"Butterflies can't see their wings. They can't see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can. People are like that as well." - Naya Rivera
Are you getting fat? Have you gained weight since the pandemic swept our nation and swept the supermarket shelves clean of toilet paper and ramen noodles? Are you depressed because your clothes don’t fit and your bra is too tight?
With Memorial Day weekend just around the corner and the weather getting warmer, we might have noticed we put on some weight while digging for lighter clothes in our closets. And for some of us, it’s not a pretty sight. For the past six weeks, many of us have been living in loose-fitting clothing where the only thing separating us from a plate of nachos or tub of ice cream is a drawstring or plastic waistband. Our pajamas and sweatpants have been a lot more forgiving than we are with ourselves right now.
We can be too critical about our appearance from time to time. We might think we’re too fat, too short, or too old. We might focus too much attention on areas that we wished looked different. You might think your nose is crooked, your rear end is too flat, or that your ankles are too thick. Certain features might also make you feel self-conscious, like a scar on your forehead, a gap between your front teeth, or a mole on your face.
Your dissatisfaction and feelings of low self-esteem might stem from scrolling through social media images of people you think are more attractive than you. Do yourself a favor and don’t look! If you’re not in a good place mentally, then don’t look at images that trigger more negative emotions. In other words, if you can’t look at another person’s account without feeling bad about yourself, then delete or avoid them. If you're already feeling bad about how you look and have a habit of comparing yourself to others or not feeling good enough about yourself, then stop. It would be healthier for you to focus on taking actions that boost your mindset and overall health instead. That is how you can be more loving, kind, and compassionate with yourself.
Fear of disapproval might also cause our self-criticism. This fear drives our obsession with caring about what others think. Seeking approval, acceptance, and belonging starts in our childhood. When we’re kids, we want to look and be like everyone else. We also want to have what everyone else has. Being more alike than different made us feel safe and helped shape our identity. But, when our differences are the focus instead, it can make us feel unwelcome and afraid of being teased or bullied. As kids, being teased or bullied about our looks is the worst feeling in the world, and that can carry into adulthood. Therefore, you might be more sensitive about your appearance because someone had teased or bullied you too many times in the past. It’s been embedded in your memory and created a conditioned response of negative thought patterns over time.
This is something I know about all too well. After the Vietnam War ended, I moved from the Philippines to Connecticut, where my brothers and I stuck out like sore thumbs. Because we were one of the few half-American/ half-Filipino kids in town, we didn’t feel like we fit in or belonged. Our skin would get very tan during summer. And, our noses looked different from the other kids’ noses. When trying to guess our nationality, people would ask us, “What are you?” instead of "Where are you from?" Some people even referred to us as “monkeys.”
As I got older, I became self-conscious about my body, too. I wasn’t skinny like American girls - not even like my American cousins. I had thick thighs and a bigger butt. My grandfather, father, and my brother constantly teased me about it. In fact, all I remember about summer was dreading wearing a bathing suit and being called “thunder thighs.”
But it didn’t stop there. Looking different made us a target for racial slurs, too. To some people, my brothers looked Hispanic while I was considered Asian. So, people called them “Spics” while I was called “Gook” or “Chink” on occasion.
But, once we were in our twenties, the tables turned. More biracial singers, models, and actors came on the scene, like Mariah Carey, Halle Berry, Tia Carrera, and Vanessa Williams. That’s when things started to change. All of a sudden, people wanted to look different. Since we’ve become adults, it is astounding how many people complimented our looks and said we looked like celebrities. For example, people would say I looked like Vanessa Williams and that my youngest brother looked like Dwayne Johnson. People seemed to accept us more once they could relate our looks to someone famous. We went from being called "monkeys" to “exotic.” It was weird.
As kids, we wanted to look like everyone else. As adults, everyone wanted to look like us. Can you imagine? I know this because people would tell us and because I’ve seen women drool over my brother. The racial slurs also stopped dead in their tracks once Hollywood changed.
Since then, I have grown from that experience and turned the page. Now, we live in a world where some women want thicker thighs, a large, round butt, and blue hair! There is a full spectrum of shapes, sizes, and looks that people perceive as beautiful. Yet we still have trouble seeing our own beauty.
The problem is people are quick to judge a book by its cover. This is what makes our society so ugly. The truth is you are so much more beautiful than this. Your beauty lies far beyond your cover. It lies deep within your pages. They are rich with details filled with emotion, action, plot twists, scene changes, and characters who tell the beautiful story of your life. Your beauty lies within your thoughts, goals, and dreams. And, it lies within the attitudes and actions that support them and bring them to life.
Your beauty lies in the story you tell for years to come. This pandemic has been an unusual chapter for us all. The weight or the wrinkles that came along with it are just part of the storyline. No one anticipated living under house arrest this long. People are under an enormous amount of stress, fear, and uncertainty. These circumstances brought the world to a standstill, causing many of us to stay sedentary in a house full of food. Weight gain was inevitable.
You choose to turn the page when you’re ready. If you don’t like the way you feel right now, then start creating healthier habits only because you want to and not because of what anyone else will think.
You are so much more than what anyone else thinks. All that matters is what you think and believe to be true for yourself. Let your truth be beautiful, like the wings of a butterfly designed to soar high above the treetops and flutter above a flower’s bloom. Be loving, kind, and compassionate through this worldwide metamorphosis, my Pineapple.
You are a butterfly and your wings are beautiful even if you can’t see them yourself. If you want to see them, just look at the way you treat yourself and others during this difficult time. Therein lies a reflection of your true beauty.
Live, Love and Lead with Aloha.