Let me tell you a story about a girl who hates seeing herself in the mirror.
What I saw In the Mirror
I wasn’t always a fat kid. It was just when I turned second grade that I started getting fat. I was getting bigger and bigger until I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I looked at the mirror and at a young age I felt like there was always something wrong with my face and with how I look.
I would often play with Barbie dolls and would just be in an imaginary world where I am as beautiful as Barbie. But Barbie doesn’t have a huge mole on her face and she was skinny and she has a Ken. I will never look like Barbie so I thought I’d just collect them and imagine myself being them.
I was also very fond of television. Almost all lead actresses were skinny girls. Whenever there was a fat girl, she gets told that she was a pig or that her parents left her all alone in the kitchen that’s why she got so fat. And in the end, she’ll transform into a gorgeus skinny woman.
If you grew up in the Philippines, you’d just be surprised by how so many people just see you for the way you look. My extended relatives often tell me that my nose was flat or I was fat. Nobody told me that I was beautiful. I never felt beautiful. I never felt enough. The media, my aunts and uncles, and almost everyone around me has this standard of a beautiful girl and if you don’t fit in that standard, you’re ugly or ordinary.
I did not continue to hone my passion in dancing because I thought nobody can lift me because I was so heavy. Clothes don’t look good on me. No one would want to be my partner. I was ugly. Every time I look at the mirror I call the girl in the reflection: fat, ugly, fat, ugly. I hated pictures because I didn’t like what I saw. I stopped smiling at any camera because I thought even if I smile, it won’t change a thing, I would still be fat and ugly.
These insecurities crippled me in terms of my self-confidence. I was looking for acceptance and validation. I was waiting for someone to tell me that I am beautiful. But that day didn’t come until I was 21 years old. So, for 21 years, I saw myself as an ugly person.
How I dealt with it
Since I couldn’t be noticed for the way I look, I tried anything that would make people notice me. It was in second grade when my teachers started to notice that I was a smart kid. My English teacher would let us read short stories and then she had a graded recitation after. The questions were basic, what, where, when, I can easily answer those. But for the why questions, no one in the class could think or articulate the answer. But, I can! So I bravely raised my hand and answered her why question in straight English. My teacher saw something in me that day. After that, I was motivated to go to school. My second grade teacher saw my potential. She included me in the “damath” practice. She made me practice declamation pieces. It was just a blast. She would hug me and I think I was her favorite student that time. Finally, there’s a place that accepts me, school. As long as I do great, people would love me. This included my parents and my teachers.
School became an escape, a way to cover the imperfections. I finally was shining because I was good at something. I excelled to be noticed and loved.
Excellence and Perfection
Growing up as an achiever is like a double-edged sword. Yes, I get the attention. But, little did everyone know that I was being hard on myself. I started seeing being ‘the best’ as my identity. If I join a math competition and I don’t win, I’d be so depressed. I just wanted to win, I wanted to be the best. I kept on comparing myself with my classmates. It was hard for me to accept that no matter how much I work hard, there will be people who will be better than me in all aspects. Sometimes I don’t sleep just to prepare for an exam, but still another person would beat my score and I’d still be disappointed with myself.
To put it bluntly, I mistook excellence for perfection. It thought they were the same thing. For every result that I get, there’s no joy when I realize that I wasn’t perfect. I remember being obsessed with my study table. It has to be clean or I won’t study. Everything should be perfect or else things would turn out bad. I was beating myself up so bad. I got obsessed with being perfect to the point of depression. I would hide in my apartment for a couple of days just because I failed an exam in chemistry. I got in the top university in the Philippines so I thought I could be the best there too.
All that mentality was wrong. It took a lot of failures and disappointments for me to realize that I cannot ever be perfect. As long as I was doing my best, that was enough. Trying to be perfect stole the joy in learning. I really was hard on myself all this time. Instead of trying to be the best, I focused on having the best time in university, being happy.
I cannot be perfect. I will never be a beautiful girl based on media standards. It’s always the skinny girl with perfect skin and pointed nose who gets to be called beautiful. That’s not me and that will never be me. I am Kate, a 5’2″, pear-shaped woman, with a flat nose, a wide forehead, and a mole on the right side of her nose. My hips are wider than most girls and I weigh more than the girls you see in magazines and TV.
But, I began to love how I look. I would often take selfies and would even get to be in photo shoots of my organization and direct their poses. Take it from the girl who used to hate the camera. I became quite good in enhancing other women’s beauty by giving them a makeover. I love fashion and clothes and reflecting my personality through what I’m wearing. I eat good food and I feel so healthy even if I am a plus-size girl.
I graduated in my dream University and I’m now living abroad and exploring the world. I accepted who I am. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a fat girl, but, there’s this new woman inside me that tells that old Kate to stop. Destructive thoughts are now being blocked by the new me.
This is for You
This is the meaning of perfection in a dictionary.
- Perfection is the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.
- Perfection is something that cannot be improved.
Oops. Do you want that? Do you want to be a person that doesn’t improve?
Now that I’ve shared my perfection obsession story, I want you to do these things whenever you feel like you have the dire need to be perfect or when you’re disappointed with yourself.
- Look for role models.
Even if the media is portraying all these beautiful women (skinny, tall, and has a perfect skin) should be how we look like, let me tell you something: how you look is totally fine.
Stop trying to look like a Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid. Start trying to be the true you. The perfectly imperfect amazing heck of a woman you. For me, I look up at admirable women such as Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou. I am more concerned with what women do than how they look like. I think beauty without depth is useless. Look up to women who are doing something great in this world.
2. Be a role model.
Inspire other girls to accept who they are. As John Legend says, “Love your curves and all your edges. All your perfect imperfections.” Spread the body acceptance movement and tell other people that it’s okay, to make mistakes, to lose, and to fail. Be that person who embraces all your imperfections and tell the world, hey it’s me. If you don’t like how I look or who I am then screw you. You are here to inspire, to spread positivity and acceptance. You are not meant to criticize, you are meant to be the cheer leader of others who are fighting their own battles.
3. You are enough.
Whatever you are right now, that is enough. Wherever you are in your career, right at this moment, that is enough. Take baby steps but please, do the world a favor, stop being hard on yourself. Celebrate your victories. Cry for a while when you lose and then get back up. Whatever you did, that was enough. You are enough.
4. Stop expecting perfection.
When you finally accept how flawed you are and be okay with it, you will also be okay with other people’s imperfections. You will see them for who they are and not for who you expect them to be. You will also learn to love them.
5. You are not meant to be perfect. You are meant to be whole – Jane Fonda
You are meant to be a whole person. How do you do that? By accepting what is, and not focusing on what it’s supposed to be.
Accepting imperfection takes a lot of practice. But, when you master it, oh what a breath of fresh air comes. It’s like a big rock is lifted off your chest. It’s like having a new pair of eyeglasses, finally seeing the world the way it is and being okay with it. I hope you’re happy with who you are, but if you’re not, continue working on it. Remember that each one of us is a work in progress.
To the person reading this, to me, you are enough. You may not be perfect, but your imperfections make this world more interesting. Thank you for being you.