I Don’t Want to be Pretty

I had a thought just now. What if, instead of wanting to be “pretty” we wanted to be smart? We wanted to be compassionate? We wanted to improve the lives of ourselves and of others? What if, instead of spending thousands of dollars on makeup, clothes and hair to make ourselves look like what we think society wants us to look like…we spend the money on getting clean water for towns in Africa? We donated to charities helping to find a cure for AIDS, cancer and muscular dystrophy? What if we spent it on travelling the world and learning about our fellow human beings or even just doing simple things like having fun with our friends? What if, instead of trying to be “normal” or be like everyone else, we embraced our differences and our uniqueness? What if we told ourselves that our flaws are ok? What if we were ok with our situation, no matter how different from other people’s it might be.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the amount of money I spend on makeup, skin products, hair products…all things to try and make myself look “better.” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to look your best. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wearing makeup completely or liking clothes (though sometimes I do get so overwhelmed with it I just want to throw everything away and be rid of it). It’s finding that line and ensuring we’re not doing all of the above in an attempt to be considered valuable by the world. It shouldn’t be a mask to hide who we really are or because we think we’re not enough. I’ve said many times before how living with a disability has made me try and overcompensate by like 1,000% to look a certain way to everyone else. I’ve used makeup and clothes to try and portray an image of myself to the world…the image that I’m not disabled; that I’m just like everyone else. When the reality is, I’m not. I have something that makes me different. I have something that, on the outside, makes me “imperfect.” And you know what? On top of that, I don’t have clear skin, I have bloodshot eyes because they don’t close all the way at night when I sleep (because I have MD), I don’t have the body of a model. But you know what else? That’s ok. I know I’m pretty but if pretty was a person I could talk to I would say, “You know what, I’m ok with not having you.” Looks fade and if you define yourself by those and spend your life trying to look perfect or be considered beautiful, you’ll find yourself looking in the mirror years down the line realizing you haven’t really lived. Finding that the only beauty you ever really needed to find was already there…inside of you.

And wherever I’ve just said “you” or “we” here, I mean myself. I’m the one who needs to listen to my own words more than anyone and constantly remind myself true beauty comes from within, disability or not. I may not totally believe it right now but really, no, I don’t want to be pretty. I want to be a lot more than that.


10 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to be Pretty

  1. Hello Jackie,

    My name is Amy Liu, and I am from the MOT program at Loma Linda University. I just wanted to tell you how wonderful it has been to read through your blog posts! You provide such a fresh and unique perspective on issues that I feel like many people experience throughout their lives. I’ve learned and nodded my head to so many aspects that you bring up in your posts, and I truly thank you for giving me the opportunity to expand my mind by seeing both the beauty and tragedies of life through your eyes.

    In regards to your topic of “pretty”, I can definitely raise my hand to confessing the large sums of money that I have used up in buying make-up, skin care products, hair products, etc. And I think as women, I truly believe that we have been given such a unique set of faculties that are just so different from our counterpart (men). And with these unique qualities, there are both the beauty and the adversities in and of itself. As women, I think factors such as media, social expectations, and gender roles have muddied our perspectives of our own selves. I find myself so easily seeing the beauty and grace of others, but then having an exceptionally difficult time seeing it within myself. Simply put, self-love can be way easier said than done.

    Thus, I truly believe loving oneself is a journey. It’s not a, I love myself one day and that’s the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life. There will be the good days, and then there will be the bad days. What it all boils down to is knowing in your heart that you are beautifully and wonderfully created. And that every fiber of our being is glorious and exquisite in and of itself. What may seem like imperfections to us are actually what makes us, perfect.

    Amy Liu

    1. Hi Amy. So well put! I too find myself seeing or perceiving others in a positive light or thinking they “have it all” or are “much prettier” but when it comes to myself, I am much more harsh. I think you’re exactly right that it’s a journey too. None of us are perfect or can feel 100% great about all things, all the time and self-love is no exception. Thank you so much for the kind and insightful comment!

  2. Hi Jackie,

    I am a student at LLU and just watched the video that you shared with us. I wanted to say first and foremost, thank you for sharing with us. It’s personal, it’s real, it’s your life and I thank you for inviting us in and sharing with us. I also really appreciated that you brought light to the fact that just because people do not “look like” they have a disability, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s not one there. I think so often people (and at times myself) fall into thinking about what you can see without considering that there could potentially be something beyond the physical appearance. Thank you for reminding me of that.

    On another note, I really love this post that you made. I connect with it personally, as I have definitely struggled with these things. You pinpointed the underlying importance when you said that you don’t want to be the person who stares in the mirror years later and realize you never really lived. What kind of life would that be? I definitely don’t think it would be one that would be filled with happiness, fulfillment, and joy. Just like you said, there’s so very much more than just looks and so much more that is worth our time to focus on- like wanting to help others, be compassionate, or be smart. This is a throwback song, but I really enjoy listening it to remind me that the way I am is unique and enough.

