Growing up as a black girl in a mostly white school, I felt an intense need to fit in. As I entered into high school I had a great group of friends, a good social life, and I was a part of many different clubs. But one thing I was always obsessed about and was never really able to achieve was being beautiful. I worshiped Victoria’s Secret models and compared myself to every beautiful celebrity I had the fortune of witnessing on television. I wanted my skin to be clear like them, my teeth to be perfect like theirs, to be tall and extremely thin like the models strutting down the runway. I began using teeth whitening strips, my mom took me to the dermatologist, I exercised for an hour a day, seven days a week and tried every makeup tip the gurus on YouTube suggested.
My goal: To be beautiful. So beautiful that every guy in the room wanted me and every girl in the room wanted to be me. I thought that the only way I was to be successful and accepted in this society was if I was gorgeous. Finally, once I reached my senior year of high school I felt that I had achieved my goal. My skin was clear, my braces were off, my hips were coming in, and my waist was as small and tight could be. I learned how to wax my own eyebrows and spent hundreds of dollars on top makeup brands. I was finally there, I was beautiful. Men would eye me up and down, hit on me, women would comment on my photos, and I gained almost 1,000 Tumblr followers all because of the pictures I posted. Being beautiful meant everything.
Now fast forward to 2016. I no longer wear makeup, have gained all the weight back and maybe take one selfie a month. What caused the drastic change? I realized being beautiful meant nothing. Here’s why:
People treated me differently:
It’s no secret that pretty people get treated better. They are chosen for jobs, get asked out, are treated better by strangers and put on a pedestal. I was constantly approached by strangers who wanted to comment on my appearance. And though it was nice, it was never enough to really boost my self-esteem. Even though I had hundreds of people online telling me how pretty I was, I still looked in the mirror and never liked what was looking back at me. My skin was never clear enough, my body never thin enough, my teeth never white enough, my nose never small enough. I would constantly compare myself to other girls walking down the street that I thought were the ideal representation of beauty based on European standards. They would get all the hot guys, get the best jobs, and were treated better. But you know what? I didn’t like being treated better because I was able to put on makeup and wear nice clothes and not eat. I wanted to be treated nicely because I was a nice person. Or better yet, I wanted to be treated like everyone else. I believe it’s wrong for us to praise good looking people just for being blessed in the genetic lottery. Instead, what was I doing to be a good citizen? How was I treating others? What good was I doing in the world besides taking calculated selfies every day?
It didn’t do shit for my love life:
After being rejected over and over again in high school when I was going through my awkward stage of puberty, I thought that if I was beautiful, finally, good looking guys would start asking me out. I was shallow and thought that beauty equaled love, and love equaled beauty, and that once I became “perfect” I could finally score the man of my dreams. The reality? I’ve only been in one long-distance relationship. One that has lasted almost three years with a wonderful man I met online. He liked me because of the writing on my Tumblr, and the person I was. The way I looked was just icing on the cake. He wasn’t the six foot nine model of my dreams. No, he was better. He was beautiful on the inside. Now, as our relationship is drawing to a peaceful close, I realize that I don’t want a man to fall in love with me because I look good by day, and who knows what by night. I don’t want him to love me because I’m skinny, or have perfect skin, or arched eyebrows, or perfect hair. I want him to see the ugliest parts of me, and still think, ‘you are beautiful.’ And I no longer base my preferences on the way a man looks but rather, if he is a good person, respectful, driven, and attentive. Being pretty has not caused men to treat me better. If anything, I was treated worse. I was objectified, not taken seriously, and seen as strictly a sex object. Beauty means nothing to a real man. I now want to have a beautiful soul. A gorgeous sense of humor. A stunning intellect. Putting in the work to improve who I am as a person will allow people to be drawn to me, not my eyebrows.
I was buying into the media’s pressure to be perfect, and it was emptying:
I remember one night like it was yesterday. I had stayed home all day, glued to my television waiting to view the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Why? Because I wanted to worship them. I wanted to see my end-goal. Had I realized those women were six foot tall, piled with makeup, and taped to the brim in expensive push-up bras, I would have spent that time time studying instead. I was brain washed. Brain washed into thinking that if I looked like them, I could truly be happy. But the skinnier I got, and the more I chased after their presumed perfection, the more depressed I became. I was never good enough how I was. I could never be them! Those standards were impossible for me to achieve because they weren’t even real. I was spending hours and hours of time and hundreds and hundreds of dollars chasing an impossible ideal. It was debilitating. I bought into the lie that European features and a one inch waist were what I needed to have to maintain a self-esteem. But the closer I got, the uglier I felt inside. I should have been spending that time reading books, hanging out with friends and family, and enjoying my boyfriend, and all I was doing was basking in the misery of media. Now I realize I’m perfect the way I am, acne and cellulite and all. I feel sorry for women who are still trapped in the suffocating cycle of beauty. If any of you are reading this, know that the way you look shouldn’t matter. You have to learn to love every bit of yourself. You are going to be the only consistent person in your life, so you better do the work to love what you see in the mirror; no makeup, acne, yellow-teeth, and all. You’re just fine.
I stopped enjoying the unwanted attention:
As I continued my conquest for perfection the attention I got from men turned from being flattering to down-right harassment. I remember one time when I was followed in a grocery store just to be “hollered” at.
I was never able to go anywhere without men commenting on my appearance. For the first time in my life I wanted to NOT be noticed. I wanted to be invisible. I wanted to be able to go to Walmart, get my tampons, and go! That rarely happened. Now that I have stopped wearing makeup and stopped putting so much effort into my appearance, I get a lot less attention, and I’m glad for it. The funniest part was that I hate attention! I always have. But I was brainwashed into thinking I needed a random man’s validation to be worth anything. Now, if I’m approached, I just say I have a boyfriend, even though I don’t. I no longer mindlessly flirt with guys via text, and quite frankly, I don’t have any men in my life right now besides my father, Jesus Christ and my ex. And I love it. I feel like I’m finally free, and my validation has to come from within, not an outside source.
All in all, I’m not trying to say being beautiful is a bad thing, or that you should stop wearing makeup, or looking after yourself. Sometimes I make myself look nice just because I want to that day. What I’m trying to say is, I used my own body and mental health as a guinea pig for what being good-looking had to offer and, I’m no scientist, but my own research has proved that it means nothing. Squat. It’s about as useful and fulfilling as Santa Clause. Basically, it aint’. For me it was exhausting, dehumanizing, anxiety-inducing, and just plain stressful. So if you are out there, and you think being beautiful matters, trust me, it doesn’t mean shit. Surround yourself with people who don’t give a rat’s dirty ass how you look. And free yourself from the illusion the media and society is trying to poison our minds with. You are beautiful just as you are.