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On Being Pretty

27 August 2018
My history with my self esteem hasn't been the greatest, to say the least.

From a young age, I became painfully aware that I don't meet anyone's standards when it comes to what a girl should look like. I got teased for how big my lips are (Daisy Duck was a term thrown around) or how I could use to be a little more light-skinned or just for not being pretty enough in general. This echoed on in my home life where my mother would frequently tell me how stupid I am in addition to being ugly as all hell - you know, just the regular dose of trauma and abuse that's enough to make you appreciate dark humor but not be suicidal.

One anecdote that stuck out to me so much was third grade and learning all about the Aetas, indigenous people of the Philippines. They have curly hair and brown skin and big lips - features that are being unfairly used as casual insults in the Filipino context. My best friend at the time said loudly, "Oh big lips - like Clarisse's!" I remember it as the start of me being so self-conscious about my lips. It had offended me so much because it was around that time when there's a soap opera on about a girl who looks indigenous, gets horribly abused for it, but somehow gets fairer skin and is basically revealed to have beautiful features (read: Caucasian) underneath the horrible body paint blackface and is suddenly on top of the world with her abusers bowing down to her and the man candy of her dreams suddenly in her arms (multiple soap operas with similar plots over the years, actually - Filipino producers don't quite get what's wrong with blackface).

My teenage years and early adulthood were spent down a rabbit hole of finding the whitening product that will give me the coveted fair skin of my dreams. Kojic acid, papaya, glutathione pills - name it, and I've probably tried it in my quest to strip myself of melanin. If you've lived or even been to Southeast Asia, you'd know that the standards of beauty are largely eurocentric - white skin is worshipped and celebrities are usually Eurasians who don't have Asian features at all. Being called mestiza (fair skinned) is such a huge honor and synonymous to beautiful, although some can be considered beautiful despite the fact that they are morena (tan skinned). Did I also mention that skin whitening is a $10 billion global industry because we keep telling people that melanin is something to be ashamed of?

(Quick link! The racist history of skin whitening)
(Another one! The Might of White: How our obsession with whiter skin became dangerous)

And then I moved to Australia. I saw that drugstores and department stores alike have shelves upon shelves of products dedicated to making people orange tanning and suddenly, I was fine with my skin and started enjoying the sun in the summer. I saw people walking around with milliliters of fillers injected onto their lips and suddenly my lips don't look so bad - if anything, I feel blessed with it (take that, Raychelle!). And it may be the thick yellow fever hanging in the air around here, but for the first time in my life, I actually felt attractive. I kid, of course. But the right swipes did help a little bit. (Again, kidding!)

It's a sad thought to have to go out of your own country to appreciate yourself, but it's even more embarrassing to have to explain it to people without sounding like my country is racist. Because in reality, it is a racist mindset. But I'm not going down that long road with this blog post.

The other day, I was talking to one of my best friends. Mikey and I, we've both been through some really low lows when it came to our perception of ourselves. But we've always had that desire to never settle for what is and to keep growing, to look at every aspect of our lives closely and improve on what we can. I'm happy to report that, while we started off as pity parties in college about not being good-looking/smart/fit enough, we are now filled with so much amazement with what our bodies can do to focus on what they look like. Your body - everything inside and outside of it - is doing its best to keep you alive. Furthermore, it's the only one you have - what good would it do you to have it as an enemy?

Maybe it's a bit hypocritical to say I don't care about what I look like anymore when I've just written a whole blog post about it. I think what I'm trying to say, though, is that being pretty is no longer on the list of things that are important to me - and Jesus Christ, did it take a loooong while to get here. Is it narcissistic to finally be at peace with yourself? To look at other women and see their beauty without erasing yours? Because if it is, call me one. Am I gonna be joining pageants anytime soon? I'd probably still get laughed out of the audition room. But I'm completely fine with that.

This post is quickly losing momentum, and I'm not really sure why I wanted to write about this in the first place. But if you take away one thing, I hope it's this: there are far better things to be than pretty. Like pretty smart, pretty funny, pretty strong, and pretty kind. Maybe it's time to start measuring our self worth against an adjective that doesn't have a shelf life?

- C

3 comments:

  1. I adore this Clarissa! I know how you feel. People don’t realise how much impact things people say have on you when you’re a kid. I remember one teacher miss pronounced my name and laughed about it and everyone at school started saying it like that and it made me hate my name! Now I love it! Thank you for sharing your experiences and keep writing. I look forward to your next post xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are one of the younger people I admire, Clarisse, and I've been very vocal about that. I'm sorry that at one point of your life, you were a victim by society's standards. Know that you you are beautiful inside and out (even when I don't personally know you nor have I met you in real life). You are enough.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love this! Being surrounded with beautiful best friends all my life, I used to be so conscious of what I looked like to the point that I hated taking pictures with them since I was so scared of being “the duff”. Luckily, over the past few years, I’ve learned to embrace my insecurities and be comfortable with myself. Self love indeed ❤️

    ReplyDelete

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27 August 2018

On Being Pretty

My history with my self esteem hasn't been the greatest, to say the least.

