Bodies & Beauty: The Ugly Child.
Editor’s Note: This beautiful post was written by Nneka Obidike. She also wrote Profile Of A Good Woman for us earlier. I read this submission before ever seeing a photo of her, and surprise – she is stunning and radiant. Made beautiful both inside and out. It never fails to encourage me how God must take us on journeys of our own before we find that we are truly beautiful. Nneka was just married a few weeks ago, resides in Los Angeles, and blogs over at Faces of Industry. – Lauren
I was about 7 or 8 years old when I first realized that I was ugly.
The revelation came to me after years of wondering why the praise and accolades that were freely showered on my striking siblings were never thrown my way. The manicurist at a nail spa my mother frequented commented that I must look like my father since my mother was so pretty. (PS: Said manicurist had never met my father, who was a very handsome figure). But suddenly, everything made sense. Her comment explained the odd glances I received from visitors. It explained my grandmother’s hushed concerned whispers whilst pointing in my direction. It explained… so much.
In addition, it appeared as if that careless comment served as an opening for the floodgates of emotional abuse. Or perhaps now that I understood what was going on, I had become more sensitive to it, and life following was brutal.
People deal with such experiences in different ways. For me, I did not crawl up into a ball and “die.” Instead, I set up guards and defense parameters around myself and around my heart. I fought back as hard as I could and gave as good as I got. I thought, “I may not be pretty, but I’m smart and witty, take that and that and that!”
Every person was a mocker, an enemy. I would take them down before they could get at me. And so I let the world affect me from the outside. Slowly but surely, the ugliness everyone saw on the outside infected my spirit and soul like a disease. I embraced it and it became my truth. On the outside I might have been ugly, but I was tough as nails. On the inside I was broken.
Now when people make comments such as “She’s no Elizabeth Taylor, but she has an awesome personality” or “It’s not what is on the outside that counts, it’s what’s on the inside.” I cringe. Besides coming off cliché, such words ring of ignorance.
Of course the outside counts! If it doesn’t, why is one look in the mirror enough to send one reaching fingers down their throat? Why at one glance are we sized up and either deemed acceptable or dismissed? It is enraging to think that we don’t give people a chance even to utter a word in their defense before we write them off.
Every bone in my body rebels against the status quo that tells a black child that she doesn’t have good hair, a mixed teenager that she doesn’t belong anywhere, a voluptuous red head that she is fat because of her size 10, a brunette that blonds are better, a dirty blond that she is not blond enough, me that I am ugly because … I am not enough.
As shamefaced as I feel to say this, I must admit; the outside does count! But thankfully, when the dust settles I am forced to look beyond clichés and status quo. My attention is turned in the direction of the One whose perspective really counts, and I am reminded that the inside counts more.
The inside holds what we believe about ourselves. And that is what truly defines what the outside looks like. For so long I had been told that I was (at the very kindest) “unpretty” and I had believed it and accepted it. Thankfully, I dared to take my eyes off the world and what it had to say. Instead, I fastened them on the one who created me in His image and says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I chose to believe what He had to say, over what I felt and even over what I saw in the mirror. Slowly but surely transformation began on the inside and spilled over to the outside.
The first time someone called me beautiful, I did a double take. Strange. Nice. Flattering. But when I smiled and thanked him, I also sent praise to the One who transformed me. I am keeping my gaze on Him.
So that even on those days when I receive no compliments, I am still secure that I am beautiful inside and outside. Because He says I am, and that is my truth..
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