I will never forget the first time I was called ugly.
It was the first year of school and I felt like a Daisy in a midst of Roses — misplaced.
The safety of home was lost for 8 hours a day and school had purposely separated me from my best friend, by putting us in different classes, in order to “integrate us with the other children”. I still don’t speak to him to this day, fyi.
I didn’t understand the reason of me being there. I already knew what I wanted to do with my life (which still hasn’t changed). I already had friends, family and parents, so why was I forced to learn 1 + 1 and be in spaces where I didn’t feel safe?
I felt clear on who I was, but school made me doubt myself.
Then one day, finally, I found a friend. She wasn’t very funny, I thought, but she enjoyed talking and listening to music and I was happy about that. We had a good time walking around the school yard and I gave myself cool points for the fact that she was 1 year older than me.
Time feels different when you’re a kid, but I believe we did that for a week or so, until everything changed.
It was a nice fall day. I remember I was wearing my floral patterned skirt that I loved. She had an Mp3. We we’re listening to John Travolta and Julia Newton harmonizing “you’re the one that I want” in beautiful unity while we were walking past the basketball court.
All of a sudden, a boy interrupted us. He had red hair, freckles and went to her class.
“Who is she?”
“She’s my friend”
“Well I think she’s ugly so you should stop hanging out with her”
My heart sank to the very bottom of my chest.
Is that what I am?
I had never attached a label to my looks before. Let alone ever even thought of it.
That day changed me. Abrupted my innocence. I was 6 years old.
Throughout my life, I have returned to this experience several times, consciously and subconsciously.
It has shaped me in a way that only sudden traumatic commentary from the outside world can do at a fragile age.
It hadn’t mattered that my mother got furious, that the neighbour kid came over for a long talk about how what was said wasn’t true. Neither did it matter that the school talked with the boy and offered me to speak with him for an apology — which I politely declined because of embarrassment.
My parents only call me beautiful because they are my parents
This is what the world thinks of me
Which in my 6-year old brain equaled: the truth.
I had entered the jungle of “external validation awareness”.
I’ve told myself that so many people had it worse than me, that some kids had to endure this behaviour every day, sometimes to a point of no return.
And that is true. But it doesn’t change the fact that it shaped my self awareness in a way that I wish it never had.
In the same way, if it didn’t, I wouldn’t be who I am today, so I will take that back.
What I will say though, is that it’s scary to think that the love and positive affirmations given to a child at home could be taken away so quickly by the experiences they encounter in school — Without the guidance of their parents.
In 8th grade everything shifted. All of a sudden I was considered the “pretty girl” and although those were positive comments, it almost felt as traumatizing as being called ugly — but in a different way.
That’s when I learned that negativity & positivity can have the same outcome.
I spoke to blahzayeblah today and he said he thinks you look so good!! Everyone does!
Excuse me… What? 😐
The world of school had now changed their views on my looks and I found it confusing and difficult to adjust to.
It could seem like a small problem to have “it is a privilege to be called beautiful!”
But the problem is that there will always be issues when our value gets attached to something external. Although a healthy dose of it is good for us.
I went to some therapy sessions a few years ago and when I brought up the experience I had at 6 years old, the therapist looked at me with pitying eyes while sympathetically expressing a long sigh of:
I didn’t want to be pitied. I wanted to let go of the experience. Free myself from this prison of caring about it.
I guess the first step included allowing myself to feel sad about it instead of downplaying my experience by comparing my pain with the world’s.
Pain is pain and whatever shapes us, shapes us.
What had bothered me the most was realizing how it had affected my interactions with other men throughout my life. How I had cared about their validation.
How it didn’t matter that I was now “the pretty girl”. Maybe I shouldn’t have been given any label at all.
I felt confused.
Time passed by and I ended up seeing him a few years back at a party; the boy with the freckles.
He was older now and so was I.
He looked down the whole time. Didn’t say hi to me. I felt bad for him.
I didn’t want him to carry guilt or shame about what he had said. Maybe he didn’t even mean it, who knows.
Hurt people hurt people and maybe he had just been passing down lingo someone else had brought upon him. Maybe he was just fishing for a reaction — attention — a resemblance of love.
Maybe I should have talked to him.
Now, years later, I feel grateful to be married to someone who loves me for who I am, someone who tells me that my heart is of such great value to them that they have to remind themselves of my outer beauty.
Despite this, when he calls me beautiful, I find myself doubting it.
Have I become just like school?
And although I receive compliments on my looks in my adult life, it doesn’t always equal to me feeling it.
And even if I do, I don’t want it to turn into something I pressure myself to obtain in order to upkeep external validation.
I guess what I’m trying to say is…
Outer beauty should just be a bonus to who we are, not obsessed over like it’s the most important part of who we are.
The best kind of beauty is the one radiating from our souls
And other people’s words can never take that away from us
If I could go back and tell my 6-year old self that, I would.