Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The Girl Who Couldn't Take a Compliment
Day one, my dad drives me to Craig Jr. High, a modern (for that time) building all shiny and new. I walked into my home room class filled with beautiful, fashionably dressed white kids with blond hair and smooth complexions. I was the little half-Filipino girl with weird clothes that had been bought at the Korean market, with a hair-cut done by her mom, no make-up, no jewelry, no friends. People stared, but worse that anything were the monstrous thoughts that filled my head. I was certain that everyone hated me, that every laugh or muffled conversation was about me, that I was a freak. I sank into my seat not wanting to be seen, not knowing that my paranoid behavior made me look even stranger to their curious eyes.
I prayed that I would die right then and there. I prayed that Jesus would return, that the earth would be destroyed and I would be spared this unbearable misery. It didn't help that when I went home and cried my eyes out to my mom in shame that she just told me what she always said since I was little "But you're such a pretty girl!" I knew that I was anything but. The thought of fitting in and looking like the rest of them just wasn't possible. Make-up was forbidden and my mom was convinced that the price of American clothes was ridiculously high, that pierced ears were for "barbarians" and that I was just fine the way I was. I cried after school every single day for the first five months, much to the distress of my mother who couldn't console me.
The trauma of that year marked with self-hatred and humiliating experiences stuck with me for decades, literally. Moving back to my old school and being with old friends in Korea didn't make those negative spirits vanish, they just hovered, whispering in my ears, smothering my sense of self-worth. And so I did what I now know has become the most common and safest defense mechanism of all self-conscious girls. It's the "I'm-too-intelligent-to-care-about-looks-you-superficial-egotistical-jerks Syndrome."
I decided that I liked just wearing plain jeans and my brother's hand-me-down clothes, that pretty girls were probably brainless snobs, and that wanting to be feminine was an insult to my intelligence. People would have to like me for who I was, not what I looked like, and I wasn't about to bow to the dictates of the fashion world. I would dress the way I felt. Sloppy, unfeminine, bland.
I convinced myself that I wore what I liked, but it didn't stop me from hating what I saw in the mirror. I secretly envied girls who looked better than myself and wished I could have their figures/wardrobe/skin/hair/make-up/sense of style/confidence. But if anyone would try to offer help or a suggestion that I should change my appearance, I was up in arms, offended that they would dare imply that I was not happy with the way I was. My superior intellect transcended the shallowness of society's obsession with physical beauty - so I thought. If anyone tried to compliment me and tell me I was pretty, I was also insulted. They were being condescending and implying that I needed some lame encouragement to feel better about myself. I felt just fine, thank you, how dare you treat me like I need your compliments! How I could be so insecure and so arrogant at the same time, I have no idea.
How I became totally secure in my sense of self-worth and beauty and lost all traces of arrogance, is a chapter that will never be written. Overcoming all of this is still a work in progress and I have to admit those thoughts still attack me, sometimes daily. But things most definitely have changed. But I have written too much for one post, stay tuned for part II....