I was one of those kids that always tried to duck out of photos. That never smiled because I had deformed teeth. That was just bony and scrawny and looked like I’d just keel over. That had thin flyaway hair that looked messy no matter what I did. I was convinced I was ugly. 

Adding to this conviction, were the notes. When I was 15, for a period of maybe three months, every single school day, I would find a note in my school bag, with just one word written on it: “ugly”. I never told a soul. And never caught the author. Just took the notes to heart. 

I somehow still managed to get a lot of male attention, but I put this down to my demeanour. Especially the way I would never say ‘no’ to them. In fact, I thought I’d better act like that or nobody would ever like me because I was so ugly. 

Later, when people told me I was pretty, I never believed them. Convinced it was a trick, and that they actually just felt sorry for me. That I was just a scrawny ugly runt and to be pitied. 

Deeply ingrained thoughts are hard to counter. 

Some people go on about Millenials and “selfie culture”. Call it self-absorbed and narcissistic. But being on Twitter and seeing all those people unashamedly posting photos of themselves has stirred something in me. A re-examining of long-held beliefs. And, yes, there is a lot more to life than looks, than being “pretty” and “cute”. And my self-worth is obviously not based on my looks. But, I have gradually started taking a few selfies of my own. And although I hate most of them, I feel it is a worthwhile exercise. And finding a photo of myself that I like, that makes me feel not-ugly, feels like a form of therapy against all the bullying of my childhood. 

Call me shallow if you will. Call me whatever you like. But I will no longer call myself “ugly”. 

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