Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Imperfectly Beautiful Youth

My niece was complaining on Twitter not long ago that she got the short end of the stick, genetically speaking, comparing herself to all the beautiful women in her family.  This, of course, caused me to tweet back in a supportive fashion, telling her that she's beautiful and much prettier than I was at her age.  To illustrate my point, I showed her this photo:

She didn't agree with my assessment, which brings me to my point:  nobody is ever as ugly as they think they are when they're a teenager.

This was something of a revelation for me after, several months ago, examining what few photos I have of myself from that time in my life. .  I mean, I had convinced myself that I was REALLY ugly in those formative years.  I thought that I was repulsive troll.  I was not a troll.  My husband has been telling me this for years, but I've always thought he just had weird taste in women.

I remember being tortured by my looks as a kid.  I was the skinny, frizzy-haired, middle child, sandwiched between an older sister who had curves and shiny, straight hair and a younger one who was blonde, bubbly, and equally gorgeous.  Every summer, we'd all three sit at the same pool for hours, in the same sun, and they'd leave with golden tans while I came home with a blistering sunburn and a few hundred new freckles on the side.

Looking different, my shyness, combination skin, a sister who (as sisters do) teased me relentlessly, and the disinterest of almost every single boy I'd ever had a crush on worked together to form my crippling insecurity.  However, when I look at pictures of myself from those tormented years, I don't see a hideous, awkward girl with Bert eyebrows (okay, the eyebrows were a little too big).  I see a girl who stood out, even though she was obviously trying her best to hide behind all that hair.  And, actually, I'm going to say it:  she was pretty. 

I want to reach into this picture and shake some sense into her.

Adolescence is torturous in many ways, so I know that asking my lovely 13-year-old niece to see her own beauty probably sounds like an impossible feat from her point of view.  Heck, I just turned 34 years old and I'm only now able to do it.  However, I hope that she and all the other young girls out there reading this will at least give it a try.

Girls, listen up:  stop the self-loathing.  Those "imperfections" which you are magnifying in your brain are likely invisible to, or possibly even admired by, the people around you.  Embrace them.  One day, you'll look back on this time in your life and you'll regret that you were too busy dwelling on your flaws to have recognized the beauty of your youth.

Mark my words.


A former (non-)troll.

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