plainness is already embedded. She only starts believing she's beautiful after she's turned since she becomes a lot more beautiful, but she doesn't look so different.
  • Lee Fiora in Prep; "There were other things a guy could think I was, and he wouldn't be entirely wrong — nice, or loyal, or maybe interesting. Not that I was always any of those thing, but in certain situations, it was conceivable. But to be seen as pretty was to be fundamentally misunderstood. First of all, I wasn't pretty, and on top of that I didn't take care of myself like a pretty girl did; I wasn't even one of the unpretty girls who passes as pretty through effort and association. If a guy believed my value to lie in my looks, it meant either that he'd somehow been misled and would eventually be disappointed, or that he had very low standards.” But Lee is a Shrinking Violet and the depiction of her on the cover is very pretty.
  • Anne Shirley, of Anne of Green Gables. While in the first book she genuinely is as plain as she believes herself to be, as she matures she takes on a kind of attractiveness that's just unconventional for her time period. The fact that she's a Fiery Redhead in a time period where red hair was deemed horribly unattractive does give her some grounds for believing this even as an adult, however untrue it really is. It's implied that sympathetic people are the kind who will find her pretty, while the jerks think her plain.
  • Early in Jane Eyre, Jane believes Mr. Rochester isn't interested in a homely woman like her, and is instead pursuing Blanche Ingram, a beautiful and classy dame. Jane most likely is not drop-dead gorgeous, but the text implies she is actually prettier than she gives herself credit for being.
  • Parodied in Discworld book Thud!. Where the human-despite-all-appearances-to-the-contrary-Nobby Nobbs starts dating a beautiful strip dancer, Tawneee, no one can believe it. Apparently, she thinks herself ugly. Why? Because every other guy assumed that she was out of their league and never approached her, leading her to believe she was unattractive; Nobby only asked her out because he was so used to rejection he asked expecting her to turn him down.
  • Friday, the protagonist in the Robert A. Heinlein novel Friday, suffers from this, likely due to her feelings of insecurity as an artificial human. When "Boss" Baldwin informs her that he thinks she is beautiful, she thinks to herself, "Really, Boss, I do own a mirror, y'know."
  • In A Brother's Price, Cira has a prominent scar on her face, and under her clothing she is Covered with Scars. She doesn't find herself attractive, and mentions a lover who had lost interest in her after she acquired those scars. Jerin thinks she would be plain and unremarkable unscarred, but the scars add character and boldness to her appearance.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Arya Stark genuinely believes herself to be ugly, and is confused when people say she is pretty — she's stated to be the spitting image of her Aunt Lyanna Stark, who was renowned for her "wild, Northern beauty" with the Stark look and had men literally starting wars for her hand. So chances are Arya is a lot more attractive than she believes. It's also worth mentioning that Arya is not in her teens yet and and the phrase "She grew into her looks" (implying that puberty was very kind) is a phrase that gets bandied about a lot when discussing Lyanna's appearance.
  • In Carolyn Mackler's The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things the protagonist, Virginia, compares herself unfavorably to her thin and dark-haired family and is often shocked/in disbelief whenever someone points out she's an attractive girl.
  • A curious example appears in Kit Williams' well-known puzzle book Masquerade. The Sun is in love with the Moon but doesn't dare speak to her. This is because people always screw their faces up whenever they look at him, which leads him to think he must be very ugly.
  • Magika Swordsman and Summoner: Koyuki Hiakari thinks that she is ugly because her whole life, she was bullied and called a monster for being an elf. Her love interest Kazuki Hayashizaki constantly assures her that she is beautiful, but it takes a while for her to believe him.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
    • Katarina recognizes that her features are above average, but since she's comparing herself to her even prettier friends she concludes that she isn't attractive at all. More importantly to her self image, though, is that she has upward tilting blue eyes that she thinks make her look like a villain, but everyone else thinks they just make her look a bit intense at worst.
    • Thanks to the fact she spent most of her life being called cursed because of her albinism, Sophia was convinced she's creepy and unattractive. However, she's actually quite beautiful, as Catarina points out, with her albinism actually acting like a Charm Point. When this is pointed out, she cries happily, since nobody besides her brother has ever complimented her appearance before.
  • In an unusual variant, young Fawn Bluefield from The Sharing Knife frequently berates herself for her stupidity, to the point where Dag Redwing (who thinks she has a mind like a steel trap, and considers it one of her most attractive features) notes:
    "You use that word a lot. Makes me wonder who used to whip you with it."
  • A character in Sidney Sheldon's Master of the Game describes herself as "not pretty but interesting-looking," despite being stunningly beautiful in the eyes of all the other characters.
  • In Story Within a Story featured in the Brazilian book O Fantástico Mistério de Feiurinha, the title character doesn't think of herself as beautiful, due to having been raised to believe she was ugly and the three hags that raised her were the beautiful ones. It's not until her companion goat turns out to be a prince under a spell that she finds out the truth.
  • Laura Ingalls, of the Little House on the Prairie books, despairs over the fact that she's an extremely short brunette, rather than "tall and willowy" (like Nellie Oleson), and blonde (like her sister Mary). In reality, she was quite a pretty girl — just not by the conventional standards of her time. Somewhat justified, however, because Caroline "Ma" Ingalls, herself a knockout who bore an uncanny resemblance to Jessica Biel, discouraged vanity.
