Acceptance of others begins with accepting yourself. The second chapter of See Yourself, See Each Other by Allure and Ulta Beauty, spotlights personal journeys from self-consciousness to self-acceptance. In publishing these powerful stories, Allure and Ulta Beauty continue their movement celebrating respect, empathy, and limitless beauty.
Picture this: You, growing up in the Philippines and being told your skin isn't beautiful, your complexion is too dark, you don't look Southeast Asian enough, and you really should be doing those popular skin-lightening treatments — all these comments you easily shrugged off because you're a strong lady who doesn't care what others say. Alas, that wasn't the case for you, my younger self. Those words stuck with you. People threw them around so casually, delivering their barbs through backhanded compliments like "You'd be even prettier if you had lighter skin" or "I love how you don't care about how dark your skin is!" All followed with an "I'm just kidding!" Those words, received at such a young age from your closest peers and the most random strangers, still hurt. It seemed like your complexion was the butt of every joke — so much so that you accepted it and considered their opinions normal.
You need to realize that Southeast Asia (and Asia as a whole, for that matter) has the craziest beauty standards: You're only socially acceptable if you have fair skin, a stick-thin frame, an eyelid crease, glossy, straight hair, etc. — all of which you don't have. But it's not just you. Ask any other Filipino who has a similar complexion as yours, and you'll find they've probably been on the receiving end of the same old unsolicited "advice" on how they can achieve society's beauty standards by undergoing XYZ procedures. You didn't understand why it was so commonplace for Filipinos to scrutinize those with a darker complexion and shame them for having it.
It was even more confusing for you because almost everyone had the same beautiful morena skin as you, but still you were shunned. I know it stung you for a while. You were pretty worked up about it too, which led you to look up alternatives on how to get lighter skin just so you could be accepted and be like everyone else. I'm so glad you didn't go through with any of it, not even a piece of brightening soap or whitening lotion in your bathroom shelf. I'm proud of you for sticking with that decision. If you hadn't, I wouldn't be here telling you how happy we are in 2019. If only you could see us now: We've moved past our worries about our complexion and are now beyond confident with this beautiful skin we've been blessed with. Besides, being like everyone else is boring anyway. [flips hair]
The journey here, however, was a long and bumpy one. The bad news is you'll continue your self-deprecating ways for a little over a decade, heading into adulthood and well after college. But the good news? In 2016, you're going to make the wild decision to uproot your life in the Philippines and move to New York by yourself, and it will change your life drastically. Your coming here will be your make-it-or-break-it moment, one you thought was going to be career-centric. And it will be, but it will also prove to be so much more than that. You will learn more about yourself in New York than you ever have before. In time, your self-worth will spike, and you'll celebrate every inch of yourself. You'll learn that being different is amazing because you're able to appreciate yourself more. Here you're an immigrant, you're queer, you're Asian, you're petite, and you're a brown-skinned woman who's out here making a name for herself and celebrating the fact that despite everything life has thrown at you, you're still surviving — and thriving.
Trust that you will still hit those low points every now and then, but you are slowly getting to learn what self-love truly is. It's still going to be a long, arduous road before you fully accept yourself and your imperfections, but I promise that with your mindset and the chosen family you'll eventually have, things are going to be so much more better. As cliché as it may sound, always stick with what your gut says because at the end of the day, you do what's best for you and no one else.
Now repeat after me: You're fierce. You're morena. You're kayumanggi. Your melanin is poppin', and your skin is beautiful. Say it out loud because you are beautiful.
Originally Appeared on Allure