The usual rules apply. 5 minutes to write. No overthinking, no editing, just words on a page.
This week’s word? Beauty.
For as long as I can remember , I’ve been good at finding beauty. In the faces of friends, the smiles of strangers, the laughter of children, the crisp cold calm of a winter’s morning, the intimacy of a shared in-joke, the view of the Firth from Califer, a meal made with love, a secondhand bookshop full of treasures to be discovered…I have long rejoiced in my ability to see the beauty and wonder in the world around me.
It’s when I turn my gaze on myself that the trouble comes.
All through my childhood, teens and early twenties, I was convinced that I was ugly. Really, properly, repellently ugly. And very rarely did someone send me the message that this was not the case. Bullies, the media, “friends”…they all had something to contribute. So I hid. Beneath baggy clothes, behind a book or computer screen, under layers of fat. And the more I heard I was ugly, the more I believed it.
When I look at pictures of myself from those times, I’m amazed that I felt so horrible. I see a girl who may not be conventionally beautiful, sure, but whose smile is warm, hair is glossy, eyes are bright. I want to call her and tell her she’s pretty.
It took a fight with a friend in fourth year of uni to change the way I thought. Getting back from a rehearsal, I threw myself onto the couch and exclaimed “Ugh! I am just so fat and ugly!”. My housemate got very angry and told me off in no uncertain terms and responded with “Claire! First things first, you are NOT ugly. Secondly, if you think you’re fat, then change, or shut up about it!”. For the first time someone had been straight down the line with me. And for the first time in my head, ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ stopped meaning the same thing….
I should send him a thank you card.
Do I think I’m a beauty now? Um….I don’t think I’d ever describe myself that way (hee, British reticence), but I can certainly now appreciate the things I do like about myself (decent teeth, nice eyes, defined ankles, tendency to smell pretty good), and have learned to like, or accept, the other parts. Or to try to change them.
It’s an ongoing journey.