  • The title character of Anya Seton's Katherine gives up all hope of being a beauty because her hair is reddish instead of blonde and her eyes are gray not blue. Of course everybody else in 14th c. England thinks she's hotter than a blacksmith's forge.
  • Rhapsody from the Symphony of Ages series takes this attitude, due a mix of low self-esteem (born of her past as a prostitute) and the obsessive attentions of previous would-be suitors. Made more egregious by the fact the book goes out of its way to establish her as the World's Most Beautiful Woman. Especially after passing through the fire at the center of the world renders her physically perfect.
  • Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear. She's a Cro-Magnon woman raised by (and against the standards of) Neanderthals, so she was raised thinking she was weird looking. It took years among her own kind for her to come around, and she still fell back into this when feeling depressed.
  • Alexandr Kuprin's short story The Blue Star has a protagonist who believes that about her. The twist is, on the one hand, she is right — she is a princess who was born so ugly her father ordered every single mirror in the realm destroyed. On the other hand, it is an extremely isolated land, and her looks are inherited from a foreigner who founded the royal dynasty, so she is World's Most Beautiful Woman by the standards of, for example, France.
  • Jo March of Little Women refers to herself as "ugly and awkward", as she's more of a tomboy than her ladylike sisters. It doesn't stop her from attracting her childhood friend Laurie, and later Professor Bhaer. It is said that her hair is her best feature, though the "ugly and awkward" line comes after it has grown back from when she sold it.
  • Hermione of Harry Potter refers to herself being ugly once or twice, to which Harry responds that he doesn't think she's ugly. While she's not exactly concerned with appearances, she's notably pretty enough to attract the likes of Viktor Krum, Cormac McLaggen, and eventually Ron himself. The Yule Ball and Bill Weasley's wedding show that She Cleans Up Nicely.
  • Mercy Thompson feels this way as she constantly reminds the reader that she is not beautiful in the books. But it’s very clear this is not the case as several of the male characters have been attracted to her and Mercy has been a subject to Male Gaze, usually when she must strip to shift to her coyote form. In the fifth book, Silver Bourne, Mercy was being filmed by a television crew because they considered her the pack’s eye candy, much to Mercy’s surprise. In Adam’s POV from a removed chapter of Night Broken, Mercy looked like a pagan goddess even in a hospital gown.
  • Mildmay Foxe from Doctrine of Labyrinths is a male example. He has a scar that paralyses half his face, and was repeatedly called ugly (and sexually abused) by his guardian as a kid, leaving him with terrible self-esteem. He's so sure he's The Grotesque that he's baffled (or just oblivious) when people flirt with him, and even when someone admits they have a crush on him he tries to put it down to something other than him being attractive (e.g. he's sure Ginevra only wants him for his bad boy rep, and that Corbie is just settling for him because she can't have Felix). Judging by the sheer number of characters who lust after him throughout the story, however, it's safe to assume he's unconventionally sexy at the very least, if not downright gorgeous.
  • In Queen Bees and Wannabes, one of the observations the author makes about her experiences talking with high school girls is that they will hardly ever accept compliments about their beauty and instead claim that they're fat and ugly to avoid coming across as vain or self-absorbed. Mean Girls, the film based on this book, references this phenomenon in a scene where the Girl Posse's members — all of them drop-dead gorgeous — all stand in front of a mirror and loudly lament about how hideous they look.
  • An uncommon in the second Percy Jackson and the Olympians book: Percy mentions that he doesn't like to think about his appearance, mentioning a few minor flaws that bother him (one of which is just that he's started getting zits). For what it's worth, the official art always depicts him as normal-to-attractive. On the other hand, he says this while his insecurities are being heightened by Circe, who's using her Compelling Voice to make him accept a "makeover".
  • Another male examples is Jim McCarthy, the protagonist in The War Against the Chtorr. When 'Liz' Tirelli compliments him he immediately starts blurting out everything that's wrong with him, and can't believe she'd be interested in him. Liz is older than him so thinks the opposite is the case. Eventually Liz gets angry with him, pointing out that his thinking this implies there's something wrong with her for choosing Jim as her lover.
  • Maia Drazhar in The Goblin Emperor is very self-conscious and negative about his own appearance, but the worst the actual physical descriptions in the book have to say are that he's a bit scrawny, prone to Messy Hair (which ceases to become an issue after he becomes emperor and has a valet to take care of it), and has a nasty scar on his arm that's completely covered-up when he's fully clothed. A lot of his self-consciousness comes from having very visible mixed ancestry in a milieu full of Fantastic Racism, as well as general low self-esteem from years of psychological abuse.
  • The Chronicles of Dorsa: Joslyn always says that she's not beautiful when Talia tells her she is, replying that Tasia's the one who's beautiful. It stems from her self-consciousness over the scars on her breasts, as Tasia compliments them.
  • Tisala of Hurog is a Brawn Hilda and Lady Looks Like a Dude, and uses this trope to explain why she wouldn't make an appropriate wife for Ward, a recently ascended lord: she's too tall, too strong, Covered in Scars, and not at all conventionally attractive. Ward responds that he doesn't want a beautiful trophy wife to boost his self-esteem, and he's even taller, probably stronger, can match her scar for scar, and finds her incredibly hot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The A-Team episode "Bounty", Murdock takes refuge with a female veterinarian named Kelly Stevens while escaping from a group of bounty hunters, and begins to fall in love with her. When Murdock says Kelly is a "pretty girl" and must have a boyfriend, she quickly dismisses it, saying she's never considered herself attractive. (Kelly is at worst the "girl next door" type.) Murdock then picks up a mirror to show her.
