One of the reasons I reached out to Ife Agboola is because I see her as someone who though young, leads an inspiring life. At the time of writing this, she is a law student at the Obafemi Awolowo University, who uses every platform she’s got – like her social media, blog, and book – as an avenue to impact people’s lives positively. Ife is also beautiful. Very beautiful, which is why I was so shocked when I asked her to share something with the girls for the Beyond the Surface campaign, and she replied with a story, more like a heart-pour on how she used to see herself as ugly and how badly it affected her self-esteem.
Her story surprised me but it also opened my eyes to a lesson I will share with you at the end. Enjoy!
Growing up, I never felt I was beautiful, not even for one day. I remember staring at my reflection once while in primary school and just never wanting to look at a mirror for my entire life. I had overheard adults comment that I wasn’t beautiful but only had a fair skin as saving grace.
This way of seeing myself continued for the most part of my secondary school, I felt really ugly compared to all the other girls in my class and just wallowed in low self-esteem. My esteem issue was also compounded by the low-income level of my family which meant I could not have many of the things that other kids had. I always tried to find corners to hide away from everyone else and anytime people commented that I was beautiful, I just would not believe it. I remember a friend suggested one time that I try for the Queen of my house during my school’s inter-house sports competition and I had vehemently refused, insisting that I would only be putting myself on the shelf as a laughing stock compared to the other Queens.
There were a lot of effects that resulted from how I felt about myself but one of the most prominent was allowing myself to be bullied by a particular boy through my secondary school. On one of those days, during our lunch hour and in front of everybody, this boy slapped me and he got away with it because he knew for certain that I wouldn’t do anything about it. I had felt privileged at the thought that a boy as handsome and popular as him could like a girl as ugly as me (it’s funny thinking about it now), so everything he did it to me was fine.
Starting out in the university, I didn’t give too much thought to how I looked and I didn’t necessarily perceive myself as ugly but the truth really was that I hadn’t really dealt with my esteem issues. The truth I depended on to validate my beauty was what others had to say about me and not what I really thought about myself. This new attention from guys based on my beauty and particularly ‘my assets’ as they called my hips spiraled into a pattern of abusive and toxic relationships that cost me a whole lot and took me a long time to recover from.
A couple of things, however, challenged my perception of beauty and helped me heal afterward. The first was seeing a post on Instagram from a lady who suffered from a hormonal condition that made her grow beards. Her face was heavily bearded and in the post, she had talked about being beautiful even though she doesn’t conform to the conventional norms of female beauty.
The other thing that helped me was knowing Jesus. Through my relationship with Him, I have learnt not to only focus on outward beauty but on an inner kind of beauty; the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. I am learning to focus more on who I am on the inside than the person that I am on the outside. From this relationship, I have also learnt that God carefully made each part of me and I am perfect. Self-acceptance is a journey and being on it means that occasionally, I still remind God that I need bigger boobs like some of my friends, but ultimately, my relationship with God really helped me see and accept myself as I have been created to be.
Finally, the other part of me that I’ve learned to embrace are my scars. The scars that wounded my esteem the most were not the physical ones, like the semi-tribal mark I had gotten on my face while trying to settle a fight in primary school, but the emotional ones that I battled with on my inside. Those scars were ugly and there was always that fear of how the world would perceive me when they knew my failures. In learning to accept myself, I had to deal with many internal scars – one of which was the feeling of incompleteness that being sexually abused as a child had left me. In learning to accept myself, I had to choose forgiveness.
Those scars are a badge I now wear. It’s like a veteran who fought in a war and won. I do not need to hide the scars. Instead, I embrace them, knowing that the strength I gathered can help something else and that the lessons learnt are a part of my victory.
To everyone out there battling with low self-esteem as a result of your looks, I would say love yourself, and that’s beyond using the #selflove hashtag on social media. The journey to loving and discovering yourself isn’t a 2-day or a one-year thing. It’s a process, but in that process, choose to love yourself. God made you perfect and though, you come face to face with your flaws, they are only a reminder that you are human and there is the need to grow. Remember that the beauty that matters the most is the beauty of who you are on the inside and not what people say. You’d realize it’s not worth it, leaving your validation to the crowd, who today can chant, ‘Here’s the King we have been waiting for’ and the next day, they are chanting ‘Crucify him’. Embrace yourself and you’ll see people will accept you, as you’ve presented yourself to them.
Wow. I loved Ife’s story. I mean, do you not agree that Ife is really beautiful? Yet she still went through all that, which is why one of the lessons I picked from this is that no matter how beautiful you might look, if your mind is scarred from the negative words you might have heard about yourself over time or certain bad experiences you might have been in, you would never see yourself as beautiful. Not just that, you would also not be able to achieve the amazing things that you could achieve, because your mind won’t be able to comprehend that you can.
As we round up the Beyond the Surface series, I would like to implore you again to please work on your mind. This low self-esteem, you can overcome it. Going forward, I need you to believe that you are beautiful, but even way past that, you have so much, so much more within you, that if harnessed, will make you into a woman of substance & greatness as you grow.
Over to you now, did you pick anything from Ife’s story? Do share it with me in the comments. Also, if this story reminds you of your self-esteem experiences and you’d like to share yours too, please reach out to me. By the way, you can also find other ways to join or support our ongoing campaign here.
Till later, with love.
pS: You can check Ife’s profile and follow her on Instagram here.New Post from the #beyondthesurfacecampaign Series; Beyond a Scarred Mind - a story by Ife Agboola. Click To Tweet