There’s 521 photos on my phone’s photo album. 1/3 of them are selfies. Now before you ask yourself, “Who does this chick think she is?” and before you think I’m vain, let me tell you about my pain.
I remember the first time I was called ‘ugly.’ I was in Kindergarten, barely old enough to understand the meaning behind the word, but old enough to feel the crater-size impression it left in my chest. And I wondered how a word I barely knew how to spell could make me feel so small. Because suddenly, I became aware of how vast the universe is, and dictionaries and encyclopedias can only tell you so much.
They can tell you a definition, but can’t help you understand the concept. Concepts have to be taught and learned. So, when I looked up the definition of ‘ugly,’ I was confused, because I thought everything was beautiful, and I didn’t understand how everybody else couldn’t think so, too. But, boy, did I learn. Because hearing the same thing over and over and over again makes you start to believe it. And no matter how untrue it may be, it eats away at your self-esteem until it’s as small as you felt the day you realized the magnitude of the universe.
I can’t remember the second time, or the third time, or the 444th time. But I remember the first time, and I remember the worst time. (and if you know anything about me, you probably know the worst time, too.) Between the first time and the worst time I tried to swallow myself up, because then maybe I could feel bigger. But I also starved myself, because I wanted to be smaller. And when people acknowledged my existence, I would stare at the floor while my ears turned red, and my breath left my chest. And I would mumble out my answer–quickly and quietly, like the way teachers tell children to evacuate during a fire drill. Quickly and quietly.
And sometimes I still talk the same way: eyes down cast, quickly and quietly. Afraid if I take too long to answer, the person I’m talking to will realize I’m not as beautiful as I should be or want to be. And maybe they’ll see past the makeup I wear to hide my imperfections, because somehow, I got the short end of the stick in the Looks’ Department, and nobody will love me now. And that explains how I can go from self-confident to self-conscious in no time at all (especially in a dining hall that can go from empty to crowded in less time than it takes for me to realize I can’t measure up to the beautiful people I’m surrounded by). And don’t get me started on the whispers, the pointing, the stares. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.
And this ugliness I was told I possessed turned into an ugliness I felt in every breath. I call it: Depression.
Depression isn’t always beautiful girls slicing their skin, and handsome guys fighting a glorified, heroic battle. Sometimes Depression means not wanting to get out of bed ever, because somehow your feet refuse to believe they won’t shatter on impact when they hit the ground. Nobody likes things that are broken. Sometimes Depression means doing laundry is the biggest feat of the week, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes Depression means lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, thinking about nothing and everything, because your body is convinced it’s paralyzed. Sometimes Depression means that I, a writer at heart, can’t even string together coherent thoughts other than, “I’m trapped and drowning, and I swear I’m trying.” And people don’t want to hear the same story over and over again. But sometimes, that’s the only story I know how to tell. Sometimes Depression means every bone in your body aches, but you have to keep doing your routine, because some people still think Depression isn’t a valid disease. Sometime Depression is ignoring every text message you receive, because even though the number is right, the person they’re searching for is nowhere to be found.
And it’s days like this, days where all I want to do is lie on the floor and never move again, days where I feel the ugliest that I post selfies.
Selfies like these:
I post selfies on my “I feel ugly” days, because they allow me to see my whole face and whole body in ways I’m not always able to. Because of selfies, I have become a regular part of the world, not always beautiful, but not always hiding my face and body. And it’s so liberating.
I post selfies, because they help me believe I’m beautiful.
I told myself the only way to be beautiful was to be someone else. Boy, was I wrong.