You *WILL* Grow Out of Your Ugly Duckling Phase

ugly-ducklingWe all go through that phase. Don’t lie. Your teenage years could make or break you. Some teens are gifted with jackpot genes; some have to endure acne and bird’s nest hair. And that’s fine. You either stay the gorgeous teen queen that you were, or you become homely (rarely happens, but I’ve personally seen it happen!), or you show up at your high school reunion with a vengeance.

I’d like to think I’m the latter.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t that wallpaper-like in high school or college. But I wasn’t exactly drop dead either. I probably had maybe two or three admirers, but nothing ever came of it. Those guys always had some prettier girl in their sights, ranked high above me.

This post is about vanity and how sometimes it’s a great tool to overcome the sheer absence of self-confidence. It’s okay to look in the mirror and tell yourself “I look fantastic!” (which is what I do every day now). I will tell you why.

You know what I looked like in high school?

The sleepy looking chick. This was in 2002, when I was 14. Very sexy come hither look, wouldn't you say?
The sleepy looking chick. This was in 2002, when I was 14. Very sexy come hither look, wouldn’t you say?
And this was 2005, when I was 16. Our Senior's Ball. I looked more manly than my date. Crooked teeth and unkempt eyebrows.
And this was 2005, when I was 16. Our Senior’s Ball. I looked more manly than my date. Crooked teeth and unkempt eyebrows.

I hung out with a lot of gay guys, so making myself look pretty wasn’t top priority at the time. It was an achievement if I even showed up to school with combed hair. And to think I was crying about why none of my crushes liked me back. Sometimes, I want to travel back in time and smack myself with a hairbrush.

I have a flat nose and uncharacteristically large, wide eyes. Asians are known for chinky eyes, which I don’t have. Unlike baby fat, bad teeth, and acne, my eyes were something I couldn’t change or fix. So imagine being made fun of for that. The term was “budlat”, which means big eyes and literally sounds so harsh  and booming. I hated it. I thought no one would ever like me.

But then I went to college and I thought I should probably get my shit together or face spinsterhood.

2007, with my bestie, waiting for some show to start
2007, with my bestie, waiting for some show to start

I dabbled with mascara and powdered my face so I didn’t look so shiny walking around campus. My hair wasn’t as messy anymore, but my brows were still out of control. It would be seven years before I did anything about them.

But then some days I'd fool around in the classroom and look like this monstrosity.
But then some days I’d fool around in the classroom and look like this monstrosity.

In college, I was known more for being the girl who would write your 10-page essay for you if she had spare time. No one knew me as the Mass Communications hottie. Not like I worked for it. I had my eyes set on one guy, and he didn’t seem like the type who wanted a high-maintenance chick. So I bro’d myself out.

Or spend down time at my friend's place looking like I got into a fight with the Jersey devil and won.
Or spend down time at my friend’s place looking like I got into a fight with the Jersey devil and won. (I got a perm when I turned 18.)

But then my college crush dated a girly girl and I was absolutely….crushed. Devastated. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is laughable now because we all became friends and still are to this day.

I hung out with a group of girls who were way talented and très gorgeous.

Cherrie (the girl my crush dated haha), Gail (amazing singer), Lesley (explosive sense of humor), and Michy (beautiful Chinese lineage showing through), and me (eh)
Cherrie (the girl my crush dated haha), Gail (amazing singer), Lesley (explosive sense of humor), and Michelle (beautiful Chinese lineage showing through), and me (eh)

Put together, they had so much sass and fire that I couldn’t help but want to be like them. They could sing (I could imitate a dying goat), dance (I could demolish a bungalow with my style of hip-hop), act (I just can’t), and they looked good doing it (I was aight). They all had guys pining for them long-term. I was kinda the wishy-washy loveless fool of the bunch.

I had such low self-esteem. In high school, there were a lot of really pretty girls that made girls who looked like me take several seats. In college, it was all about brains and beauty. I was surrounded by a lot of both, but I had only brains. Maybe. (I mean…my classmates did look up to my writing skills, so I at least have that going for me, not gonna lie.)

Then I left for California, where shortly after I had an orthodontist fix my crooked teeth. Eighteen months of braces and I can now smile semi-confidently (the braces didn’t fix my huge gums).

Notice the new smile?
Notice the new smile? And red hair. I started dyeing my own hair because I never got to when I lived in the Philippines.

It was a slow process, but I introduced myself to makeup and a hairbrush and tweezers throughout the years living here. The guys are more straightforward so crushes became flings. I had to at least put some work into my looks if I wanted to keep seeing the cuties that I somehow tricked into giving me their time of day.

There were a lot of hair, makeup, and fashion mishaps along the way, but it’s part of the learning experience.

Those roots with that lipstick? (S/O to my mom being sassier than me.)
Those roots with that lipstick? (S/O to my mom being sassier than me.)
Triple birthday (me and twins). I turned 22 this night. And I want to slap my face 22 times for going out with this look.
UUUGHHH!!! Triple birthday (me and twins). I turned 22 this night. And I want to slap my face 22 times for going out with this look.

It’s embarrassing to look at these failed looks, but I get it. I’ve looked worse before. But what’s good is that I look better now. I lived with this girl Sara who was a self-proclaimed princess. She was super self-confident and I think that characteristic rubbed off on me. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s done wonders for my self-esteem. She was always saying things like “Pay attention to me!” or “Come hang out with me instead; I’m better” or “This princess needs her beauty sleep.” I loved it. She owned herself and the entire room. And she was always looking fly.

So now, twenty-six years of my life has culminated to this:

11407173_10153412371064292_4089035432804209117_n

So you see, even if you think you’re hopeless right now, things will get better. You’ll discover makeup. Your self-confidence will pick up. You’ll grow out of plain shirts and jeans, and experiment with bolder fashion choices. Your chubby cheeks will make way for defined cheekbones and slender jawline. You’ll have money to invest in a curling iron. It will happen in time. Trust me on that.

Some might think I’ve grown cocky over the years, but you know what? I’d rather be cocky than downtrodden. I’d rather be a Sara than the same shy Sam from the 2000’s. This new Sam gets shit done.

I hope the guys who didn’t deem me worthy back in high school and college because of how I looked are smacking themselves right now. Those kids who called me “budlat” will be glad to know that the guys I’ve dated here keep telling me that they were smitten because of my big brown eyes. And I’ve had someone gush over my “cute button nose”. Oh, how the tables have turned! Tooting my own horn feels like a right I finally deserve. I can’t wait to show up for my high school reunion.

Until then, I get up every morning, put my face on, look in the mirror and say, “Hey there, beautiful.”


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