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I So Ugly

TW: self-harm, suicide

This video appeared on my Instagram feed this morning. I don't even follow the account, it was one of those videos that just show up, based on what you like, and I guess they were right.

I watched it, and immediately started crying. Hard. Guttural sobbing.

I compare these types of cries to an exorcism. Because something old and deep and murky is literally being released out of your body. Energy is being moved. It usually takes a trigger, and a lot of the times the trigger is completely unexpected.

I started telling myself I was ugly at a very young age. Probably around the same age as this child. For most of my life, it was the core of my depression, anxiety, obsession, and self-hatred. In middle school I started cutting myself. I hurt myself until my 20s. In college, I was suicidal. I tried everything to look different--starving myself, obsessively exercising, constantly cutting and dying my hair, wearing too much makeup, dressing provocatively--but of course, nothing changed the way I felt about myself. I was completely obsessed, and would spend late nights comparing myself to models and celebrities online. I had a boyfriend and I was nearly impossible to be with, always insecure, unable to go to parties and social events without freaking out, getting too drunk and crying about how ugly I am and how he should leave me. There was even one night I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and threatened to kill myself.

At some point, I tried to get help. I went to the counselor on campus. They told me my case was serious and I needed to see a professional off campus. I started seeing this man who put me on anti-depressants.

It wasn't until my 30s when I really started to take my life seriously and turn my life around. Of course, if anyone reading this has heard any version of my life story, I had a lot of issues I needed to deal with, a lot of actions that needed to be taken, a lot of work to be done, and a lot of teachers and helpers and support that showed up in my life.

But very recently I've been realizing that since I had so much crazy and insane shit going on in what were the multiple bottoms of my life, I had forgotten how it all started, that it had started with... I so ugly.

And of course, through the years and years of therapy (I still go bi-weekly), support groups, mentors, and woo-woo spiritual work, I got to see where the I so ugly story came from.

Of course I believed I was ugly. From an early age, my mom was always finding ways to make me look different. She'd make me get out of the sun so I wouldn't get too dark. She tried to massage my nose to be thinner when I was a baby. She permed my hair for my entire childhood. She constantly pointed out when people were pretty, or ugly, or fat. If a Filipino person was mixed with white, they were superior. (There's an entire conversation I could have here about colonialism and colorism in Filipino culture, but I won't go there right now.)

And not to mention, my father was obsessed with the sexualization of women. The garage of my childhood home was collaged with photos of centerfolds and swimsuit models. There were Playboys and Penthouses all over the house. There were framed photos of centerfolds in the bathrooms and in the closets. I would watch him rent porn at the video store. He always checked out women in front of my mom and I, it was like a tick. He'd point out women on the TV. He'd say when someone had big breasts or a nice ass. He'd say when someone was ugly. He once came home and told me about the strip club. I was so little. Don't ask me where my mom was in all of this. Every time someone asks me that, I don't know what to say.

Of course I believed I was ugly. My dad was obsessed with these women. These white women. I registered--at an early age, that time when your baby brain is soft and absorbant and taking on everything that you feed it--that that's what men wanted. That is what attractive looks like. And I looked nothing like them. Of course I believed I was ugly.

Throw in the fact that I grew up never seeing anyone who looks like me on TV, in movies, on cartoons, or in magazines, or the fact that I wanted so badly to be an actress, a star, but there was no proof that I could be that, and yeah--of course.

OK, I'm not trying to play a victim here. I'm not even trying to self-loathe. I've spent thousands of dollars on therapy to be able to say I forgive everyone, it's not my fault, it's not anyone's fault, everyone was doing their best with what they had, it's ancestral cycles and trauma, I get to break the cycle, blah blah blah blah blah.

But I guess it was just surprising to remember, so deeply, so viscerally, such an old wound. It's easy to forget how far I've come. It's easy to forget why I am the way I am sometimes. And when I so often feel like I'm not good enough, and I try to cheerlead my way back into believing in myself, now I can remember who I'm really talking to. It's the child in the video. It's me as a little girl. And I love her. I'm sorry it's so hard sometimes, kiddo.

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Awwww Little Charlene is just as cute as she is today. Thank you for sharing this. I hate that we grew up with such toxic patriarchy and media in the 80s/90s . The YM and Seventeen magazines that sold us impossible Ideals to sell more diet pills , beauty products , and magazines. All so gross. But I'm so glad you are leading the way and changing the narrative for the present and future generations. I'm so glad my daughter has a Charlene D to look up to !!!

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