From a young age, I became painfully aware that I don't meet anyone's standards when it comes to what a girl should look like. I got teased for how big my lips are (Daisy Duck was a term thrown around) or how I could use to be a little more light-skinned or just for not being pretty enough in general. This echoed on in my home life where my mother would frequently tell me how stupid I am in addition to being ugly as all hell - you know, just the regular dose of trauma and abuse that's enough to make you appreciate dark humor but not be suicidal.

One anecdote that stuck out to me so much was third grade and learning all about the Aetas, indigenous people of the Philippines. They have curly hair and brown skin and big lips - features that are being unfairly used as casual insults in the Filipino context. My best friend at the time said loudly, "Oh big lips - like Clarisse's!" I remember it as the start of me being so self-conscious about my lips. It had offended me so much because it was around that time when there's a soap opera on about a girl who looks indigenous, gets horribly abused for it, but somehow gets fairer skin and is basically revealed to have beautiful features (read: Caucasian) underneath the horrible body paint blackface and is suddenly on top of the world with her abusers bowing down to her and the man candy of her dreams suddenly in her arms (multiple soap operas with similar plots over the years, actually - Filipino producers don't quite get what's wrong with blackface).

My teenage years and early adulthood were spent down a rabbit hole of finding the whitening product that will give me the coveted fair skin of my dreams. Kojic acid, papaya, glutathione pills - name it, and I've probably tried it in my quest to strip myself of melanin. If you've lived or even been to Southeast Asia, you'd know that the standards of beauty are largely eurocentric - white skin is worshipped and celebrities are usually Eurasians who don't have Asian features at all. Being called mestiza (fair skinned) is such a huge honor and synonymous to beautiful, although some can be considered beautiful despite the fact that they are morena (tan skinned). Did I also mention that skin whitening is a $10 billion global industry because we keep telling people that melanin is something to be ashamed of?

(Quick link! The racist history of skin whitening)
(Another one! The Might of White: How our obsession with whiter skin became dangerous)

And then I moved to Australia. I saw that drugstores and department stores alike have shelves upon shelves of products dedicated to making people orange tanning and suddenly, I was fine with my skin and started enjoying the sun in the summer. I saw people walking around with milliliters of fillers injected onto their lips and suddenly my lips don't look so bad - if anything, I feel blessed with it (take that, Raychelle!). And it may be the thick yellow fever hanging in the air around here, but for the first time in my life, I actually felt attractive. I kid, of course. But the right swipes did help a little bit. (Again, kidding!)

It's a sad thought to have to go out of your own country to appreciate yourself, but it's even more embarrassing to have to explain it to people without sounding like my country is racist. Because in reality, it is a racist mindset. But I'm not going down that long road with this blog post.

The other day, I was talking to one of my best friends. Mikey and I, we've both been through some really low lows when it came to our perception of ourselves. But we've always had that desire to never settle for what is and to keep growing, to look at every aspect of our lives closely and improve on what we can. I'm happy to report that, while we started off as pity parties in college about not being good-looking/smart/fit enough, we are now filled with so much amazement with what our bodies can do to focus on what they look like. Your body - everything inside and outside of it - is doing its best to keep you alive. Furthermore, it's the only one you have - what good would it do you to have it as an enemy?

Maybe it's a bit hypocritical to say I don't care about what I look like anymore when I've just written a whole blog post about it. I think what I'm trying to say, though, is that being pretty is no longer on the list of things that are important to me - and Jesus Christ, did it take a loooong while to get here. Is it narcissistic to finally be at peace with yourself? To look at other women and see their beauty without erasing yours? Because if it is, call me one. Am I gonna be joining pageants anytime soon? I'd probably still get laughed out of the audition room. But I'm completely fine with that.

This post is quickly losing momentum, and I'm not really sure why I wanted to write about this in the first place. But if you take away one thing, I hope it's this: there are far better things to be than pretty. Like pretty smart, pretty funny, pretty strong, and pretty kind. Maybe it's time to start measuring our self worth against an adjective that doesn't have a shelf life?

- C

3 comments:

  1. I adore this Clarissa! I know how you feel. People don’t realise how much impact things people say have on you when you’re a kid. I remember one teacher miss pronounced my name and laughed about it and everyone at school started saying it like that and it made me hate my name! Now I love it! Thank you for sharing your experiences and keep writing. I look forward to your next post xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are one of the younger people I admire, Clarisse, and I've been very vocal about that. I'm sorry that at one point of your life, you were a victim by society's standards. Know that you you are beautiful inside and out (even when I don't personally know you nor have I met you in real life). You are enough.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love this! Being surrounded with beautiful best friends all my life, I used to be so conscious of what I looked like to the point that I hated taking pictures with them since I was so scared of being “the duff”. Luckily, over the past few years, I’ve learned to embrace my insecurities and be comfortable with myself. Self love indeed ❤️

    ReplyDelete