On Feeling Ugly

You’ve made a point of avoiding it. You consciously avert your gaze. Walking past it one morning, your attention slips, and you come face to face with your reflection in the mirror. The crooked smile, the crippled finger, the attenuated eyebrows. You’ve put on weight, you don’t look happy, your smile doesn’t have the exuberance of photoshopped models on Instagram. Looking at yourself, you can think only one thought: ‘I am ugly’.

Philosopher with Mirror, Jusepe de Ribera, 1600/1652

But there is more to ugliness than meets the eye. We know there are fit people with symmetrical faces, perfect smiles, and voluptuous bodies who think they should live under bridges and demand gold coins from travelers as they pass by; they are trolls after all. And yet, there are people with flat faces, distorted features, and misshaped bodies who consider themselves as Aphrodite’s offspring; the most beautiful creatures to have blessed the face of the Earth.

Believing you’re ugly has less to do with the state of your flesh and more to do with the state of your soul. The difference between feeling beautiful and feeling ugly has, quite surprisingly, very little to do with how we look. Rather, it has almost everything to do with the degree of love and respect we have for ourselves.

In more ancient times, people believed the state of one’s soul was reflected in the state of their body. A leper, therefore, was to be condemned because their physical decay was seen as reflecting the corruption of their soul. A physical deformity was seen as a manifestation of spiritual deformity. Parodying this ancient maxim, our perceived physical ugliness is really a reflection of self-hatred in our soul.

When we say we are ugly, we are telling ourselves that we do not consider ourselves worthy of the love, respect, and compassion we so readily grant to other people. You are not ugly; you are just suffering from a bruised and battered soul. You don’t need plastic surgery, new clothes, or a new haircut. What you need is to feel properly loved and valued, and for someone (else, or yourself) to remind you that you are beautiful, on the outside but more importantly, on the inside, where it counts.

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