  • Willow of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the first couple of seasons. She pines for Xander, hoping he would see her as more than a friend. At one party where she's dressed modestly as an eskimo almost completely covered in fur, she laments Xander's more attractive date (dressed as an Incan princess, who unbeknownst to them is a revived mummy that really is an Incan princess). Little does she know, her future boyfriend Oz is watching her from the stage and is immediately taken with her despite or even because of her costume.
  • An early Cheers episode involves Coach's Hollywood Homely daughter, Lisa, visiting along with her fiancé, who turns out to be a self-centered jerkass who's only marrying her to help his career. In the episode's climax, Coach confronts her about him, and Lisa acknowledges his shortcomings but fears that this is her only chance at getting married and having children, since he's the only person who's ever proposed to her.
    Coach: But, you're so beautiful, so...
    Lisa: "Beautiful"? Daddy, you have been saying that I'm beautiful ever since I was a very little girl. But look at me! Not as my father, but like you're looking at me for the first time. And, please, try to see me as I really am!
    Coach: (after taking a long look at her) Oh, my God, I never realized how much you look like your mother.
    Lisa: I know. I look exactly like her. And mom was not... (sees him looking at her intently) ...comfortable about her beauty.
    Coach: But that's what made her more beautiful. Your mother grew more beautiful every day of her life.
  • Dollhouse:
    • Bennet Halverson concerned that Topher had just tried to taze her with a device that only works on Dolls. She has a hard time believing this because Dolls are beautif...oh.
    • Mellie believes herself to be unattractive, when she's Hollywood Pudgy at worst. She's actually a Doll too, meaning she was chosen because her employers find her attractive.
  • Although he's very egotistical about his intelligence and diagnostic abilities, Gregory House has inexplicably described himself as "not great-looking". Feelings shared by Hugh Laurie, who got really embarrassed by the amount of times he was shirtless, and thinks House's sex symbol status is just because "damaged genius" and has nothing to do with him.
  • Never Have I Ever:
    • Kamala (as played by the gorgeous Richa Moorjani)lampshades this about herself, right before a man bikes past her and, stunned by her beauty, crashes. If anything she is Obliviously Beautiful and wants a man who appreciates her intellect and career ambition as much as her traditionally feminine traits.
    • If anything, her younger cousin and nerdy protagonist Devi can feel vulnerable to this, especially when her rival refers to her as an "unfuckable nerd" when they are engaging in Snark-to-Snark Combat which is ridiculous given that Devi looks as good as her portrayer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): The episode "The Eye of the Beholder" has a young lady whose head is swathed in bandages as the plastic surgeon laments that he was unable to do much for her. They remove the bandages to reveal she has a lovely face and is, in fact, quite beautiful. As the doctor and the nurses all gasp with dismay and disgust, the point of view pulls back to reveal they are all horribly disfigured by our standards, with ugly pig-snoutish noses. By their standards, she was the horribly disfigured one. The young girl sees her reflection in a mirror and bursts into tears at seeing herself as so ugly.
    • Subverted in a Saturday Night Live skit when Pamela Anderson cohosted. The scene played out as above until the young girl (played by Ms. Anderson) looked at herself in the mirror. She jumped up and exclaimed in delight, "Hey, I'm hot. I'm the hottest chick on this planet," and ran from the room.
  • When Bridget of 8 Simple Rules was playing Anne Frank in a school play, one of her lines was "I know I'm not very pretty." She bursts out laughing when she says this in rehearsals, since she knows she is indeed stunning.
  • Mad Men: Peggy Olson feels this way, especially in "The Suitcase"; notable that she is played by the Hollywood Homely and cute Elisabeth Moss.
    Most men on the street don't exactly stop to look at me.
  • In some episodes of 3rd Rock from the Sun, Sally believes herself to be unattractive, despite her being a leggy, big-busted blonde. Similarly, she thinks portly Officer Don is incredibly attractive. This is because the aliens don't understand human beauty standards.
  • In the Girls's episode "One Man's Trash", Hannah talks about her insecurity with her older fling Joshua. He tells her that she's beautiful, she sceptically replies "You really think so?", then he asks if she believes the opposite to which she replies: "I do. It's just not always the feedback that I've been given." In short, she gets that she isn't model-gorgeous but that she is at least decent looking.
  • Total Divas reveals that Eva Marie feels this way about herself. She's taken to do an exercise where she describes herself to an artist, who sketches a picture based on her description. Someone else then describes her, and a second picture is sketched. The first picture — how Eva sees herself — is notably heavier and less attractive than the second.
  • Marcia from The Brady Bunch declares this when she has to wear braces despite the fact she is a pretty blonde with a slim build and bright blue eyes.
    Marcia: (sobbing) I'm ugly! Ugly! Ugly!
  • The Bones episode "The Woman at the Airport" featured a victim who had undergone extensive plastic surgery because she was never satisfied with her appearance, main protagonist Doctor Temperance Brennan criticising the society that forced this woman to have such a flawed image of herself; this makes it hard for the characters to identify the victim as the surgery throws off most of the markers they are used to looking for when analysing the skull, but when they eventually find a picture of their victim pre-surgery, Brennan is sad to see that the victim was beautiful before she started 'torturing' herself.
