Friday, November 1, 2013

My Response to Pretty or Ugly

Pretty or Ugly? This is something I think everyone goes through at some point, but until an article I read recently, I didn't realize the endemic that it is. We live in a time where we are more photographed, documented and criticized than ever before and in our worst moments there is always someone lurking online to make it worse. I know that mean or harsh comments tend to stick with us more than positive, but I have to add something positive to the world or else it's not worth my being here.

Be prepared, this is going to be a fairly long post. It's meant for everyone out there because we've all had those moments of insecurity, but I'm going to mostly be talking to young girls out there, because I was one once too.

At the time of this posting I am 23 years old and let me just say that I have changed so much as a person in these last 10 years, as I write this to the world, I write it to my 13 year old self who was insecure. I had bad hair, bad skin, braces, glasses and an identity crisis. As I changed from the harsh terrain of middle school to the harsher terrain of high school, I was at a crossroads. I was picked on quite a bit in middle school. I knew the things I liked and the things that were popular and where I thought I had to be to fit in. I tried so hard to emulate the styles and hair and makeup that my more popular classmates had, to disastrous results. My hair ended up completely fried and with a terrible haircut, my skin was dry and flaking and breaking out, and my makeup looked like the circus. I criticized everything I knew they were criticizing about me. I cried in the mirror at home often. I was a late bloomer and nothing I did would take the baby fat off of me and give me the womanly curves my friends had and I beat myself up for it daily. I made myself miserable by trying to become what society told me was right. The harder I tried the worse I felt about myself.

As I changed into the high school setting, I told myself no more. No more trying to be what they wanted and no more bullying. I would be my own woman and do and say and wear and be whatever I chose, but words are easier than actions. My intentions were right, but I still felt the nagging of my thoughts comparing me to others. I even went through a rough stage of depression.

So how did I become my happy, cupcakey self? All glitter and frosting and wonderful? I became me.

It sounds so simple when I say it, but it's true. I became me. This was not an overnight process, I didn't wake up one morning proud of my wonderful weirdness and I'd be lying if I said I never feel insecure anymore. To me it's a lot like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride, I had to find out what kind of eggs I liked, not what everyone else liked. I had to become myself.

We all have our days where we don't feel our best and we feel like we look awful, but it's important to remind yourself that it's a temporary state and that you are wonderful in other ways. I know I look like a beast first thing in the morning when my hair is in my face and I have crust in my eyes, but I know that after a good shower I feel like myself again. And I also know that if I feel bloated or fat or ugly or my hair has a mind of it's own, that's okay too, because that will pass. I have days when I feel gorgeous and I think about those moments. Reflect on those good moments, because it will bring more of them. You will feel good.

To anyone who feels like they aren't worthy or skinny or pretty or anything else, you are. It sounds cheesy, but it's true. You need to love who you are. Don't love your hair, change it to what YOU want. Skin driving you crazy? Do something about it. Do these things, but do them for you. When you do it to make yourself happy it will always work, when you do it to impress others or fit in, you will always feel like you missed the mark and you'll keep beating yourself up to measure up to their standards.

The last bit of advice I can give? Time. Time is a wonderful thing, it puts things in perspective, it makes you feel better, and it helps you become yourself. 13 year old me hated herself, her body, her hair, and her awkwardness. 23 year old me wants to be more fit, because I want to be healthy, changes her hair because she feels like it and embraces that her weird quirks are what make the right people love her. If I kept pretending and trying to be what the ideal 13 year old was I would have never developed into the woman I am today. I would still be insecure and people would like me for someone I'm not. The other great thing about time? Those who peaked in middle and high school have little else, being an ugly duckling helped make me work hard, build character and develop into my own unique, beautiful swan. You will too. (Plus karma is a you-know-what and those who put you down will get their own unique punishment somehow.)

Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you're beautiful and wonderful and unique. Words have power. The more you believe it, the more it will be. It isn't vain, it's empowering. Yes, you will feel silly doing it, but you'll start to believe yourself and that's what matters.

And if you're not a teenage girl (or boy)? If you're older and still feel this way, I've heard it only gets better. Everyone I know in their 40's says it's freeing and wonderful. You just don't care what anyone thinks anymore.

I think you're all gorgeous cupcakes!

Here's the article on Refinery29 that sparked this whole rant.

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