Editor’s Note: Just in time to usher in the new year, here’s a submission from a fellow Monashian about her journey towards self-acceptance.
In this era of a tech-savvy society, people are constantly being drowned by unrealistic standards of superficial beauty. Social media indubitably aggravates it; leading many into ridiculously believing that beauty is only attainable by what is seen on the outside and making them feel inferior aesthetically whilst trapping them in the abyss of insecurities and vulnerabilities.
I used to be one of those people.
But, not anymore.
Flawed. Blemished. Imperfect. That was what I saw myself as. Then I concealed. It felt so much better. But, I got so caught up with the idea of trying to be so perfect just to keep up with society’s expectations that I didn’t realise I was losing myself in the process. It hurt but nobody knew. I kept lying to myself and to everyone else. I didn’t have a choice. I was just desperate. Desperate to be loved; to be accepted by everyone else.
I despised how people would just jump to conclusions and begin judging. Imagine yourself going out shopping and having hair product promoters promoting hair products to you and random strangers coming up and questioning you. I was only a child back then. Neither did I know what to say nor how to respond. They don’t know but it really hurts. I felt so insecure and I was so tired of being swarmed with so many questions and unnecessary condemnation.
And so, I covered everything to shut people up. My entire world back then revolved around nothing else but just head scarfs, head scarfs and morehead scarfs. It was like wearing a mask. No one knew the real me. Only I did. I definitely looked better in photographs. No more questions and I was happy. Well, I thought that I was. But, I was wrong.
There’s only one word to describe my life. Complicated. My life is filled with nothing else but tangles; thorns that have left me bleeding with wounds. I had battle scars. Sometimes I myself question how I emerged victorious and survived them. 5 medical diagnoses within a span of 12 years. I never asked for any of them. My fight with beta-thalassaemia major was the craziest one ever with unending blood transfusions and iron chelation regimens. Nevertheless, just as I thought I had finally attained a new hope of life after the bone marrow transplant (BMT) and that everything had ended, I continued being tested. I was further diagnosed with bilateral cataracts, hormonal insufficiency and atopic eczema. What was worse was that they didn’t come all at once. They came one after another. Each time I uplifted myself, I’d be hammered and pushed down once more. The last straw came when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2011. Last year, I was also on the brink of depression.
Alopecia Areata and Vitiligo are uncommon in our society. Walk down the streets now, and I can reassure you that nota single person would have the scarce aesthetic hair disfigurement I have. I mean, I’ve definitely heard of and seen people with skin problems like psoriasis, acne, eczema and vitiligo. But Alopecia Areata? Not at all. Well, not at least in where I grow up in. And honestly, this is what scares and haunts me. It still does up till today.
People view something rare as weird, peculiar and different. But what they don’t see is that like gems, even the rarest ones are capable of gleaming and radiating out their own unique streaks of glimmer and sparkles. I guess that’s what makes me special? One of a kind, I suppose. Somewhere out there if anyone is just like me, I’d like to say that do not be afraid for you are not alone.
It wasn’t my choice. I never asked for the Graft-Verses Host Disease rejection after the BMT. It nearly engulfed my entire scalp and I was even bullied before because of it. Surviving the BMT meant that I was left with permanent aesthetic scars. It dawned on me that I was nothing but full of defects, full of flaws.
Scarred; That was how I really was.
No one knew but deep inside, I suffocated. I hated myself so much, especially the way I looked. I never saw myself as beautiful. I just kept being toxic towards myself, repressing and drowning myself in that pool of aesthetic insecurities. Seeing how pretty other normal girls were made me feel worse. I felt jealous too. I envied other people. And of course, I hated myself for that as well because I knew it was tremendously awful, vile and toxic to feel that way towards other people. I yearned to be able to freely unveil the real me to the world and taste that invigorating breeze of confidence and self-love. But, back then, I couldn’t, yet.
I still get stared at often, even now. They still look and I’m pretty sure that questions still go around like a whirlpool. It does break me for a moment when that happens. But no matter what, I just keep trying. I try to uplift myself and walk proudly while taking my things in my own stride amidst all the unnecessary condemnation and judgement.
To conquer all the negativity and tribulations Life has decided to flaunt me with was merely a choice. But, of course, some choices do come with costs. Mine was to purely devote and commit myself to the notion of acceptance and self-love for as long and as best as I could.
The ensuing freedom was far beyond incredible. I’d like to call it a new beginning; a beginning that is marked with profound exuberance and new-found happiness and love.
I think everyone deserves to be happy, don’t they?
Even the sick, the repressed and the vulnerable.
Superficiality. Trivial at first glance, yet people’s lives are heavily revolving around it.
But, true beauty lies beyond that. Dive deep and unleash deviance while opening your heart. Nudge even that slightest valour prevailing and set your soul free whilst embracing your flaws and imperfections, for those are what make you, you.
Ignore the judgers, the haters, the stigmas, the vulnerabilities.
Be strong and be you. You’ll get there, I promise.
Because I did, so will you.
–Never let Fear control you—Emelyne, 2017
Photos and article by Emelyne Ho