Dear Beautiful Women Who For Some Reason Think Themselves Ugly,
There, I said it, you’re beautiful. But I know you don’t believe me — not even when you know that I am quite stingy with compliments and don’t ladle out praises I don’t mean — not when that wily worm in your ear is telling you otherwise and you believe him because he speaks with your voice and you’ve been together for like forever and you think he knows you. Please, for a moment (or two, or three), don’t listen to him. Grab a cotton bud and poke him out or ram him against your ear canal, whatever, just shut him up while I’m talking here. There, thank you.
So, Beautiful Women Who Think Themselves Ugly, what’s with this cognitive distortion? Sure, the stretch marks on your belly might as well be a road map of Novaliches or Singapore, the sinuous streets drawn in white, and yes, that zit on your left cheek, like the distant relative gathering cobwebs in your cupboard, just won’t go away, but heck, the stretch marks and the pimples, and the bulges and the bad teeth (if I may add) — they don’t make you. Acknowledge their presence, know them for what they are — that is, (often ephemeral) parts that hardly figure in the consideration of your whole. Say to them, You, zit, have no business vegetating on my left cheek, what am I, fourteen years old?! Here’s a triple cleansing-toning-moisturizing action for you, HA-HA! And then, you know, move on.
Sometimes you fall on the wrong side of the top bunk, and as you unhook your knee from your neck and reassemble the pieces of your face from the floor, you tend to see more warts than none. It’s okay, we all have those days. I mean, sometimes I wake up, wobble towards the mirror to gaze at my pretty self, and see only a mass of poofy hair on top of a grayish flabby blob-thing looking back at me with demonic baggy eyes. Naturally, I utter a death cry, pull a sack over my head, and let the funeral bells toll. But such days need not last. They shouldn’t last, because having a sack over one one’s head and torso isn’t exactly the most comfortable, not to mention liberating, situation to be in.
Some days, I just shrug it off and say, So what? I’m comfy in my skin, I’m smart, I’m talented. I remind myself that beauty is a construct largely shaped by patriarchal ideology, an unrealistic and therefore frustrating “ideal” that has oppressed women and men since they started looking into lakes and other reflective surfaces and getting “lost” there, that it’s a culture-bound construct, and if I were living in the Baroque period, Rubens would be raring to immortalize the folds of my loveliness in all their profuse glory.
But sometimes those words sound just like the little fictions I tell myself to make me bear being me. Sometimes, I remember things that strike me as immediate, true: the smirks and snide remarks, the flirting fails, the kids taunting me to tears in grade school and kindergarten, the aunt exclaiming how ugly I look beside my sister. I remember and I try to stop remembering, which was how I used to get away from those memories on most days.
But now, well, now I just don’t care very much. Postcards and papers and planners passed, and I realized that, as a friend put it, Some people have real problems.
Look at me. I’m 4’11”, though I like to believe I’m 5’2”. I have a BMI of, well, let’s just say it ran lumbering from the Highway of Obesity and halted at Overweight Avenue (just before Normal Street) to do stomach curls and downward-dogs. My little brother, true to the stereotype of little brothers everywhere, calls me a teapot (“short and stout,” geddit?), though my more linguistically sophisticated friends prefer the term “voluptuous.” My face looks perpetually constipated, even when I’m smiling (I’ve been told it’s because of my high, worried brows, or my protruding canines that look like fangs). Still, I think I’m medium-cute, and I feel beautiful. Because, as cheesy as it may sound, I believe we all can be (which pretty much explains why I often fall for guys my sisters like to call hito, bakulaw, unggoy, or some combination of the three).
When I wake up in the morning and feel the bed sheets soft against my silken (thank you, antihistamines, Jergens, Cetaphil) skin, when the sun shines on my eyes and brings out the gold in them, when I do shoulder stands and feel my legs and core straight up in the air, when I snuggle into clothes that remind me of cool lemonade on a blue-sky day, in these moments and more, I feel beautiful.
So, Beautiful Women Who For Some Reason Think Themselves Ugly, my advice to you is, find those moments and think of them, and if you can’t find them, make them. Because the sensation of beauty, like happiness, is something you process, something you create. They say beauty is (you knew this had to come in somewhere) in the eyes of the beholder; realize that the primary and ultimate beholder is often your self.
To end, another cliché (which doesn’t make the thought less true): drink lots of water and get enough sleep.