How I Learned To Own My Ugly
As a child, I was never concerned with my appearance, like most children I guess.
I spent a lot of time with boys - my older brother and my Mother’s best friend’s two boys. I played sport, music, computer games, and tonka trucks. There wasn’t really any time to worry about what I looked like.
Then at 13 I rocked into an all-girls High School having no idea about how to really be a girl.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t a pretty girl.
My skin was pimply, my nose was big, my clothes were tomboyish, I had permanent bags under my eyes, and I couldn’t smile.
Smiling was dangerous.
Smiling showed everyone my crooked teeth, my wrinkly eyes and my uneven lips. Even when I did smile, the corners of my lips don’t upturn like most people, so at my happiest, I thought I looked like I was putting on a half-smile. I really couldn’t see the point in smiling.
I became serious, depressed, quiet, invisible. I preferred to be invisible than to be seen (exposed) with all these flaws.
I was a victim of bullying, not because of who I was, but because of how I looked. I was called names like “feral”, “rattus” and “wench” when bullies would see me, not only at school, but in my neighborhood too.
Over time I found one gift to my “ugly” appearance. The friends that I did have were rock solid. They loved me for who I was. Appearances didn’t matter.
But still, I couldn’t accept myself. I wouldn’t smile in photos and had some serious self-hatred going on. When I looked in the mirror, I only felt hate. I couldn’t find a single thing about my face that I liked. When I looked out into the world, I hated pretty girls. I hated myself and I hated everyone else.
When I finally realized that I could choose how I felt about myself everything changed for me. Hating myself or anyone else didn’t change anything. All it did was keep me trapped. Day by day, I started experimenting with liking myself just a little bit more than the day before, and not only have I stopped hating myself, I’ve fallen in love with all of who I am. I broke free.
Here’s the top 4 things that got me from hating myself to owning my ugly.
1) Be grateful
Instead of hating my teeth when I looked in the mirror, I started to feel grateful for my teeth as they functioned near-on perfectly in every other moment of my life. To gain some perspective, I talked to my Mum who’s teeth had been removed as a teen after a horrific car crash (she’s had dentures ever since) and I read stories about people who had lost their teeth or who’s teeth were much more crowded and dysfunctional than mine. Not only did I stop hating my teeth, I actually started to like them!
Lesson here: Focus on function, rather than appearance.
2) Be awesome
When you’re a rad person, what you look like matters less than what you do and how you treat others. Thankfully, despite being attacked by bullies throughout my childhood for being ugly, behind closed doors I was still creative and doing cool stuff, like making zines, playing guitar, reading books and writing poems and epic screenplays.
Lesson here: How you look doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you want to do.
3) Feel beautiful
When you feel beautiful, everybody notices. Your energy radiates and subliminally communicates your true beauty to all who come into your presence. You don’t have to dress up, buy expensive jewelry or even wear make-up if you don’t want to. Just do whatever it takes to align with your own version of “beautiful”.
For me, it’s being barefoot with painted toenails. That’s it! That’s all I need to feel insanely beautiful. There’s something about bare feet that represents freedom, relaxation and a carefree spirit. And nail polish… who knew it would be that simple!?
Lesson here: Don’t get caught up, thinking that you need to look beautiful in order to feel it. When you feel it, your true self shines.
4) Turn shame into ownership
I used to be ashamed of my teeth, my smile, my face and I would hide it away, avoid eye contact and refuse to smile. Now I own my smile as a symbol of joy, an expression of happiness, a warm welcome to those around me. My smile is an extension of my heart. I own my smile, and if it makes you uncomfortable, then that is not my problem.
Lesson here: Make self-love a regular practice in order to triumph over shame and to own and honor all parts of yourself, “ugly” or not.
Just as beauty is subjective, so is ugliness. If someone else thinks that you’re ugly, you don’t have to believe them. The only way to conquer self-hatred is to love yourself instead. Own it. Every single part.