  • Kat Hernandez doesn't feel like she's especially as stunning as her friends due to her weight in Euphoria (despite being portrayed by the gorgeous and voluptuous Barbie Ferriera). She mostly gets over this in Season One when she becomes a cam girl and starts dressing herself as a dominatrix.
    • On a smaller note, Lexi Howard, tends to feel this way as she is overshadowed by her blonde and buxom older sister Cassie and everyone from their family to their friends pay attention to Cassie. Lexi Howard is played by the just as gorgeous Maude Apatow.
  • The Love Boat: Julie's old friend Karen is a former model who has a facial scar because of a car accident. After the accident, her career as a model ended and her boyfriend left her. Although Gopher and Doc think she's gorgeous, she sees herself as grotesque and suspects them of pretending to be attracted to her out of pity.
  • Nine Perfect Strangers: In both mediums, Carmel thinks she's ugly and is obsessed with losing weight. Literally everybody tells her she's fine the way she is, with even the hypercritical Masha bemused by her obsession with weight loss.

  • The waitress in the Harry Chapin song "A Better Place To Be": "I wish that I was beautiful, or you were halfway blind..."
  • Ani Difranco's "Not a Pretty Girl." "God help you if you are an ugly girl/of course, too pretty is also your doom, because everyone harbours a secret hatred/for the prettiest girl in the room."
  • French singer Serge Lama's Superman song is all about not understanding if he became The Casanova despite thinking he is very ugly.
  • The unnamed girl in One Direction's song "What Makes You Beautiful," has a hair-flip, a glance towards the ground but still doesn't think she is beautiful.
    "Everyone else in the room can see it, Everyone else but you"
  • While Eminem usually claims in his songs that he's cute, several songs have him insisting to a woman that she thinks she's ugly. These are usually scenes in which his character is a violent misogynist, trying to get the woman to comfort him before he, inevitably, shrieks abuse at her or murders her.
    • Eminem has expressed insecurity about his appearance out-of-character, claiming people only started to think he was cute after he got famous, and complaining about his "butt-chin", rabbit teeth, big ears and crooked nose. He does consistently acknowledge that he has beautiful eyes, though, usually when boasting that they let him get away with his lyrics.

  • In A Chorus Line, Bebe's mother told her that when she grew up, she'd look different and more attractive, which gave Bebe a complex about her looks.
    Bebe: So beautiful, I'd never live to see.

    Video Games 
  • Advanced V.G.: According to her character bio, Satomi is self-conscious about her appearance in comparison to the other waitresses, because her hair is short and unruly. She tried fixing it herself since she couldn't afford a barber and, by the time she could afford one, it only made it worse. Her fans wouldn't have it any. Other. Way.
  • In Dota 2, Traxex the Drow Ranger is a stunning Ms. Fanservice. However, her family was killed when she was a baby, and she was then adopted by the Drow race, who are short, brutish, and covered in warts. As a result, she grew up believing that she was hideously deformed due to not matching their beauty standards, to the point where she eventually exiled herself in shame. Although she now lives alone in the forest, lucky travelers may, on rare occasions, catch a glimpse of her legendary beauty.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Binding Blade has a character named Dorothy. She has brown hair, brown eyes, and wears all brown tomboyish clothes. When Proper Lady Clarine takes it upon herself to make Dorothy an attractive lady, Dorothy says that there's really nothing to work with. (Clarine eventually concludes that the issue isn't Dorothy's clothing or mannerisms, it's this attitude.)
    • Fire Emblem Fates has Nyx, a Lady of Black Magic who due to a curse, is literally Not Allowed to Grow Up. She has severe issues regarding her "child-like" body and believes herself not to be pretty at all.
    • Fire Emblem Warriors has a support with Lissa telling Cordelia how beautiful she is, Cordelia doesn't agree at all. A cut support featuring Camilla and Cordelia has the latter again expressing confusion. Unlike the previous example, it's a bit understandable in this case because Camilla is very curvy and Cordelia is... not.
  • Mass Effect: Garrus occasionally invokes this for laughs during his romance with Fem!Shepard by acknowledging that he is already far removed from human standards of attractiveness (they joke about him having "always been ugly" literally several hours after he's shot in the face). After you start his romance path, he seems to be more than a little self-conscious about the extremely conspicuous facial scars from the shooting, even admitting when his romance path is started that he didn't think Fem!Shepard would be attracted to someone with scars.
  • Kuro of Ensemble Stars! believes that he has an ugly face that others would only find intimidating, and is continually surprised that he genuinely does have fans who not only appreciate his singing and dancing but find him good-looking as well.
  • Get in the Car, Loser!: Despite her party members and several NPCs telling Sam that she's beautiful, she has a hard time believing it. This is because of her anxiety in dealing with people who hate her for transitioning and refuse to acknowledge her gender.
  • Kingdom Hearts III: In the earlier games, Sora was cute in a boyish way but as he got older he became an ultra-pretty Bishōnen along with all the other pretty boys in the series. There are moments however such as in the video game store at Galaxy Toys, where Sora sees Yozora (the character Rex thinks he's a toy of) for the first time and says, "Well, I never looked this good." He also admits in earlier games to be jealous of Riku which is implied to be because he likes Kairi and thinks Kairi prefers Riku for his cool bad boy persona and good looks.
