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How I Convinced Myself That I'm Beautiful

Because there are MANY ways to be beautiful.

When I was 15, I was pimply, awkwardly thin, with alanganin hair. It didn’t help that I was friends with all the pretty girls in school. I sobbed to my mom, worried that no boy would ever find me attractive. I feared becoming an old maid. Fast forward to the present: The oily skin and alanganin hair are still there, but I don’t beat myself up about it anymore. I’ve come to appreciate—and celebrate—who I am and what I have.

Remember the heartthrobs in high school and how effortlessly beautiful they looked? Chances are, they don’t look as good anymore, because they never had to work at it. After 25, there’s no such thing as effortless beauty! I learned how to work on my looks, so I improved over time. I took a good look at what I had and decided to make the most of them: I’m tall, I inherited my mom’s good legs, I like my eyes—so I chose to highlight these features. I always enjoyed dressing up, so fashion was an easy avenue for me to use to better my image.

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I make an effort to continually improve myself in all aspects of my life, and that’s how I found my beauty.

Working in fashion, I’m always surrounded by impossibly perfect specimens—gorgeous girls with flawless faces and perfect bodies. But a smart and stunning model once told me that the sad thing about being beautiful is that if you’re not sure of yourself, you start to believe that beauty is all you have to offer, that once you get a pimple, gain two pounds, or get older, you aren’t worth much anymore. It’s all you ever think about, so you forget to develop other aspects of yourself—like your humor, wit, intellect, and compassion. That’s why the women I find beautiful are those who stimulate their minds with intelligent conversations, broaden their knowledge by experiencing different cultures, and know how to adapt to different situations and personalities. They have a genuine interest in the people they encounter and a positive outlook on life. Because what good is your beauty if your personality is bland or bitter, and nobody likes you?

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My job also requires me to work with hunky, hot men (tough job, right?). A startling discovery I’ve made from working with them is that men don’t always go for the prettiest girls.

Sure, they’re immediately impressed by the hot babes—great beauty will always make a grand entrance—but more than perfect breasts and long legs, you’d be surprised to find that they enjoy the company of a girl with a sense of humor even more than that of a bombshell without one. They also appreciate girls who see that there’s more to them than their rock-hard abs and piercing gazes. I’ve also seen how a girl unimpressed with their good looks is the kind they find most interesting. Not just because she poses a challenge, but also because they sense that this girl is interested in things other than looking good.

Note that attracting guys is just the effect of believing you’re beautiful, not the sole goal or measure.

How beautifully ironic that being in this environment has made me appreciate other things about myself in spite of my flaws. Instead of feeling insecure, I’ve grown to be more confident about who I am and how I look. I’ve also realized that there are so many kinds of beautiful—as there are ways to be beautiful. More importantly, I’ve learned to accept that my beauty goes beyond my looks, bad hair days notwithstanding. Yes, I’ve tried hair treatments and been to dermas for help. But I’ve also made a conscious effort to see the unique value and beauty each person has to offer—myself included. Besides, you can only stare at someone for so long! The impressive quality of physical beauty is, by nature, truly fleeting. Don’t pour all your efforts into your outward appearance because, pardon the cliché, inner beauty really is for keeps, and the connections you form with it are deeper and more rewarding. And if you still find yourself unhappy about your looks, it’s useless to complain. Do something about it instead. Nothing “uglifies” a person more than negativity.

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This story originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, August 2012. 

* Minor edits have been made by editors