Also known as: On beauty, and being beautiful. This is probably a very vain post.
Note: If you were in one of the photos below, I apologize for the embarrassment of unearthing old photos. ^^
“You know I never really felt pretty until now.”
Perhaps it was the alcohol speaking. The words just came out while my friends and I were discussing things, and it was the first time I admitted that thought out loud where people were listening to me.
I backtracked a bit to clarify. “I never felt…you know, beautiful. Until now. After I’ve lost weight. And fixed myself a bit.” Oops. It didn’t turn out to be a clarification, but a confirmation of sorts. Oh well.
Back in college, when I was active with in my Catholic youth community, I attended several talks about femininity and being a true woman. I was told that I was a princess, that I am beautiful and I should love myself the way I am. Because God loves me. And that should be enough. I really and truly believed all that…
But I never felt beautiful. Or pretty. Or even cute. I really just don’t. Oh, I knew I made up for that with my smarts, because I was in the Top 10 of my batch every year, so looks shouldn’t matter. Being pretty won’t give you the grades you need. Looks won’t get you into the college you want. Instead of focusing on fashion or make-up or anything that seemed, or I deemed superficial, because it doesn’t matter, right? I’m a smart kid, that should make up for my “lack” of looks. I became your ordinary high school dorky girl.
Oh, I didn’t think I had self-esteem issues then. I think I had a very good group of friends who kept me sane, and I had my youth group that helped me keep my mind beyond the “superficiality” of outer beauty. Besides, I was smart, yes?
I contented myself with just being like that. I mean, why bother fixing myself when my friends are prettier, thinner and more attractive than I am? Why bother breaching their territories of their own “awesomeness” when I can be awesome by just being…smart? Not that my friends weren’t smart — we were all intelligent in our own right, but I had my own kind that I knew was really just my own. Never mind if I don’t feel beautiful or pretty or cute. I figured that in the long run, that would take me farther. Right? Plus, I thought I was funny, and I had a pretty okay personality and hey, I can write! That should make up for what I lack in the physical side.
This “I don’t really care about my looks” attitude lasted until college, where I went by swimmingly just being who I am. I liked myself, I just didn’t think that I would be pretty enough to be considered a head-turner. Maybe my personality would win at something, but as for looks? Nah. Hm, maybe this is why I never liked having solo photos taken.
When the topic of finding our true loves came up as I got older, I was one of the firm believers of this school of thought: I don’t have to fix myself to find my true love. He will love me just the way I am. So if guys didn’t fall for me, or if the guys I liked didn’t like me back, then it wasn’t really my fault. They don’t deserve me, because they can’t see the “real” me and appreciate the “real” me the way I do.
The thing is…I didn’t think I really appreciated the real me, either.
Oh sure, all those photos up there were high school and college, and I had every excuse to be a dork then. However, even as I started working, I still didn’t really care. As long as I am “okay” with myself, and happy with the other aspects of my life. I am happy. I try to be, anyway.
Beauty is never a sensitive topic to me, really, but I think it was because I never got over the idea that someone else is prettier than I am. And I am often in their company because they’re my friends. I was fine with that. As far as romantic relationships go, I always felt like I would be the last one among my girl friends who would get into one because they’re prettier and more attractive (this really happened). Whenever I liked a guy, I was really deathly afraid of that scenario where the guy would end up liking my friend instead of me if/when I introduce them because she’s prettier. And I cannot do anything about it because he chose her and not me.
Wait, did I say I didn’t have self-esteem issues? Erm. Maybe I really did.
Like I said, it wasn’t until I lost a lot of weight that I started feeling better with myself. Shedding pounds does that to you, and I felt the least bit confident with myself. I started feeling that maybe, maybe I can finally say that I’m pretty. Except that I never really believed that, either. So I started wearing make-up. And then I felt a little bit prettier. Except that I felt that if I gained even a little weight, or if I went out without my make up, I can’t call myself as “pretty” anymore., because I’m just me again, back to how I was before. Compliments never really got to me because I didn’t believe it, thinking it’s not enough, not yet.
I wish I can tell you there was a specific turning point where I started appreciating myself, where I started loving myself more and seeing my own beauty. I wish it was that easy, but honestly, I cannot recall how it happened. Haha, sometimes I wonder if I only only started feeling pretty when some friends decided to make fun of my lack of a love life and started teasing me to so many guys. :P But that’s not true either, because even before I lost weight, my friends have been making fun of that (but that’s for another post). I don’t know where it changed, really, except maybe…I grew up.
Oh, what a vague turning point.
It’s just that…you’d just get tired of all the fighting against yourself. Perhaps I’m just
lucky blessed, surrounded by good people who never ceased to tell me that I am a good and beautiful person even if I didn’t believe them at first. Maybe it started when I said my first “Thanks” to one of the compliments I received instead of deflecting it and denying it, and really believed in the positive thing that the other person saw. Somewhere along the line, after losing weight, learning to dress up and learning to apply make-up, I just started feeling comfortable being in my own skin. Then I kept on doing the things I did — exercise, dress up, wear make-up — because I liked it, not because I needed validation, or I was really afraid of going back to how I was before. I do those things for myself, not because I simply wanted to be pretty. Because guess what, I am already beautiful! I finally believed in what everyone has been telling me. I finally learned to accept my whole self – smarts and personality and (most especially) flaws and all, and still see myself as beautiful.
I still have some “woe is me, I’m so ugly!” spells, but I find that those spells are the superficial ones. I still think my friends are prettier, but it’s not to put myself down but because I see each of us having a different kind of beauty that is just ours. Notice how I switched from “pretty” to “beautiful” back there? :) Pretty is pretty but beauty is an entirely different thing. And it thrills me when I realize that I am surrounded by beauty. In all shapes and sizes. :)
I wish I could give you guys a better example, or give you steps and things to remember about this. But I don’t have easy solutions. My only hope is that if you’re going through the same thing, don’t believe the lies that the world or others or even you tell yourself. Because these are just lies, and these aren’t meant to be heard or believed in.
Here’s the truth: I realized that I am surrounded by beauty. And whoever you are, even if we haven’t met or we see each other everyday, you’re a part of that beauty.
Listen deep in your heart, to that still small voice that breathed life into you that says this, over and over again: you are beautiful. :)
Let the glossy spreads have their heart-stopping, head-turning kind of beauty. Give me the heart-filling beauty instead. Jolie laide, that’s what I would choose. Flawed, we’re truly interesting, truly memorable, and yes, truly beautiful.
(North of Beautiful by Justina Chen-Headley)