  • In Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, one of Ford's later love events has him ask why the farmer is so interested in him. Choosing his looks annoys him because he not only considers himself not handsome, but it also tells him she's more interested in his appearance than personality.

    Visual Novels 
  • Averted in Katawa Shoujo. The original illustration has Hanako reacting this way to a Love Confession; in the finished game, though, this doesn't happen. She's self-conscious about her scars, but she never directly calls herself ugly or unattractive.
  • Saber from Fate/stay night has serious problems comprehending that anyone could be attracted to her, and when finally it gets through to her that Shirou is really interested in her, she develops an inferiority complex. Somewhat justified by her past in which she was posing as a man (and a king) and so no other man ever made a move on her.
  • Becca from Melody claims that guys would want girls who are prettier than she is. Becca is attractive, and when she dresses in less dowdy clothes, it shows better.
  • Akane from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors claims this combined with A-Cup Angst if you examine her photo in the cargo room.
  • Ace Attorney's pretty-boy prosecutor Miles Edgeworth doesn't notice the female attention he tends to garner, and when he does, he's absolutely baffled by the idea that women find him attractive.
    Edgeworth: Do I really inspire such frothing desire from the female masses?

    Web Animation 
  • Etra-chan saw it!: Yuzuriha becomes obsessed with changing her face to look like the famous actress Karin when her boyfriend Hiiragi tells her she's not as pretty as her. Tokusa manages to convince her she's already beautiful the way she is, and she doesn't need to change anything about herself.

  • Nurse Pamela from Dominic Deegan starts out believing herself to be 'plain and ordinary', but when she lets her hair down, she reveals that she was Beautiful All Along... and quite a Hospital Hottie to boot. Hellooooo Nurse Pam!
  • Marigold Farmer from Questionable Content believes herself to be fat and ugly. While she does have bad skin and poor hygiene, she's actually considered rather cute, and has a not-terrible figure, being Hollywood Pudgy. Art Evolution eventually gives Marigold a figure similar to Faye's, to the point that Faye lends her a swimsuit... and grudgingly admits that "she looks better in it than I do." Marigold's opinion?
    Marten & Steve: Daaang!
    Marigold: STOP DANG-ING AT ME.
  • Liri from The Challenges of Zona believes she is ugly and unattractive, because she is a giantess and has been reviled by humans her whole life. This persists even after she met and fell in love with another giant, Keltan, leading to the two of them being platonic roommates until Zona, the main character, convinces her otherwise and tells her about sex.
  • In MegaTokyo, Sonoda "maybe if I wasn't so ugly and plain" Yuki. At least one boy in her class has had a crush on her for years.
  • After Nick in Skin Horse realises that the Dr Lee who's been visiting him in virtual reality is actually Dr Virginia Lee, he says "So in VR you're a fat beardy guy, and in real life you're a smokin' hot Asian chick? You realize you got that fluffin' backward?" Dr Lee's reaction is to mumble "I'm not hot..."
  • The trope is effectively parodied in Sandra on the Rocks in the character of Ingrid, a stunning Swedish blonde (even by the standards of a comic about the modeling industry) who claims that she's the only woman in her family who hasn't become a model because she's far too plain. This leaves two other characters gobsmacked.
  • In The Rock Cocks (pages 273 and 274), Dakota goes self-deprecating himself, mentioning he finds himself unattractive. Suria retorts by telling him he has the potential to be a Ladykiller.
  • Lillian in Go Get a Roomie! claims she's not pretty. Roomie is shocked and immediately tries to convince her otherwise. It would be a few years (our time) before she accepts it.
  • Poor Gwendolyn from Cursed Princess Club. She was raised to believe that all princesses, by nature, were inherently beautiful. When she learns her fiancé Frederick views her as ugly, it is hugely detrimental to her sense of self-worth and her mental health. She refuses to accept the attempts of her family, the CPC, and Leopold to convince her that she really is beautiful the way she is. Even when Frederick himself eventually comes to see her as beautiful and tells her so, Gwen is still plagued by repressed insecurities about her looks.

    Web Original 
  • Jadis from the Whateley Universe believes herself to be unattractive. She's plain at worst, but most of her issues come from being in a school full of Exemplars, and while she's been classified as an Exemplar, she hasn't got the looks to go with it.
  • Iriana of Ilivais X is a little in the Uncanny Valley, but she believes that she's an undesirable freak and not even worth being called human. However, every single one of her teammates thinks she's VERY cute, Mille in particular consistently fantasizing about her.
  • MarzGurl seems to think this, in spite of being one Channel Awesome's biggest Dude Magnets.
  • Parodied by The Onion in this short article.
  • Anna Akana recalls in "How to feel pretty" when her attempt to compliment a friend's appearance resulted in the friend stating, "I don't feel pretty", provoking a Flat "What" from Anna.
  • The woman in this Not Always Right story is worried about the lingering baby fat of a recent pregnancy, and tries to pick the most shapeless, boring black dresses she can find to hide her figure at an upcoming party, over the objections of both her husband and the sales clerk.

    Western Animation 
  • Played for Drama in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called "Mean Seasons". Batman and Batgirl have managed to corner a masked criminal named Calendar Girl who was attacking young models and other fashion figures. After doing some digging, Calendar Girl is revealed to be Page Monroe an ex-model and actress who was forced out of the industry for being "too old". Her former agent tells the Bat-duo that Page desperately tried to maintain her youthful appearance, but she supposedly disappeared off the radar after having some botched plastic surgery. The police unmask her and she has a breakdown due to her old, deformed face being revealed to the world...even though it's largely unchanged from her modelling days.