    1. Thanks Jessica! I’m so glad this post resonated with you. I wish I could say I felt this way all the time but then I just wouldn’t be human 🙂 It’s a daily reminder I have to give myself to not let my disability define me or my beauty and to not let the societal definition of beauty define how I feel about myself. Choosing to appreciate all the other things about me that aren’t related to my physical appearance. Thanks for the video share too…have always loved that song!

  3. Hi Jaclyn! My name is Amanda and I am one of Sharon’s OT students here at Loma Linda University. Just wanted to say thank you for your video and your willingness to share your story with us all. I loved this post! I think beauty and what it means to be pretty can be applied to anyone, whether you have a disability or not. We are constantly faced with it in our society, and its definitely something I personally think about and stress over too often. I loved your statement about thinking more about being smart than our outward appearance. There is so much more to life but we seem to get stuck on this concept. How has what is “seen as beauty” and having MD affected the dating scene for you? Thanks for your time 🙂

    1. Hi Amanda! I was so happy to be able to share my story with your class and that’s actually the first video recording of that kind I’ve ever done! I love to hear that my posts can be applied to everyone and not just people with a disability too. I always hope I can write about stuff that resonates with everyone.

      I will say that dating has been one of the hardest and most frustrating facets of living with a disability for me. I was painfully shy and extremely insecure for a very long time because I thought not only did my disability make me ugly but I didn’t even think I was physically pretty in general either for a very long time. As extreme as it may sound, there have been times when I’ve thought to myself that no one could possibly ever want to be with me because I have this disease. I’ve only had one serious boyfriend who I happened to know before we dated so he already knew about my MD and who I was as a person so it was a non-issue. He was very supportive and helpful with whatever I needed. Most of the guys I’ve dated I’ve met through friends and that type of thing because I find it’s better for me to meet guys in person first versus something like online dating (which I’ve tried on and off many times) where I tell guys before I meet them about my disability and because they haven’t met me yet, are much more likely to not be able to see past the “disability” label. I know it has without a doubt made it harder for me to date and find good guys because unfortunately, it’s something that a lot of guys don’t want to deal with even though my form of MD is so minor and of course, isn’t even my fault to begin with. I’ve gotten many unreturned messages and flat out rejections on online dating sites. As a result of my MD I am also not planning on having any kids so that adds another level of difficulty there. I think all of us single ladies have had to weed through the jerks in one way or another, I just have an extra filter they have to pass through since obviously I don’t want a guy who can’t accept all of me and would have a problem with my having a disability 🙂 I go through long periods of time without dating at all because I’ve found I’m happiest at this time in my life just focusing on myself and having fun with my friends. I think I probably way over-answered your question there and thanks for posing it!

  4. Hi Jackie,
    My name is Sara, and I’m also one of the MOT students at LLU. Thank you so much for sharing your video with us. What a gift to be able to hear your story and learn from your experiences. You have definitely helped remind us that having a disability does not mean being in a wheelchair. I hope that through advocacy and education, more people will understand this. Your post also really spoke to me. It is so important to pause and remember what is truly important. I will never forget a great line from a professor I once had. She was from a small town in the UK, and after class she said to me “I just don’t understand you Americans. You are so obsessed with exercising and perfecting your bodies. Where I come from, we focus on exercising our minds.” I really hope this was a general statement not specifically targeting me, but nonetheless it has stuck with me. This post was just another reminder to keep things in perspective, and focus on what truly matters. Thanks again for sharing with us. I wish you all the best!

    1. Thank you Sara! That really means a lot. I love that quote from your professor too. She is so right. We focus way too much on exterior beauty here. Here’s to exercising our minds!

  5. Hey Jackie!

    I’m Blake, one of the few guys in the LLU’s MOT program. I enjoy reading your blog! You’re an excellent writer and I’m impressed on how well you express yourself.

    I agree with what you wrote:

    “Looks fade and if you define yourself by those and spend your life trying to look perfect or be considered beautiful, you’ll find yourself looking in the mirror years down the line realizing you haven’t really lived. Finding that the only beauty you ever really needed to find was already there…inside of you.”

    Looks fade and so does a superficial lifestyle. It’s a shame when people can only see what meets the eye and not the depth of the individual. If only more people would wake up and own the beauty they already have.

    I applaud you for defining beauty on your own terms and not letting popular opinion push you around. Thanks for sharing your blog with our class! I encourage you to keep writing and influencing others with your awesome world view.

    1. Hi Blake! Means a lot that you’ve enjoyed reading my blog as one of the few guys in the program 🙂 Thank you for the kind words as well. I’ve always written my feelings down since I was young, I just used to do it in a journal but it’s been a great experience to get everything out there for others to read and if even a little bit of what I say resonates with someone, then it’s all beyond worth it. It’s nice to hear from an outside party that I have an awesome world view. I was a very glass half empty/pessimistic person for a very long time so I still have trouble calling myself positive now even though I know I really am. Thanks again for the feedback!

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