Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You Are So Beautiful to...Whom?

Yesterday, I read something online that said, "Repost this if you honestly believe or have ever been told that you are ugly.” I was able to see how many reposts it had received, and the number was almost shocking-—well past a million. After reading it, I realized I had a lot to say on the subject, which is why I am writing this.
His name was Tommy. I remember his shaved head. Even when the campus was bustling—after classes let out, as everyone ran to find their bus home—I could spot him from afar.
He followed me around, calling me “Ugly Amy”—over and over, from the moment I set foot outside the building right up until I got on the bus…and sometimes he followed me onto there, too.
Being called ugly while standing outside the school was often the cap to a long day of being called ugly while standing inside it. When it started—back in the dark ages of junior high—it was exactly that: Outside of me. Other people called me ugly, and I believed it was in their control. They decide if I’m ugly; there’s nothing I can do about it; they’re neurotypical, I’m “wrong”; they know better. I don’t.
In high school, however, it changed. When someone would call me ugly, the word didn’t simply die in the air after it was said. The voices that spoke it were not without; now, they were within. That “little voice” inside. The one no one else can hear, talking at me, every second of every day. Telling me that I was ugly—telling me it was my fault.
It was in my control now. If only I could get breast implants. Wear makeup. Get rid of my “weird” toes. Not be too skinny to fit into the clothes that would make me beautiful. I am ugly.
After being told the same thing, day in and day out, I internalized it. I believed it. It shifted the burden from them onto me. Not only did I feel responsible for being “ugly,” I felt responsible for others’ reactions to my “ugliness.”
I felt guilty for looking the way I did—that, if I could somehow be not ugly, they would have something better to look at, and they wouldn’t be so mean to me. To my mind, it wasn’t their fault they were calling me ugly—they were just letting me know, because I didn’t know it myself.
By high school, I more than knew it. I knew, and could never forget.
I haven’t thought of myself as ugly for a long time, but I don’t see myself as beautiful, either. To this day, when someone compliments me, says that I am pretty, or cute, I don’t really take it in. “Ugly” is what I am more prepared for. I don’t feel it about myself, and I would roll my eyes at someone if they were to actually say it. But, somehow, it still feels closer to the truth than “pretty” does.
It saddens me that so many people have been called “ugly” in their lives, or feel that way about themselves now. We spend so much of our time trying to look like this “perfect” person, but that person doesn’t even exist. The standards that society has created are so impossible to achieve that even the people we think of as the “ideal”—tall, thin, blonde, whatever—see themselves as ugly.
For years, I desperately wanted to look like someone else. People sometimes do these “celebrity lookalike” things (“Oh, she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow!” He looks like Ben Affleck!”), and in high school, I would be devastated when I realized the only person that I looked like was me. I thought I couldn’t escape it.
Well, I was right. I can’t escape it. But the only person I want to look like now is me. Because that’s who I am meant to be.


  1. I haven't been told that I'm ugly, exactly, though I have had people point out things about my appearance that they thought were gross.

    In middle school, a boy in gym class noticed that I had hair on the back of my neck (other than the hair on my head, obviously), and ran away from me yelling "SHE HAS A HAIRY NECK!" at the top of his lungs.

    In high school, a girl sitting next to me in class felt my arm, which was beginning to develop big, hard muscles, and pulled her hand away going "Ew, gross!" Because apparently features that are desirable on a boy are disgusting on a girl .... (yes, this girl was straight. Irredeemably so :) )

    The first incident was embarrassing and traumatic; the second one just made me laugh. (I had made huge advances in self-esteem and body acceptance in the intervening few years).

  2. My husband calls me beautiful everyday & I'm not sure I believe him. I prefer being called things that compliment who I am, strong, organized, loved, being beautiful inside is more important.

  3. I get really, really mad... the ice cold angry hot mad. HOW CAN ANYONE THINK IT'S OKAY TO SAY THINGS LIKE THAT TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEING? What ever happened to "if you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all"? I mean, if people ARE ugly, what can they do about it? And what is it to you? You should be grateful for the fact that you are not ugly when you see ugly people, not make the ugly people's miserable life even more miserable. How is that even accepted, tolerated by the society, allowed to happen? How? Why? And you tell there were MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHOM HAD BEEN TOLD TO THEIR FACE THEY ARE UGLY???

    You see, I don't remember anyone ever telling me they think I'm ugly. I just figured it out on my own. I don't have boyfriend, there must be a reason for that, I cannot think of any other reason, as all the reasons I can think of are shared by others who have a boyfriend, so I must be ugly.

    And this ugliness must be defined by others, and have nothing to do with reality or objective facts. I have two eyes, nose below and between them and mouth below the nose. My eyes are big enough not to be piggy, my nose isn't that big, my mouth is full... according to science of beauty I am actually quite beautiful... I also didn't find anything disgusting in the mirror. I couldn't figure out why I was ugly. But I must be.

    It really was only after I got my AS diagnosis when I realized that it was not because I was ugly or anything else, it was because I have Asperger's - I just didn't get the silent messages. It might well be that there were guys desperately trying to get my attention, but I just didn't see anything.

    It took a man who fell handlessly in love with me, and who has spent the last 18 years telling me almost every day how beautiful he thinks I am, for me to get over the misconception that I was ugly. Most human beings are not ugly. Might not be beautiful or pretty either, but there is beauty in every human being.

    I really thought I had some sort of weird, general BDD, that the image on the mirror didn't add up with the image everyone else was having, and when the psychiatic told me she didn't think I had it, I thought it must be because I AM ugly... :-D