    Batgirl:: She's beautiful.
    Batman: She can't see that anymore. All she sees are the flaws.
  • Beetlejuice: At the start of the episode "Beauty And The Beetle," a series of beauty cosmetics TV commercials with Stepford-smiling models gets Lydia wondering if she's ugly. Beetlejuice assures her that she isn't even pretty ugly.
  • Hey Arnold!: Helga describes herself as not being the prettiest compared to other girls. She is drawn in a odd comedic style at first. Her worrying over her looks is partially what stops her from confessing her feelings to her crush Arnold. However, when she gets a proper makeover she looks gorgeous.
  • In the Punky Brewster episode "Pretty Ugly," Margaux Kramer laments she's ugly when she finds out that Glomer's facial turned her face into a glomley face. When it wears off, Punky holds a shiny frying pan to Margaux to prove she's normal and pretty again.

    Real Life 
  • Apparently the most beautiful and talented women of the Golden Age of Hollywood felt this way.
    • Lauren Bacall was Ms. Fanservice for many of her roles, courtesy of her husky voice, and is remembered as one of the greatest beauties of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Bacall, on the other hand, didn't understand why people found her attractive, since she considered herself to be plain-looking, too tall and with too large feet.
    • Grace Kelly had a few self-esteem issues due to her physical appearance, thanks to her family thinking she was the plain one among her sisters.
    • Bette Davis saw herself as this, as did many of her contemporaries, as she was often compared to her fellow actresses. She ended up making an illustrous career for herself as a character actress, which is already pretty impressive considering the standards set for actresses back then and ended up being the second most iconic actress of the twentieth century according to the American Film Institute, right behind Katharine Hepburn. Nowadays, try to find someone who'll claim Bette Davis isn't beautiful. In a 1988 interview, she even said that she forged a career for herself "without the benefit of beauty".
    • Audrey Hepburn thought she wasn't very attractive. Allegedly, she once said: "I never thought I'd land in pictures with a face like mine". Even so, she was usually cast as the Hollywood Homely girl who needed a makeover in a lot of her movies. This is partly because she was quite skinny due to a bad metabolism note  and in a time when curviness was seen as more attractive, and she wasn't as uptight as some other stars were about her costumes hiding her body flaws. These days she's thought of as one of the most beautiful actresses ever.
    • Maureen O'Hara (the Trope Codifier for Heroes Want Redheads) ran into this problem when she was a teenager, going to a school where there were a pair of teachers who compared her unfavorably to her much more beautiful sister Peggy, she really didn't get a glimpse of how beautiful she was until she saw herself on the screen. And after she arrived in Hollywood, she ran into the opposite problem regarding her film roles.
  • Rachel Maddow said at a 2009 "New Yorker" Festival, "I'm not very pretty... I am what I am. I look like a dude. I wear boring jackets. I have a big nose. I have short hair. No one is going to mix me up with a Fox Business anchor." Her legions of fangirls (and fanboys) would beg to differ.
  • Male example: Benedict Cumberbatch, who usually describes his looks in a self-deprecating way.
  • Another male example, Jimmy Fallon was a Calvin Klein model and was named one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in 2002, an honor he found embarrassing.
  • Penélope Cruz doesn't think she's beautiful. Proving once and for all: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There's a reason she was the former image for Unkempt Beauty.
  • Cate Blanchett has more than once referred to herself as being 'not particularly attractive' in interviews, despite the fact that she has often appeared in 'Most Beautiful' lists in magazines and online publications, has an enormous army of fans (particularly lesbians) who constantly call her the most gorgeous woman in the world and she even played Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings films of all people. note 
  • Scarlett Johansson once described her face as "stuck on there and there's nothing I can do about it." And there have been several roles where she's been turned down because the director thought she was too pretty.
  • Amy Adams has described herself as having a "plain" face. Let the record show that a live-action Disney Princess believes this about herself. She jokes that fans are very "disenchanted" when they see her out of costume and make-up, claiming she has to pretend that she's in disguise.
  • Nicole Scherzinger went through a bad bout of low self-esteem and eating disorders because of this. She specifically mentioned that she was born in Hawaii but moved to Kentucky, so she always felt out of place as a Polynesian girl surrounded by blonde-haired, blue-eyed Southern Belles.
  • This article gives some insight into why women and girls hardly say the opposite.
  • Subverted in this article, proving that when you do say "I Am Pretty", you're basically shocking and pissing off everyone around you, and they would prefer that you name drop the trope instead.
  • Jessica Alba: "My breasts are saggy, I’ve got cellulite, my hips are bigger," Alba said. "Every actress out there is more beautiful than me."
  • Noel Fielding says he "looks like a troll with a woman's wig on backwards." He won a magazine's Sexiest Man award TWICE.
  • Damon Albarn once said in an interview he doesn't get why fans think he's attractive because he thinks he's "hideous." In contrast, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Blur music video where the comment section isn't totally flooded with people gushing about how handsome he is.
