Dear Daughter: I was (not) a knockout in high school

A colleague at a client’s office told me the other day that I must have been a knock-out in high school. I almost fell to the ground from belly aching laughter. As flattering as it may have sounded, she couldn’t have been more wrong. And as much as I like the way I look (on most days), I know that back in high school, I looked like a distant relative of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

No, no. Not April O’Neill. 

The turtles.

megan-fox-vs-michaelangelo
What they thought I looked like: Megan Fox as April O’neill VS What I really looked like: Michaelangelo (because a real picture of seventeen-year-old me is to crazy for the weird wide web)

Out of curiosity, I asked her what made her think that way (of course, as I *casually* flipped my hair). She said that it’s because, every time I open my mouth to speak, I exude a confidence, like one of those popular girls in high school. Once again, I almost fell to the ground from another round of belly-aching laughter. What a ridiculous thing to say, I thought. However, I believe that if my seventeen-year-old self heard that seventeen years later she would be thought as one of the popular girls, she would definitely be squealing with delight.

You see, I wasn’t a very happy seventeen-year-old. I struggled a lot with body image and insecurities issues. I was not the smartest girl in my class, and in an all-girl school, I know I was definitely not the prettiest. I didn’t have that many friends. I was scared most of the time. I often wished I was anywhere else but here and anyone else but me. I didn’t like myself very much. However, along the way, something changed. I changed. I found my confidence. And then later, I learned my self-worth.

If you looked up the words ‘confidence’ and ‘self-worth’, you will find that while the two are often interlinked and mistaken for one another, they are actually two very different things. Confidence is how a person feels about her abilities in a particular area or situation. For example, I can be confident when I am talking to a group of people, but I have low confidence when it comes to math or posing in front of a camera. Self-worth, on the other hand, is knowing who I am and how I value myself.

I often wondered when I began to gain my confidence. But every time I look back on my journey, I would always think that it started when I began to really ‘live’ in college. Those four years I spent in college were the best of my teenage life! (I really don’t know how to tell you the whole story without boring the living daylights out of you on this letter, but I’d really love to tell you about it when we have the time.) To keep it short though, during those four years, I made new friends – people who I actually liked and who liked me back. I had crazy experiences. I found out what I was good at. Studying communications became really interesting and I started getting good grades. I began to think that I was actually good at something and I think that part of me gained some confidence, at least in the professional world. But I still didn’t like myself very much.

Straight out of college, I met your father. I really liked him right off the bat. He was smart, easy to talk to, and he had the best ideas! I thought he was such a cool guy who was destined for greatness (I still think of him like that, by the way!) And the crazy thing was that he really liked me back. It was weird at first, especially when my insecurities would surface and I’d end up awkwardly asking him for reassurance as I repeatedly asked about what he liked about me. Wait, in fact, I’d often doubted if he even like me at all, because why should he? But you know, his patience to answer my questions every time really paid off and I know that I really gained my confidence in myself as a whole, when I learned to view myself through his eyes.

It didn’t happen overnight, but over the years, I have learned to see what he saw in me and I began to like what I see. I wish I could tell you that I started liking myself just because I decided to like myself and that was it. But it wasn’t. I needed someone to help me. I needed to borrow someone’s “eyes” to help me see and to help me to like what I see. And when I started liking myself, that’s when I found my self-worth. That’s when I began to really value myself.

I dug up an old picture of myself the other day and showed it to my friend at work who thought I was a knockout in high school. We all had a good laugh over it, because I was, in fact, a knockout – a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kind of knock-out! I mean, I wasn’t going to refrain from pointing out how wrong she was and we weren’t going to avoid talking about the fact that I looked absolutely ridiculous! Not that I don’t look ridiculous now, I still do (more often than not). But I guess the difference is that I like who I am today… ridiculous look and all.

Everyone is made beautiful. If you can’t see it, maybe you need to adjust your vision. The world is going to tell you many things, but I want you to remember that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. If you need to borrow someone’s “eyes” to see just how beautiful you are, then by all means, please do. Your father and I will always be willing to lend our eyes to you, to make you see just how beautiful you are. You are wonderfully and fearfully made and the plans made for you is great. And I will never cease telling you exactly that.

With all my love,

Mama

(The extremely edited version of) This post was first published on www.axioo.com

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