I was 14. You were both a year older. Every time you saw me for a year you told me I was ugly. Those were the only words you ever said to me – “You’re so ugly”. You could not have known my dad told me I was fat almost as frequently. I doubt you’d have cared.
The first few times I shrugged it off, wondered what I might have done to upset you, even though I didn’t know you and we had never spoken. But the more you said it, the more it started to affect me, yet I never made the connection that what you were saying was what was changing how I felt. I had never given much thought to my face up until then. But suddenly I found myself getting ready to go out with my friends then looking in the mirror and crying because I believed I was really ugly. I didn’t want anyone to look at me. I felt ashamed of my face. I started comparing my features to those of my friends; it was almost an obsession. It was very painful.
Because of you I lost what little confidence I had to begin with. I would hear “you’re so ugly” running through my head all day. When I told someone about it, which was humiliating by the way, they just said that I was pretty and you must be jealous. But I could not find a reason you would be jealous. All I could think was I must be the ugliest girl in the school if you felt the need to point it out so often. I stopped going out with my friends because I didn’t want anyone to look at my face, I just hid away in my bedroom. Soon my friends didn’t want to be my friend anymore because I wasn’t fun now; I just stayed in and cried.
I refused to open my bedroom curtains because I preferred to be in darker rooms. This caused many fights with my mum as I would scream and burst into tears every time she came in to open them. In the end she gave up. I still prefer dark rooms.
I grew to hate myself. In my 20’s I found myself calling in sick to work and missing parties because what I saw in the mirror went beyond ugly. I thought I was offensive. I didn’t understand why I felt so ugly until I was 16 and read ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ but by then it didn’t matter where the belief came from, the seed you had planted had become so deeply rooted inside me.
I felt ugly on my wedding day just so you know. There have been days at a time when I don’t let my husband look at me because I’m so convinced of my ugliness I am sure he will leave me if he just looks at me one more time. It goes beyond vanity, you made me feel like I can never be good enough. People tell me I’m pretty and it makes me uncomfortable. It would take a thousand you’re pretty’s to undo just one you’re ugly. I was so angry at myself for being ugly that I cut my face with a knife. Thank god for make up.
It’s now been 18 years since you told me that I’m ‘so ugly’ and it still affects my life. I struggle enormously with my self-esteem. I find it very hard to look in the mirror. Some days I just don’t. It’s been extremely difficult for me to talk about until recently. I’ve told very few people up until now what you did to me, because I don’t want to point out to them that I am ugly. People have said things like “Oh it was just kids; everyone gets bullied, you need to get over it” but I’m not sure if I ever will because at a time when I was young and appearance was everything, you made me believe that I am very ugly. And not just ugly but bad. Your words never go away even though it has been many years since you said them.
I have come to learn that words are the most powerful thing we possess. They can be inspiring or they can be destructive. Perhaps it was funny to you and I doubt you even remember now, but those words have destroyed many years of my life. Maybe I seem vain for that, but that is the power of words. It is never ok to say unkind words to anybody.
I’ve been so angry with you both when I think of all the things I’ve missed because of you. But I want to thank you. Thank you for being my greatest teachers about the power of words. Because of your words I choose mine carefully. Thank you for teaching me, though it has taken me years to learn, that just because someone says something about me does not make it true. And thank you for teaching me that real beauty, I mean REAL beauty, is on the inside. I may never believe I’m beautiful outside, but I know I am beautiful inside and I would choose that every time.