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental disorder in which a person obsesses over their flaws, real or imaginary, and do not believe others who tell them they look fine. They often use make up, heavy clothing and plastic surgery to try and disguise or eliminate those flaws. Some experts have speculated that Michael Jackson may have suffered from it due to the multiple plastic surgeries he had on his face, and Jackson did admit to being very insecure about his appearance due to his father and brothers teasing him about his "big nose" and the acne he suffered as a teen. He admitted to avoiding mirrors whenever possible and cried often.
  • General Thiébault repeatedly insists in his Mémoires that he lost any attractiveness he might have had after he turned thirty — and nearly died of a lung infection that left him changed for the worst. One particularly embarrassing incident involved Madame de Staël mishearing his name and "indulgently" referring to him as "the handsome general" note , "which was patently untrue, especially with that superlative."
  • One of Amy Schumer's jokes was that Jennifer Lawrence was what she herself would look like if she was hot. Jennifer's response? "I am not hot enough and you are not ugly enough for that joke to work."
  • Shailene Woodley has admitted to struggling with body image and personal appearance, which parallels her character Aimee in The Spectacular Now.
  • Women, including those who are not actresses or models, tend to be hypercritical of their looks. Also to admire types of beauty exactly opposite their own type: curvy little blondes with blue eyes want to be tall, slender, raven-haired beauties; Statuesque Stunner ladies wanting to be petite, raven-haired beauties wish they were cute freckled redheads; curly-haired women want straight hair; straight-haired women want curls, etc. Not helping is that the standards of beauty are constantly changing such as sex icon Marilyn Monroe technically being considered fat if measured by present standards rather than the ones of her heyday. So a girl might go from "oh god; you're gorgeous!" to "ugh; totally hideous!" quicker than she herself can make up her mind.
  • A sad Truth in Television. A research project that had adults observing kids at various schools discovered that in just about every case they witnessed, children being told "You're ugly!" or similar were most certainly not, but due to the bullying eventually believed that they were.
  • In the language of Roses, a dark red rose often meant that the receiver was an "unconscious beauty", unaware of their own attractiveness.
  • Transgender people are very prone to this. In fact, it can commonly be worse for a transgender person if they're considered attractive by the standards of the wrong gender.
  • Christina Hendricks of all people has confessed to this feeling this trope especially as a teenager, most of this was a result of being a Perky Goth in a small Southern town where the Southern Belle look was preferred by her peers and her Mother. This did help her develop a thick skin for a job where she can be judged for her looks, especially for not fitting Hollywood Thin standards, and feel pretty confident about herself.
    If I could go back and tell my 14-year-old self anything it would be, "Don’t worry. You’re going to be doing exactly what you want to be doing and those people who are assholes now are still going to be assholes in 20 years. So let it go!"
  • Eva Longoria, the drop dead gorgeous former Miss Corpus Christi and famous star, was called "la prieta fea" (the ugly little dark one in Spanish) as a little girl in contrast to her blonde and blue eyed sisters which can be attributed to colorism in Latino culture favoring people who look closer to European beauty.
  • In general it is common for gorgeous people in communities of color to be told that they are ugly due to not fitting Eurocentric beauty standards. You can find countless stories and even see it for yourself of people who are obviously generally attractive being told they aren't due to being dark skinned, having a wide nose etc.
  • In a rather disturbing example there are a fair amount of men online (particularly in the so called "incel" community) who think they are too ugly to ever get a girlfriend despite in reality being attractive (or at least not ugly). Why this whole phenomenon has become so common recently is unknown.
  • Sadie Frost in her autobiography talks about feeling so out of place in Hollywood in the early 90s, when she was making Bram Stoker's Dracula. Despite being hand-picked for the part of Lucy Westenra - who is meant to be Mina's more beautiful and attractive friend - she felt she was unsuited for such a role (especially since she'd given birth not too long ago).
    "I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd betrayed Francis [Ford Coppola] and was just shy Sadie, the most unattractive girl in the world."
  • Kristen Bell admits to feeling insecure in her early days - that she wasn't pretty enough to play the female lead but then not Hollywood Homely enough to play the Cloud Cuckoo Lander alternative.
  • Jameela Jamil, Tahani of The Good Place, is very vocal about her history with body dysmorphia and eating disorders. In an interview, she explained that 1990s Britain's standard of beauty was the Kate Moss waif look with Meg Ryan's slim lips and the climate was very racist, not a great place for a Pakistani-British girl who had larger features and was developing a curvaceous figure. These days she practices and promotes body neutrality and calls out her celeb peers for promoting dieting products that are very harmful to teenagers.
  • Rose McGowan suffered from massive body image issues in her time in Hollywood. She was in an abusive relationship where the boyfriend would constantly buy her fashion magazines and tell her to look like the women in them. This resulted in her starving herself to achieve the desired Hollywood Thin look, and getting insecure about her teeth. She also felt pressured to keep her hair long to get more parts and have a stylist that made her "look like a plastic weirdo".
  • Olivia Hussey became something of a sex symbol thanks to Romeo and Juliet (1968), but she suffered from a lot of body image problems - not helped by Paramount initially putting her on diet pills that made her dangerously ill; when her mother told them if they wanted to keep her on the pills, they could just find another Juliet, they resorted to a strict diet of salads. She was even surprised that she was cast - as she herself thought Juliet should be played by a fair skinned blonde.
  • Christina Ricci has said that there were times when she had to cover all the mirrors in her home, unable to look at reflections of herself. She's also very self deprecating about not being pretty enough to play a romantic lead, joking that the first time she got to (Z: The Beginning of Everything) was a project she produced.
