Because of what I thought must be a near-universal preference, I grew up thinking that my blonde-haired, blue-eyed younger sister was prettier than me. (This was the pre-Belle era of Disney Princesses.) But since I am almost three years older than my sister, I was always taller and faster and stronger. I didn’t need to be prettier, too. I remember my mom telling me that when she was pregnant with me, she imagined I would be born with my dad’s black curls and her blue eyes. I felt like I had arrived muddled, with neither attribute — just regular brown hair and brown eyes.
I accepted these perceptions as reality — that brown hair was less desirable than blonde and that my looks were slightly less than what was hoped for — but they had seemingly little effect on me. My parents, and my mom especially, have always been very affirming. I don’t remember them telling my sister she was pretty, but I know they told me. My mom still regularly calls me pretty in many different contexts (though she might like me to wear makeup more often). And yet, I didn’t really believe her because I figured all children heard similar things from loving parents. Neither did I put too much stock in the affirmations of older people, especially the older men I encountered, who frequently commented on my looks. I was a confident child, believing myself to be neither very pretty nor very ugly. Childhood for me held few real demands for beauty.
But as I entered adolescence the focus changed. Suddenly, my classmates all seemed to value looks and beauty. Never attracting much attention from my male peers, I assumed that my looks, my face, and my hair were just plain, average, maybe even boring.
I remember one day as a young teenager when I stood in the bathroom looking at myself in the mirror. As I studied my face — freckles, chin, eyebrows, and hairline — my brown eyes stared back at me. Nothing exciting, I concluded. And just then I was struck with a revelation. I knew in that instant that I was pretty, that God had not messed up. He had not accidentally made me a little too plain. On the contrary, he had intentionally chosen these looks uniquely for me. And if God had designed my face and picked these eyes to go with this hair, who was I to say it was boring or plain?
It was that simple. From that moment, I have liked my appearance. I know my experience is rare, especially for a young teenage girl. I am thankful for this truth and all the pain I was spared because of it. My hair and eyes are still just brown, but I know they were chosen and paired specifically for me. Some days I wake up and focus on the dark circles under my eyes. Or I can’t get my hair to do what I think it should. But overall, I am content with my looks. I am pretty. I like what I look like because God made me this way on purpose. God thinks I’m pretty, so I do, too.
Sasha grew up in the US Virgin Islands on St. Croix. After high school she moved Stateside and played for the softball team during her undergrad years at Haverford. She has her MA in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton college and currently works as an employment associate for World Relief. She lives and began a homework club for kids in a refugee community in Wheaton.