This is a photo of me. Yup. 8th grade student who just moved to Orlando in 1989 from New York City.
Pretty hideous right?
I wore a dress that was a pass-me-down from one of my aunts. My glasses are ridiculously huge. My hair, well… as an Indian it was the norm to have long hair and to wear it braided. And of course, I didn’t wear make-up.
I was that kid. You know, that kid. That girl who was far from cool and far from beautiful.
Of all the years I spent as a student in good ol’ Orlando, I’d have to say this was the worse year being a kid. Being that 8th grader. Trying to fit in. Why?
Because kids were so mean to me. The popular and pretty girls constantly said to me at school, “Um… like, how about learning like, how to dress?” and then they’d giggle. In P.E (Physical Education) class, I even remember a gorgeous blonde making the comment, “Ewww, you don’t shave your legs?”
What? Shave my legs? But why? Where I came from back in Queens, I don’t remember the girls shaving their legs. In fact, I don’t think anyone even cared.
Still, I had feelings. Of course I was hurt and of course I wish I could fit in more. I felt humiliated and embarrassed every time someone made a comment like that.
Back in Queens where I grew up, I was totally able to be myself. And that’s why I wanted to move back to New York City. Back home to where I felt like I actually belonged.
But here in Orlando, the ego thrived big time in 8th grade. It was all about being popular and looking pretty. Beauty was defined as” looking good”, being “physically attractive”, dressing “in style”, wearing “lots of make-up”. You know, the cute outfits that were actually coordinated (I didn’t match my clothes by the way). It was about the brand-name shoes and book bags, the extroverted personality (I was extremely shy), the magnetic cheerleader attitude.
It was about the hairspray, the higher the styled teased looks, the prettier you looked! Clothes were worn that were hip and savvy, definitely in style! Boys loved girls who were physically attractive, who looked beautiful! And if you didn’t have a boyfriend, well then you just weren’t cool enough!
Bottom line – if you looked like me, the way I did back then, you just weren’t pretty. Plain and simple. And you didn’t get much love at school. You just had to keep wishing and hoping you’d be beautiful enough to be loved someday.
Love. Those were the ones who got love. The ones who were pretty, the ones who were beautiful.
After years of watching many girls at school get showered with love on Valentine’s Day with balloons and flowers and teddy bears oh my, I pretty much grew up not caring much about it. I mean yes, of course I wished I had gifts from someone who loved me so that I can be that girl that everyone wished they could be.
But I was far from that.
Something in my heart just felt and believed that love was greater than looks (meaning appearance) or the gifts that kids got showered with at school.
I prayed to God many times asking him to make me beautiful. I wanted so desperately for God to give me that blonde hair with the blue eyes and that magnetic cheerleader personality. I wanted physical beauty so badly so that I can be loved, so that I can fit in at school like mostly everyone else.
But God didn’t give me that.
In fact, I think God was sitting back laughing hysterically at my crazy, yet sincere, request.
God did give me something though. It was love but the not the love I was seeking at the time.
God gave me real love.
Something most kids didn’t really know about or understand in 8th grade of course.
Something that took me way too many years to understand and truly appreciate but yet became one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.
Tell me something, which human being doesn’t desire to be loved? Doesn’t everyone want love? Doesn’t everyone wish they had, or have, someone to love? Of course! We all seek love! We thrive off of it! We want love from our partners, from our families, from our friends. In whatever way or form in comes, we hope for love, we desire to be loved and we want to be loved in return.
It took many years for me to finally get it, to get the lesson that God wanted me to learn, but regardless of time, it happened. I finally got it. Funny thing is, the answer was there all along. I just couldn’t see it because I was so caught up in the way others saw love.
So although I didn’t wake up one beautiful sunny morning looking in the mirror and seeing myself with that long gorgeous golden blonde hair and blue eyes, when I did look in the mirror, I saw someone else.
I saw Sunita.
That Indian girl with long black hair, dark brown eyes and tanned skin.
And then, there was something more.
I saw a girl who was capable of being love. Yes. A girl who wanted to instill love in other people’s hearts.
Inner beauty. The beauty of the soul.
I wanted others to see that beauty is truly defined by the essence of their own soul.
Love is who you are, as a person, as a being. It is your soul. It doesn’t matter if you’re underweight or overweight or in great physical shape or dress poorly or can’t match your clothes correctly or don’t shave your legs. ;-) It doesn’t matter if you drive that super hot camaro or whether you’re CEO or president of a successful company or not. None of that defines you. None of that defines who you really truly are as a person.
Love is about loving yourself and accepting yourself for who you are.
Love is about embracing your own physical beauty, just the way it is.
Love is about being you!
When it comes to your physical appearance, enhance it if you so desire but do it to make yourself happy, not to gain popularity or with the expectation to receive love in return. Do it because it makes YOU happy, because it adds to your love for yourself.
If you love and embrace yourself just as you are, your will attract the right people in your life who will love you and accept you as is. Why? Because love is acceptance. And love is unconditional.
When you discover that inner beauty that you carry within yourself and foster that beauty, your soul will shine as brightly as ever emanating your true core being, a unique beauty that no one else has or owns but you!
That’s right, YOU!
So remember, love is not based purely on physical beauty. Love emanates from within yourself, from within your own inner being.
You are love!
And you deserve to be loved for exactly the person you are! For your heart. For your soul!
Now, would you still love me if I was still that 8th grader? For those of you who still wouldn’t, watch out, I’m coming after you with my bow and arrow. Cupid style! Start running! ;-)
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Photo Credits: http://www.bostonflowernballoons.com/p3/6462/Valentine_s_Day_Balloons_Bear_12_Mylar-13.html