“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh
Starting at a young age, my struggles with self-worth and self-esteem were tangled in my lack of self-identity. A biracial Vietnam War baby, I moved to America in 1972. I was raised in Connecticut, where my looks were a dead giveaway that I was not from there. Feeling out of place, I didn’t feel like I belonged or feel accepted.
Growing up, I was also never told I was pretty. I was teased for having thick thighs and told I was ugly. I longed for a compliment, but my mother taught me that if people said anything nice to me, they were probably talking about me behind my back. Or, they were trying to take advantage of me. Therefore, accepting compliments was never easy. I just believed I would never be pretty or good enough for anyone.
In my 20’s, I started getting a lot of attention from guys, but it only made me angry. If I wasn’t pretty enough before, then why now? I told myself that guys just wanted sex.
People also started noticing me more because of biracial celebrities like Mariah Carey and Halle Berry. When the movie "Wayne's World" came out, I was often told I looked like Tia Carrera. When "Ugly Betty" aired on TV, I was told I looked like Vanessa Williams. And yet, I still chose to believe people were just trying to be nice to me.
I never saw my beauty. It would take me decades.
I did, however, see my inner beauty. I knew I was kind, compassionate, loving, giving, and genuine. Even though I was shy and lacking confidence, I always made sure my actions spoke louder than words. My mother showed me that doing things for others was the way to acceptance. So, my actions screamed with kindness and gave people the chance to see beyond my appearance and into my heart.
Over time, I realized doing good deeds and being a good listener to my friends helped me heal. It distracted me from how I saw myself before and gently guided me to see myself as I truly was. Knowing my actions reflected a beautiful heart, I eventually considered the possibility that I could be beautiful. In time, I realized that everything that made me different also made me beautiful. That's when my self-love journey began.
Today, I see myself so differently. I see my beauty in my uniqueness. When my full lips spread into a smile, I create a welcome sign that invites others to get to know me. My almond-shaped eyes see all the possibilities in the world. They are also hazel-green, a color so rare that only 5% of the population have them. My nose represents my proud cultural heritage. And, my skin color vacillates between two shades, representing the two worlds that made me whole.
Everything that makes you who you are is what makes you beautiful. From your best traits to your flaws, from your achievements to your mistakes, and from every curve of your body to the every line on your face, you are beautiful.
Being yourself and staying true to what matters most to you makes you beautiful. But accepting yourself makes you most beautiful.
Look beyond your skin to see your beauty within. The love that grows within you glows out of you in everything you do, and its brilliance lights up the world.