  • Matthew Mercer suffers from the aforementioned Body Dysmorphic Disorder, as well as bullying since he was a Pretty Boy nerd as a teen. His legion of fans who admire him for his looks and talent as a Dungeon Master and voice actor would disagree. (He used to cosplay as Bishōnen Sephiroth.) Sam Riegel made a Running Gag out of printing Matt's accidental weird/funny expressions on shirts and wearing it on Critical Role to help Matt feel better about his body image (by making it something funny instead of a target of hatred).
    Body Dysmorphia is a bitch. It can vary day to day, but sometimes (like today), I can feel like I’m stuck in some alien body I cannot escape from. Grossly uncomfortable, trapped, and full of self-loathing. Every perceived imperfection is magnified, and I obsess or hide from them. It can be a struggle to go out at times, to want to leave the darkness of my home and see other people. Gearing up to be on camera on days when it gets bad is a battle of willpower. I have to distract myself to keep from falling down that hole.
  • While Pedro Pascal has built up a reputation as a sex icon since Game of Thrones, he sometimes spoke of his appearance in degrading terms, claiming to have "undernourished" facial hair or a dad bod.
  • Anya Taylor-Joy said she almost quit Emma. (2020) thinking "I am the first ugly Emma and I can't do this", adding that "I have never and I don't think I will ever think of myself as beautiful. I don't think I'm beautiful enough to be in films. It sounds pathetic and my boyfriend warns me people will think I'm an absolute d*** for saying these things, but I just think I'm weird-looking."
  • Brazilian actress Danielle Winits said in an interview "I don't find myself a sensuous person. I think I'm sorta cute!" Her Playboy pictorial a few months later had the quote put to test by showing the pictures to people on the street and asking their opinions, leading to some very high compliments on her, including from women.
  • Chris Evans was named the "Sexiest Man Alive" in 2022 by People magazine. His reaction to this was mostly Self deprecating jokes including how his mom would be so proud.
  • Paul Rudd, looks famously youthful for his age and often makes self deprecating jokes whenever his good looks are brought up. When he was named the "Sexiest Man Alive" in 2021 by People magazine, he teamed up with Stephen Colbert to make a funny video about how he won the title.
  • Evanna Lynch devotes the majority of her autobiography The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting to detailing her low self-esteem and belief that she wasn't pretty, resulting in her developing an eating disorder from the age of eleven. In fact, due to already being a Harry Potter fangirl when she was cast as Luna Lovegood, she would even post anonymously on fan forums to enthusiastically agree with the trolls who were making fun of her appearance - with some of her mean comments about her own looks getting banned. She also recalls sobbing in her trailer for an afternoon after seeing her first promo pictures for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and then another unnamed actress doing something similar the next day, giving her something of a "Eureka!" Moment (as she had envied the other actress's looks).
  • Winona Ryder was told that she wasn't pretty enough to be a movie star, when she was only fifteen! And after she was turned down for the role of Veronica in Heathers, she had to go to a local Macy's department store to get a makeover, and was given the part. She however chose to find a silver lining in this, following her parents' advice to be unique.
  • A lot of women in Professional Wrestling, particularly the WWE. Notably in the 2000s and 2010s, women there were usually Hired for Their Looks but could still feel this way anyway.
    • Melina was convinced she was ugly thanks to growing up experiencing racism for being a dark-haired Latina, and not seeing many other dark-haired women on TV. As a result, when she made it to WWE, she didn't believe the people who kept telling her she was pretty.
    • Krissy Vaine had a modelling background and portrayed a prissy Alpha Bitch in the ring. But she was so insecure about her looks in the WWE developmental system that she admitted to spending half her monthly pay on cosmetic surgery.
    • Layla opted to retire quietly in 2015, and years later admitted she felt insecure being among one of the older women on the WWE roster (at only 38!) and said she felt she "looked old". Most fans compared Before And After pictures from when she started to when she left - and declared that she hadn't even aged at all.
    • A.J. Lee described herself in self deprecating ways on NXT Season 3, declaring "I know I'm not a supermodel" and claiming she didn't even go to prom. In her autobiography, she claimed she was eliminated from the contest for not being attractive enough.
    • Torrie Wilson was bulimic in her younger years, and admits that her insecurities about her appearance still didn't go away when she was WWE's favourite Ms. Fanservice of the 2000s.
    • Thea Trinidad thought she'd never make it in wrestling, as she was a short Latina in comparison to several white statuesque blondes. Happily, she's a successful wrestler, model and actress (even ironically getting to play AJ Lee mentioned above in Fighting with My Family).
    • Katey Harvey battled an eating disorder for years and was insecure about not fitting the 'Diva look' in the early 2010s. She says she's considered overweight by wrestling standards, even though she's played up her Amazonian Beauty in several promotions.
    • Kazza had previously been overweight in her teen years and even after getting into shape, was known to be very self-deprecating about her looks on Twitter.
  • Barbara Walters once lampshaded this trope in a retrospective on the celebrities she'd covered, saying, "If you're beautiful, stop saying you're not. It's irritating to the rest of us."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Blind To Her Beauty, Im Not Pretty, Blind To Her Own Beauty


Note to the Filmmakers

The narrator lampshades that no character played by the beautiful actress Margot Robbie can conceivably claim they're not pretty.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / IAmNotPretty

Media sources: