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Friday, April 19, 2013

The importance of not being beautiful

Let me tell you a story of a little girl named Frances who absolutely loved to read. Yes, we're talking about me. When I was around 11 years old, I was done reading and re-reading the encyclopedia and decided it was time to tackle big novels. First thing I got my hands on was Alex Haley's Roots. It was a very harrowing story of rape, racism, abuse and slavery. Most parents would never let their 11-year-old girl read about rape, racism, abuse and slavery. Papa realized this when I started pestering him about it.

"Why did you read that book?" Papa said, frowning. "Girls shouldn't even be reading books. Your pretty little head should only be worried about being beautiful and making good coffee."

Starting beauty regimens early.
Papa always valued beauty. He told me I was the most beautiful girl in the world, second only to Mama, of course. Mama also valued beauty. She dressed me in frilly dresses, allowed me to paint my nails when I was 7, took me to the salon for my first perm at 9, and bought me my first high heels on my 13th birthday. When I was a teenager, I was allowed to dress in mini-skirts because, Mama said, "You have nice long legs. Show them off now while they're still nice."

So at home, I was told constantly I was beautiful. Outside my home, however, it was a different story. All of our relatives and all of my parents' friends told me, "You are so skinny. Ugly skinny. Your teeth are too big. Your ears are huge. Your face is long, like a mango. Sometimes, you look like a horse with your big teeth sticking out like that. Too bad you didn't take after your mother. Your mother is beautiful. You are not."

At a very early age, I learned that beauty is subjective. So I decided just as early on that beauty isn't valuable. I can dress up, make up and fix up all I want but there will always be someone out there who'll think I'm ugly. But being smart—that's undeniable. If I were smart, I can talk to anyone in the world and they can think whatever they want about my face but they'll always agree that I have an amazing brain. So screw beauty. I wanted to be smart.

* * * * * * *

This week, a soap ad went viral. It was a very nice ad about women describing themselves to a forensic artist. Then the artist drew a second sketch of these same women based on the descriptions of others. The women were then shown their portraits and they were so amazed at how ugly they saw themselves (first sketch) and how beautiful others saw them (second sketch). It was rather melodramatic, with tears being shed and all. I thought it was cute.

The next few days, however, were filled with reactions from women I know to be smart, talented and accomplished. They loved the ad because it spoke to them—they never felt beautiful and this soap campaign assured them otherwise. I was dumbstruck about that. In fact, I went livid for a good few hours. How is it that we tell girls that it's what's inside that counts, that we must be women of substance, and then an ad comes along and our real feelings are exposed—that deep inside, we really don't believe that? That what we really believe in is it's physical beauty that matters. If you really believe that what makes you matter is your talent, intelligence, accomplishments, relationships and your family, then what people think of your face does not matter.

Look, I like looking good. I like nice dresses and having my makeup done. I love coloring my hair. But I can look in the mirror and say, "Ugh, pimples again!" or "Okay, fat day! I'm wearing a loose dress today!" or "Bad hair day. Bun!" That doesn't mean I have low self-esteem. That doesn't mean I think I'm ugly. That just means I have pimples or I'm bloated or my hair is having a tantrum. No big deal. It shouldn't be a big deal. Why does it become a big deal for most women? Is it the fault of our parents, of media, of society?

My former job demanded I look good all the time.
I think I'm beautiful. But back when I was a magazine editor, I was always told otherwise. You see, I did product and service reviews and I was told regularly that I needed all these if I wanted to be beautiful: liposuction for my fat tummy, breast augmentation, Botox for the wrinkles around my eyes, laser for lightening my pimple scars, hair treatments for my damaged hair, foot spa for my cracked heels, whitening treatments for my dark elbows and knees, etc ad infinitum. I always laughed them off.

Even though my parents raised me to value looks, even though I worked in an industry that pushed for good looks, even though I'm bombarded with images of gorgeous women in media daily, I have an objective view of myself and of other women. There will always be people prettier and uglier than me. So what? In the great scheme of things, I would never want to be remembered for my face.

* * * * * * *

I'm a mother of two boys. I've noticed a difference when my friends and I talk about our kids. My friends with daughters always gush about the cute clothes they bought, how the little girls are already into makeup, how they're teaching their girls to care for their skin and hair. Meanwhile, my friends with sons talk about how their boys are in soccer camp, or enrolled in gymnastics, or are really into books and music and math. Girls are raised to be the best-looking. Boys are raised to be the best.

We may have the same parents but they didn't raise us the same way.
I want to see a world filled with women empowered by their accomplishments—whether it's about earning a degree or becoming CEO to making the best damn cupcakes and being a good wife and mother. I want to see women who care for their appearance but believe in their heart that beauty does not matter.

How do we do this? How do we raise our daughters so that they see that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain? How do we teach them to value their character, to improve their mind, to nourish their soul, to make their bodies healthy? How do we protect them from the flattery of duplicitous men? How do we build for them a self-image so strong that they will be secure and confident in who they are and not what they look like? No matter what they look like!

In a world with empowered women, being told "You're more beautiful than you think" will not be met with tears and relief. An empowered woman would snap, "Whoever told you I thought I was ugly anyway?" If the ad is to be believed that only 4%—just 4%!—of women in the world think they're beautiful, we are clearly doing something very wrong with raising our daughters. That's the conversation I want the ad to provoke, not gooey warm feelings that will evaporate anyway.

* * * * * * *

My husband seldom tells me I'm beautiful. Sometimes, on fat days especially, I fish for a compliment and Vince will always be exasperated and say, "Of course you're beautiful! You know that already!"

He does always say that I'm hardworking, smart, funny. He always says, "I'm so proud of you," "You did well," "That was good writing," and my ultimate favorites: "You make me happy," "You're a great mother." My husband sees beyond my face. He sees the real me and I am glad.

37 comments:

  1. i loooovveee this! i just remembered i have a- err - will have 2 daughters. and honestly i am not sure how i am or if i am making sure she remains beautiful and knows that she is no matter what. masyado ata akong focused din on skills and talents kaya mas stage momma ako in terms of her academics, sports, etc, hehehee
    -Rafela

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    1. Omigoodness! You have another baby coming??? Congratulations, Rafela!!! =)

      I'm not worried about you or your daughters. You're a smart woman with a beautiful heart. You have always rocked!

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    2. yep baby #3 on the way, due on june 14th :) malapit-lapit na. exciting but honestly i don't know how we'll take care of 3 kids. di na pwedeng tag-1 ng kid e, hehe
      -rafela

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  2. coming from kate blog ,reading ur comment ,I love love ur post !!!!

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    1. Thanks, Farida! I also love what Kate wrote =D

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  3. Vito looks like you! And you look like your mom too! You're beautiful inside and out, Ms. Frances. :)

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    1. Aww, thanks! I look like my dad actually =D

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  4. Oh my, this post made me choke. You always touch my heart and my pride when you write stuffs like this. I hate you! Hehehe...just joking! I love you, and so with your blog.It doesn't matter what other people think about ourselves, it is always what we believe in,
    more power to you Ms. Frances! And don't worry much about home making, the mess and stress always comes with it. Just handle it with smile. Hugs and kisses!

    Araceli

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    1. I knooow! I really shouldn't stress about the mess. But when it's messy, I trip over toys, lose things, can't find anything, etc, etc so it's more stressful! Arghhhh! LOL

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  5. Great post as usual frances. I have three girls and this is my dilemma. How do I raise them to be the best and still be considered feminine? Thankfully my husband is helping me do this by raising them like boys, encouraging them to be the best and telling them that gender should never be a hindrance to what they can achieve. I think I keep them grounded by always telling them that they will always be beautiful but there will be others that won't always think so and that's just fine. God gave us qualities that make us unique and we should develop these qualities. Women empowerment ba ang peg? Hehehe

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    1. You and your husband are doing an amazing job! You are raising incredible women! God bless you both! =)

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  6. Great post. I just realized that my parents never encouraged me to look good. Basta mabango, malinis at walang sakit, ok na. They love me for me. Laki ang tiwala nila sa inner beauty. hehe

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    1. Yes, yun lang naman talaga ang kailangan—malinis and healthy! =)

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  7. Great great post! Definitely something I try to pass on to my daughter -- trying not too put that big an emphasis on looks. If she wants to wear the pretty dress, fine. If she wants to run around and get sweaty and messy, fine as well. I haven't seen the campaign yet (maybe the only one who hasn't seen it!) but I believe that you have struck a chord in that there is really something amiss in how we raise our girls. I see and hear it all the time.

    Belated happy anniversary greetings to you and the hubs!

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    1. Yes, I'm not saying women should stop caring for their looks. But I wish we would dress up for ourselves—because we love ourselves—and not because we want the approval of others!

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  8. I seldom watch these sponsored videos because I know they've been planned and designed very well to stir feelings of insecurity in even the most beautiful and successful women. On the rare times that I do watch, I make sure that I'm in it only for picking up marketing tips and techniques, nothing more...

    It's sad how the world never ceases to do this repeatedly to women (and even men!). But then again, it's up to each one of us to fight it! Beauty is good, yes, undeniably, but it isn't everything... :)

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    1. You know, you're right. Even the most secure of women will have to admit they felt "something" when they saw this ad. Because all of this—no matter how gorgeous we are—have time and again felt ugly. And even if we're feeling very confident now, the ad brings up those sad emotions!

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  9. My mom did not raise me to be so conscious about beauty. In fact, ngayon lang kami nag-uusap about beauty regimens nung nagkaanak na ako. However, she did raise me to devour books and knowledge. That's my investment. You're right, Ms. Frances. I may not be as beautiful as the next girl, but no one can deny the fact that I'm smart. Hindi na mapipigilan! Haha!

    www.DavaoMommy.com

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    1. Wag ka magpapigil =D

      P.S. The only beauty products we need, according to my dermatologist, are sunblock and tretinoin. =)

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  10. Love this Ms.Frances.Parents like us have big task ahead in raising kids that can see and appreciate people beyond their skin and physical beauty.I agree that the environment can be a big influence to us, it can make us and break us but as long as we know who we are, nothing is impossible for us.You are an inspiration Ms.Frances :)

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    1. Oh thanks! As a mom of two boys, I also want to teach them to appreciate girls beyond the physical. I hope I do a good job! We must pray for each other and empower fellow mommies!!!

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  11. Frances you've articulated exactly what I felt after seeing that Dove ad! Thank goodness I'm not alone!

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    1. There's not a lot of us, though. =(

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  12. I saw that video as well. While it was cute and enforced positive image, ang nasa isip ko, "first world problems". Haha! Beauty or cute was a word that was never used in our house. I was encouraged to do well in academics. Period. I do believe how one look is important so I take care in how I present myself (hello, first impressions!) but yes, as one commenter said, it isn't everything. When we get old and wrinkly, it will be our other attributes that will come to the fore: strength, character, personality, wit.

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    1. Diba?! Problema ba talaga yun? May nagsabi sa akin, "Hindi mo problema yan kasi maganda ka." Thanks. But that's the world I want to see nga—that beauty is not in the physical!!!

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  13. Bat ganun, ako rin naman, I wasn't raised to be so conscious about being beautiful, pero gandang-ganda ako sa sarili ko! CHOS!

    Seriously, that's my husband and my problem now because we have a daughter. But you know what, with people like you, Frances, I still believe that women can be tough and smart and still be very beautiful. Heck, I have devoted my time to be a work-at-home mommy so that I can guide my daughter in this world. This is the perfect time to be a housewife so, yes, hopefully, even if I am a mommy-at-home, I can be a good example to my daughter. If mommy can do it, so can she:)

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    1. Tama yan! We have a huge responsibility to our daughters. I don't remember the article but I read that women have a huge effect on a nation's economy and progress. More educated women means less population growth, more businesses, more women working, more spending. We must empower our little girls!

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  14. Love this post! I always pick up a thing or two about life! As soon as I saw that ad, I shared it on my mom's wall with the caption , "You don't need a noselift, mom! You have the perfect nose!" -- just a few days ago, she said she realized her nose is ugly and I tell you, it's really not! She was serious and called Belo clinic to inquire on a nose lift. Tsk. Waste of money!

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    1. I'm okay with people wanting to improve their looks naman, yes, even plastic surgery =) I haven't done it myself but nagpa-braces ako for many many years. Parang surgery na rin yun LOL

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  15. Hi Ms. Frances, this sentence really struck me... "There will always be people prettier and uglier than me. So what? In the great scheme of things, I would never want to be remembered for my face."

    I know I am beautiful, but I just really can't help comparing myself to those who look better than me and to get approval of others with regards to my looks. I don't know why I have this desire to be on the top of everything and seek approval from others (ever since I was jilted more than a year ago by my boyfriend of 6 years), it's just ridiculous! On future days when I'll feel really down I'll just look back and read this post of yours to remind me that there are things more important than what's superficial.

    I am an avid reader of your blog, but I seldom comment so I'm taking this chance to tell you that I really love the way you write! Keep it up! You are one of my inspirations. :)

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    1. We women are raised to seek the approval of others kasi—we want to please people, diba? Plus, you feel rejected pa because of what happened sa love life mo. But you need to love yourself na! Love yourself deeply! =)

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  16. a very beautiful post. i don't like dressing myself up kasi i always think na i'm beautiful na (haha, beauty is subjective nga)... but whenever i go out and see a lot of women try to beautify themselves, i felt self-pity na i should do the same kasi time will come na kukulubot na ang balat ko, and whatever make up i apply wouldnt have the same effect if i do it now.

    and btw, you are beautiful, frances. very much :)

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    1. Oo naman, we should still take care of our looks! But not because we are vain or because we're insecure, but because we love ourselves! My spiritual counselor always says, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Take care of it!"

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  17. Well said, Frances.
    My goal is to be the role model that my children will look up to. There are things now that I try to avoid saying like "ang taba taba ko" or "and itim ko na". Little things like trying to be brave when I am really scared of the dark because I don't want my kid and future kids to feel scared all the time like I used to be.
    I want my children to say, I want to be like my mommy/marry someone like my mother. Smart. Caring. Confident. Beautiful. Happy.

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    1. Ako rin ganyan! I never really cared about my appearance until I had sons. You and I have the same reason! Baliktad for other women, diba?

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  18. Hi Mommy Frances. This is the third time that I read this article since you posted it, one of my favorites from your blog. I just love how you conveyed your message.
    Somebody in the office told me I am ugly straight to my face. It did hurt my feelings. How can someone be so mean and uncivilized? Yet, I think of the people who told me that I am kind, smart and effective in my work and that is all that matters.

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    1. I've been told I'm ugly, too. It hurts, of course, but IT DOESN'T MATTER! Chin up, Jenny! =)

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