When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with the teen magazines that were fairly new in during the early 00s. My friends would always remind me of my fondness by telling me that it was I who introduced them to these magazines and often the culprit of it being passed around in class when the teacher wasn’t looking.
Those were indeed the good days. My relationship with magazines however came to a screeching halt in high school. The reason why I stopped reading was simple: I no longer felt the need to dive into the conformed standards of the magazine industry. It was in my sophomore year that I adapted the Kat Stratford (as in from 10 Things I Hate About You) persona – dark, brooding, and against everything that screamed cheerleader. I would like to tell you that this was brought about by my intense need to be my own person, but to be completely honest, it was more of a fifteen year old hiding beneath the mask of insecurity. Offhand, there is absolutely nothing petite about my 5’8 frame nor do I posses the divine looks of the sought after mestiza models or immaculate chinita campus crushes. I also wasn’t (and will never be no matter how many rounds of boxing and circuit training I do) reed thin. In short, I often felt left out and displaced.
The journey to self-acceptance is indeed a long and tedious one, however, I would like to say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because I was rejected so many times and overlooked because of my looks (sly wordplay), I learned to work harder in other areas of my life. I learned to dive into TV shows, reading, writing, and eventually, school in order to make up for being overlooked and a means of escape. It was my love for daydreaming (I have perfect the art of being an escapist) that drummed up the writer inside of me. And instead of it making me bitter, it fueled my little sunshine attitude, which always comes in handy as an adult.
Not being the center of attention has also taught me the essence of being kind to people and to never take anyone for granted. It also taught me to not rely on my looks to get away with anything in life. In fact because I didn’t always get what I wanted, I worked harder. It is during those dark times that I found strength in my resiliency. It also threw entitlement out of the window. Most importantly, it taught me to treat everyone with respect.
The journey has also taught me that “beauty” is no longer confined by one’s good looks but instead beauty has a lot to do with how one makes other people feel. Today, I am blessed that my life is filled with people who emanate beauty from the inside out. They display depth, a good character, and most importantly, kindness. These truly beautiful people dig deep to make a difference – whether in the life of a friend or the world. These people are made beautiful by their years of experiencing life.
And in a surprising turn of events, sixteen years after I came across my first teen magazine, I find myself in the field of media and it is nice to see the messages that today’s editors convey applauding women of all shapes, color, and sizes. Editors, writers, and even stylists work day and night to convey that no matter what you look like – you matter and you are beautiful.
And while I’m nowhere near the end of the journey, I am no longer the girl confined by her insecurities. Today, I have learned that being aesthetically beautiful is not the number one goal in my life anymore. Today, I am focusing instead on how to make my world beautiful by encouraging others and trying to make my little pocket of my world a better place.
And just in case you are feeling insecure or unloved, give yourself a little credit because if you don’t love yourself, who else will?