Not the “Pretty One”

I’m proud to have such pretty sisters, cousins and friends that I’ve grown accustomed to being the least attractive whenever I’m with a bunch of girls. Of course when I was still a kid, I had no concept of being “not so pretty”. I didn’t care. I’d wear pambahay clothes and sport an unflattering pixie cut, but I’d still feel that I was fine with myself.

I have a very vivid memory of my first experience of getting external input about my appearance in comparison with others. It was a computer class in grade school. We were being asked by the teacher to fall in line, and being the bibo kid that I was, I stood in front. He then remarked, “Sa harap ‘yung pinakamaganda,” and thinking that it was probably just a joke, I didn’t move. He turned to me however and said, “O, bakit nandito ka sa harap? Dun ka sa likod.” I don’t remember how I immediately felt back then but I knew that it eventually had a big impact as it made me dislike going to that class.

I always tagged along with my dad when he had basketball games with our youth in the 90’s. I also remember this one time when I was hanging out with the boys and one of them asked to rank me and my sisters in terms of beauty. I was ranked last of us three (Symphony wasn’t alive yet) and the topic ended with laughter from the group.

I was blessed to have a pretty childhood best friend who was not only good-looking but also kind. She didn’t make me feel ugly at all, despite her being the ultimate crush ng bayan even while we were adolescents. Other people found it a fun activity though to compare us both and take some pity on me for not being pretty. I can’t count with my fingers and toes the number of times that people were kind to me only because they liked my best friend.

In so many instances, I got tagged as the “smart one” as if it was a compensation for my not being too beautiful. And I think I probably took it to heart. I knew that I wasn’t as good-looking so I had to be smart, and I had to be bibo and funny. I’ve been competitive ever since I was young and behind that drive really is just a desire to prove that I’m as good as (or even better than) everyone else. When being the “smart one” was not enough, I’d resort to being angry or evil–shutting myself down and hurting others before they hurt me.

Things improved when I graduated from college as I had a stint of someone I like (finally) liking me back, I graduated with honors (proving my “smart one” persona), and I landed a pretty decent job. On top of that, I also had a fresh experience of Jesus and knew that He fearfully and wonderfully made me. It was never a full-on healing though, as each rejection that I got and each comment made on my looks still gave me a little wound inside–though I was learning to conceal them a bit better.

There was one time recently though when I took a hard blow. Before heading to the wake of our grandmother, we had visitors in our house who were far relatives. I was helping out with serving food in the dining table, while all the cousins were preparing outside, and my aunts wanted to introduce me to the said relatives. I did the usual mano, and then they asked me whose kid I was. Upon finding out that I was a child of my mom who was the youngest one, the said relative said, “Ah, kaya pala pangit.” It was my first time to experience it as I was never told that straight to my face, inside my home, and in front of my family. I didn’t know what to do so I rushed outside of the house and cried away from the sight of everyone else. My aunt found me eventually and assured me that the relative was just tactless and didn’t mean what she said. Deep inside though, I knew that there was some ‘truth’ to the comment. All of the ladies in our family were good-looking, and you’d easily spot me as the ugly one whenever we took a group photo.

Ever since that moment, I’ve been trying so hard to improve on how I look at myself. There are times when I’m victorious, and I am able to see myself the way God sees me, but there are times when I just question my worth and feel insecure about myself.

A recent minor life event triggered a series of emotions that made it hard for me to focus at work and even made me lose my appetite. A new person talked to me and asked about my life making me think he was at least platonically trying to get to know me, until I found out that he liked my sister. I was perplexed at first about why I was so affected, but I eventually realized that it all traces back to my issues. I felt hurt, not romantically, but because it felt like a replay of those memories that I’ve been trying to forget–those times when I am just used as a means to an end. I was the not-so-pretty one that you could safely talk to so you can get the actual prize.

I want to say that I’ve already been able to overcome these insecurity issues, but I honestly still have struggles. I had a conversation recently with my sister and she tried to reassure me by saying that I’m smart and “rich” (by her standards) anyway, but I did not see the good in that. Most people would probably say that I am ungrateful, and I probably am–it’s part of my struggle. To quote what I told my sister, “I’m good with things that don’t matter in life.” And while in my head, I know that it’s not true because I am God’s masterpiece (#AMissingRib2), my heart is struggling to catch up and feel the same way.

Anyway, I just wanted to write about it ’cause it’s been occupying my mind for the last 3 days. It’s a bit relieving to release some feelings, but I know that I have to battle these thoughts in the spiritual realm. Do pray for me.


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