Hmm. I didn't grow up thinking I was beautiful, but I grew up wanting to be--I always liked the old Hollywood glamorous look, and wished I could look like Lauren Bacall or someone like that. I think that started a tendency to compare myself to others, and find myself lacking. I was definitely not in the popular crowd and not one of the ones that everyone thought were the beauties of the school.
As an adult, though, I've become more appreciative of my looks, and people generally consider me pretty and assume I grew up "one of the pretty girls." I don't think of myself that way, really, and if anyone makes too big a deal out of my looks, I'm uncomfortable--b/c I feel like saying, "yeah, but did you notice the following flaws?" Sometimes I feel really beautiful/hot, and I accept and embrace every part of myself, so flaws don't feel like flaws--they feel like uniqueness/quirks. Other times, I can totally pick myself apart and not feel very attractive at all. I get frustrated sometimes that I can't maintain the acceptance of myself--but sometimes it's like my mind needs something to analyze, and it might as well be my looks, when there's nothing else to chew on.
I've always been fascinated and appreciative of human beauty. But it's kind of more like on an artistic appreciation level. I don't choose friends based on looks or anything like that. With guys, I'm actually more likely to be turned off by the super-prettyboy look. I like a face with character in it.
Looks can help or hurt in the real world. I know I've been judged in the academic world for wearing makeup and reasonably fashionable clothes, etc. In other arenas, that kind of stuff is your ticket in. It's kind of ridiculous, but you learn to play the game.