I was never satisfied with the way I looked. Growing up, I was a fat, shy, and quiet boy. I hated my eyebrows, my nose, and my thighs. This was reinforced when, during family gatherings, I would always be introduced as the smart one while my brother was the cute one.
This reached its peak in 2014 after a string of romantic rejections. I was on PlanetRomeo and Grindr, two gay dating apps, and I wouldn’t get any replies. It hurts when you put yourself out there and get ignored. I also dated someone and it didn’t go well after the first date. My self-esteem plummeted so low that I enrolled at a gym.
After my then-boyfriend and I broke up (I had a steady supply of chloroform), I installed Tinder and realized I wasn’t as ugly as I suspected. I wasn’t deluged with matches, but enough to boost my ego. It helps that you’re only allowed to send messages to people who swiped right on you, which makes rejection less painful compared to being completely ignored. And because of its swift pace, you forget about that guy you swiped right on but swiped left on you.
It’s a scary thing when your self-esteem is tied to the way you look, but it is a fact that we are judged first based on appearances. And when you read about stuff like erotic capital (which include beauty, sex appeal, social skills, liveliness and humor, social presentation, and sexual ability), and how it has become a major determinant of personal success, it makes you feel like you failed as a human being if you don’t have it.
Things changed for me when I read Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. She wrote, “I had already made a decision early on that I would be a plain girl with tons of personality and accepting it made everything a lot easier. If you are lucky, there is a moment in your life when you have some say as to what your currency is going to be. I decided early on it was not going to be my looks. Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.” Right then and there, I stopped nitpicking my crooked teeth, my paunch, and my resting bitch face. I accepted that I will always look like this unless I go the cosmetic route, which I’d rather not do.
So what’s a plain-looking guy to do? I learned my currency: my personality. I’m funny, witty, and smart. I have great listening skills and I can carry a good conversation. Instead of moping that I don’t have six-pack abs or a face that could launch a thousand ships, I highlighted my strengths.
I remember this quote by the noted fashion editor Diana Vreeland: “You don’t have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive.” Yes, I did not look better when I realized this, and I did not get more matches on Tinder, but I learned that personality is just as important – or even more important – than looks alone.
If you think about it, looks rarely play a role in love and seduction. While it does attract attention and set off sparks that will illuminate the night sky, it is charm, personality, and wit that get people to stay. There is also something sad about relying too much on something that is fleeting. Come on, how many times have you been turned off by hot people who have terrible attitudes or nothing between their ears? History agrees with me on this. Cleopatra, Benjamin Disraeli, and Oscar Wilde were not known for their physical appearances but devastated men, women, and crowds with their charm and intellect.
That doesn’t mean we should rely on personality alone. Even if I have accepted that I will look like this for the rest of my life, I still take care of myself. I try to eat right, I exercise as much as I can, drink tons of tea, and get enough rest. My two secret weapons: moisturizing lotion and lots of happy thoughts. I am a mess, but I choose to dress my mess up.
It may seem like my context is relationships, but at this point in my life I believe in doing this for myself first. I am currently in the process of loving myself – every pound, every flaw, and every split end. It is looking in the mirror and being content with who is staring right back at me and accepting that I am more than just my looks. My nose doesn’t define me. The craters on my face don’t define me. It is a life well-lived, one where I was kind and giving, where I burst forth light and love. I believe that it is only when I learn to fully love myself can I be loved by others.
In the process of writing this, I received a cruel message from an anonymous guy on Grindr who said I was ugly. Because I had a lot of time, I decided to fight back using witty banter. He was clearly trying to provoke me, but he was the one who ended up being angry. I may be ugly, but at least I know how to be clever.
What’s your currency? Share your thoughts below!
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