I remember a time when I didn’t regard myself or others as beautiful or ugly; I was simply Busi and they were simply people. Those were the perks of childhood; looking at the world through the untainted glasses of innocence and purity. Unfortunately growth took over and I was introduced to the world’s concept of physical beauty, which in turn led to the discovery of my “ugly”.
Throughout most of my years in primary school, I felt like an ugly duckling amongst my peers. I was the chubby girl with short hair and a confused figure; add to that my bland personality and lack of self confidence.
My insecurity was worsened by my dad’s adamancy to keep my hair short; every other week he would shave my hair in such a way that left me looking more like his son than his daughter. I held back my tears every time I underwent the temporary sex change. He told me that it was the school’s orders, which was quite an insult to my developing intelligence because most of the other girls at school had long hair. Somehow I bought it. This lie was coupled with false promises that I could start growing my hair in the following year. Somehow I bought that too. It was only much later on that I was finally released from the claws of the hair blade. I suspect that this was all part of an evil plan to keep boys away from me. It worked.
Unfortunately, just like the rest of my body, my growing hair was also figuring itself out. I went from being teased about my boyish haircuts to being teased about my uncontrollable fro. I would desperately try to make my bushy hair lie back or tie a pony tail; my failure to achieve the desired results only inspired more jokes about me. It became a norm for me to spend a significant amount of time in front of the mirror trying to make myself look somewhat attractive in the eyes of my peers. I genuinely believed that if I was a little more physically attractive, my life would be perfect.
In the last two years of primary school, my appearance underwent a natural transformation. My hair was now long enough to be combed back and held in a proper pony tail, I was a little less chubby and my body was finally taking up a shape that was acceptable to the community of young teenagers whose opinions defined my existence. I was now sort of attractive, my confidence was still incredibly low, but manageable. The most notable change that came from this slight transformation was the attention I was finally getting from the boys. The problem with that however, is that nobody told me that I wouldn’t necessarily get attention from the guy that I was interested in, and that any other male attention would just be annoying. Plot twist.
High school was more accepting of my looks, which was most likely because I had outgrown some of my awkward and unattractive features by then. I didn’t feel like the ugly duckling at this stage of my life, I just felt unimportant. That was ok; “rather feel like a loser than look like one right?” said my teenage mentality.
About three years into high school I was much thinner, my hair was still awesome and my body had finally settled on a good shape. It felt like I was finally achieving society’s standards of beauty, and I was quite chuffed about that. At this point I was getting much more attention from the opposite sex. It was a tad bit awkward because even though they found me attractive, I didn’t necessarily believe in the beauty they claimed I had. Despite this, I appreciated the male attention, it made me feel normal. I was finally able to tell one of those “So there’s this guy…” stories.
A couple of years later I was in University; I always say my life began then because that is when I started coming out of my shell. In the typical school environment you are subjected to the same people and system every day, whereas varsity is more of a diverse world. This diversity allowed me to explore myself and the rest of society; it also exposed me to a variety of looks, and most importantly, other definitions of beauty.
Whose Beauty Is It Anyway?
During my ugly duckling period, I tried to adjust my appearance to a socially constructed system that had no room for my views and feelings, and I suppose that’s where the feeling of being ugly really stemmed from. When I began to earn my pretty girl stripes, it was because my physical appearance was now partially meeting the requirements of the system, and even then my feelings and views were not part of the system’s construct. The idea of physical beauty that I was fed didn’t regard me, but society suggested I regard it.
After receiving the Best Breakthrough Performance Award for her role in 12 Years A Slave at Essence Magazine’s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, Lupita Nyong’o said this in her acceptance speech: “I realised that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you, what does sustain you is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”
The socially constructed beauty that we have all come to know has never been ours to pursue. It is beauty residing beneath the physical appearance that is truly ours; and that is the beauty that should manifest itself into the physical. Popular beauty does not serve us; it is designed to satisfy ideals that are foreign to our own. Your natural beauty is nothing like the one promoted by the world, but it’s yours and that’s enough; what an honor in fact.
Have you ever paid attention to the dazzling nature of a flower? It doesn’t need to do anything extraordinary to be beautiful; it is beautiful simply because it is. It cannot be anything else other than what it was created to be, nor does it aim to be; it can only ever be the most beautiful version of itself.
Be YOUR beautiful.
Insecurity is ugly, not you
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