They Do Exist.

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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18 Responses

  1. Suzie

    Thank you for this. It exposes my heart. Now to work on focusing on God rather than the world or on my own thoughts.

    June 23, 2011 at 6:57 am

  2. I'm kind of speechless after reading this.

    The honesty behind it speaks volumes.

    June 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

  3. loreferguson

    Love this! Thank you so much for sharing!

    June 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm

  4. Megan

    So true! Beauty is from the inside and it spills outside! The lasting kind does anyway. Beautiful message.

    June 23, 2011 at 10:25 pm

  5. pastordt

    This is a miraculous post – thank you so much. And as I look at that magnificent face tonight, I cannot even imagine anyone ever saying there was one thing ugly about you. But … I do know the cruelty of thoughtless words. I've even said some of those words myself. Gasp. I have asked forgiveness, I have asked for a tiny space of time to elapse every single time I open my mouth (!!) and I have also asked that I be given God's eyes to see each person as someone of value, integrity and yes – beauty. Because that's what we are in those eyes, GOD's eyes: valued, whole and beautiful. Thank you for this.

    June 24, 2011 at 12:55 am

  6. nikkiaktrez

    I've known Nneka for a while now and she is a beautiful woman both inside and out. Her love for God and her heart for people are things to be admired. It blows my mind that anyone could ever tell this beautiful woman that she was "not enough". But the sad truth is that we're living in a society that is constantly telling women (and men) that we are "not enough" and that we will never be enough unless we lose that weight or marry that man or wear those clothes or use that cleaning product. Thank God that there are women like Nneka who are willing to share their stories and say that YOU ARE ENOUGH. God gave each of us exactly what we need to walk out our personal journey. We have everything that we need through him and we as women need to bond together to make sure that is the message that is being portrayed to our sisters and brothers. Thanks Nneka for being willing to share your story with us. You are BEAUTIFUL!!! :-)

    June 24, 2011 at 10:20 pm

  7. jeleystorey

    I am so happy that you found your way out of the negativity that surrounded you and almost overtook you. You are stunning so I can’t imagine how these people could have ever or should have ever said such rotten things to a young girl. Even if their idea of beauty was different there is never a reason to make it known. Period. HE made you in His image. Good for you to be so strong and beautiful inside and out.

    June 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

  8. AnonyMan

    I would just like the opportunity to say this: it has increasingly been my opinion that, as far as the outside is concerned, women are always and unconditionally beautiful. God designed each and every one of you, as many on this site have pointed out. Since it was God who designed women, how can human beings ever try to judge beauty? I am a straight man and it continually appalls me how other men (and women!) rate different appearances' beauty. I once had a very beautiful girl tell me that her hair was "dishwater blonde", because it was dirty blond. She nearly always dyed her hair full blond. I was disgusted that she labeled dirty blond "dishwater" as though it were something repulsive, and as though it were too common. How, I ask, does commonality or rarity of a trait make it more or less beautiful? All you women out there, take it from me–any guy who tells you to change something about your appearance is not worth your time, and he gives the rest of us guys a bad name. And Nneka, you definitely give a message that the rest of us, girls and guys (especially myslef) need to remember… focusing on God makes everything else fall into place.

    June 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm

  9. I just want to say that I think that we all feel not good enough and this story is beautiful…..I have tried for many years to live up to standards ( being a twin it makes it really hard) I was told that I was the " ugly, fat twin" that has hurt me more than people ever know. I also found that if a man couldn't get a date with my sister then they would try for me because I was second best…..This story has made me look at how I look at myself…Thank you…By the way I find a man that thought that I was the cuter twin and I have been married for 8 years :)

    July 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

  10. Anna

    Lauren got it right: Nneka is GORGEOUS- both inside AND out!!

    August 3, 2011 at 2:50 pm

  11. Nneka, you ARE a beautiful lady–and thank you for sharing so candidly from your heart!

    November 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

  12. Sybil Bates McCormack

    Wow! This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Lauren, for presenting this, and thank you, Nneka, for sharing. God bless you!

    May 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm

  13. Jane

    Thanks for this. When i looked at your pic i cried. What lies we are told. I was also told I “sorry jane, you look like your father”. Wow, thanks. What’s a girl supposed to get from that? It has been a long journey to excise bitterness, self protectedness and hard heartedness out of me, but God did it. What a miracle! The beauty part…still on the journey, haven’t quite gotten there yet. Thanks for sharing.

    May 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm

  14. Kimberly

    Hi Nneka, I've felt the same way all my life. I never ever heard that I was beautiful or pretty from anyone. There have been a few times recently when children have said that I'm pretty and I don't know how to take it. It's hard to fight years of lies but I'm coming out victorious. Every morning that I can get dressed and walk out the door satisfied with my image, I win.

    July 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm

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  17. What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. I also have a cousin, she, yes, is not beautiful as her brother. Everyone around me says she is not like her parents, who are also beautiful. She's always shy. Now I could understand her thought :( And I will try to help her, and hope she with find "that person" who can make her believe in herself like you do.
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