BEFORE I entered high school, I was obsessed with the teen magazines that were fairly new in early 2000. My friends would always remind me of my fondness recalling that I introduced them to these magazines. I was often the culprit of passing around these reads in class when the teacher wasn’t looking.
Those were the good days. My relationship with magazines, however, came to a screeching halt in high school. The reason 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 by my intense need to be my own person, but to be completely honest, it was more of a 15-year-old hiding beneath the mask of insecurity.
Offhand, there is absolutely nothing petite about my 5’8 stance nor do I pose 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 appearance, 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 perfected the art of being an escapist) that drummed up the writer inside of me. And instead of being 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 resilience. 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 to have people in my life who emanate beauty from the inside out. They display depth, good character, and kindness. These truly beautiful people dig deep to make a difference—whether a single person or the world. These people are made beautiful by their experience in life.
Surprisingly, 16 years after my first teen magazine, I find myself in the field of media. I am happy that today’s editors applaud 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 are beautiful.
And while I’m nowhere near the end of my journey, I am no longer the girl confined by insecurities. I have learned that being aesthetically beautiful is not the primary goal in life anymore. I focus instead on how to make my world beautiful by encouraging others and doing good.
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?