To the girl who called me ugly,
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in fifth grade, and we were on the school bus on the way home from school. You always sat next to me or behind me. I looked up to you. You were popular, smart, surrounded by a lot of friends… and boys. And there was me. Glasses, quiet, shy. But I never had self-esteem issues. Until that day when you called me ugly.
OK, fine. You didn’t come straight out and call me ugly. But that’s what your overall message conveyed. It began with my clothes -- they were plain, nerdy, and unfashionable. Then you moved on to my face. I needed to trim my eyebrows. My glasses weren’t cool. I didn't wear make up. You shaped your eyebrows, you had contacts, your make up was impeccable, and you got your clothes only from the name brand stores. You were smart, and pretty. You just had it all.
I never worried about my looks until that day. For the first time, I went home and studied myself in the mirror, and began to see what I lacked. I began to feel like I wasn’t good enough. No wonder I didn’t have any boys interested in me. My clothes were nice, but they weren’t “cool.” I never dared to take a pair of tweezers to my eyebrows. I never liked my glasses to begin with, but I really began to hate them. My face was plain. I wished that I was more like you.
A few weeks later, I made my first trip to the “cool” name brand clothing stores. By the next school year, the majority of my wardrobe was from those stores. Some of the other people on the bus who overheard your comments complimented my new clothes. I began to feel “cooler.” But I still had my glasses, and still stayed away from the tweezers (which I did for a while because they my eyebrows weren't that bad... and I was only 11) and the make up (I wasn't allowed to wear it yet). But I still felt insignificant. My new clothes didn’t change anything. I didn’t become popular, and there weren't any boys crushing on me. And I still secretly wished that I could be more like you.
For years after that conversation, I had incredibly low self-esteem. I couldn’t stop comparing myself to other girls. I wanted better clothes, better hair, a better body. But I realized that it was vain to feel that I was only worth as much as the price tag on my name-brand clothes. I began to buy clothes that I liked and looked good on me, even if they weren’t from the “cool” stores. And you know what? I began getting complimented. But it wasn’t because of how I looked; it was because of the kind of person I was. I tried my best to be kind to others and not say any insulting comments because I knew how it felt to receive them. While you got compliments because of your appearance, I was getting compliments because of my personality -- which I think is more important.
I'm not saying you're a bad person, because you're not. I’m not angry with you. In fact, I pity you. They say that most bullies were victims of bullying themselves, and if that was true in your case, I truly am sorry. You might have had self-esteem issues and had the same feelings about believing that you weren't good enough. But that's no excuse to make others feel the same way about themselves. I don’t think you’re a terrible person, but I do think you need to check your priorities. You’re so much better than the clothes you wear and your perfectly shaped eyebrows and make up. And even though the words you said to me hurt and had a negative impact on me, there were still many lessons I learned (and that you can learn, too). I've moved on, and I try to remember all the good conversations we had and laughs that we shared. I learned that, even though this is so cliché, beauty comes from within. I don't want to be like you. I want to be me. And I want you to be like you, because you are beautiful.
The girl who you called ugly