Becoming Photogenic

nicola-perantoni-251“You’re not even a little pretty, who would look at you.”

“Why are you so ugly today?”

“What a fat ass.”

“So chubby. Try eating less. Exercise more.”

The words that come out of mouths can hurt a lot worse than any slap could.

But then again…

“Why do I like you? You’re cute, super outgoing, you give amazing hugs, plus, you’re beautiful :)”

“Lily, you are too cute.”

“Actually you have such an amazing personality that awhile back I was surprised no one liked you.”

“You’re cute, smart, and charming.”

Today, I am happy with who I am and how I look, but it took about seventeen years for me to finally feel this way.

Most people have had that point in time in life where they feel insecure, when they don’t love themselves. Identity is something most people struggle with as they grow up, and I was no exception.

All throughout my childhood, I was made fun of for my weight and body shape. I never loved myself, never liked the way I looked, never liked seeing myself in pictures. I was never happy with my appearance. I had glasses, my clothes were average and never really flattered my body.

So after seventeen years, what changed to make me “become photogenic”?

It wasn’t one single thing that changed who I was, or as my friends put it, made me glow up and have a transformation.

My first step was getting educated. I was at the highest weight I had ever been in my life, and when I hadn’t grown taller in four years, that really made a difference to me. I took an online physical education class. Of course I always knew of the importance of exercise and healthy eating, but somehow having it clearly stated and spelled out on a screen before my eyes really made me take it to heart. So I started having a regular exercise routine and set goals to reach. Although this didn’t do much for my weight, it did help my fitness.

The second step was my eating habits. I had a bad habit of snacking a lot, mostly when I was bored, not even hungry. I got a job, where I would have six or nine hour shifts and couldn’t snack. Although I only worked on weekends, this habit of just not snacking uncontrollably transferred into my weekday life as well, and I would stop having my large after-school snacks, which usually consisted of cheesy and salty foods. I started becoming more health conscious of what I was putting into my body. The snacks I had were the unhealthiest part of my diet, and changing the quantity and quality of what I put in my body made me drop twenty pounds over the course of a few months.

Third, I finally figured out my style. I got a better sense of what clothes were more flattering on my body, and developed more specific preferences colors and design.  I felt better about the clothes I was putting on because my body would look more shapely in them. Style helped a lot. Even if looks are somewhat superficial, looking good on the outside certainly did make me feel better on the inside. It was simple: I dressed nice. I looked nice. I felt nice.

One of greatest movie cliches that happens to the main female lead: getting a makeover, which mainly consists of just switching out glasses for contacts. This happened to me, and it made a huge difference in my life. I always hated the way I looked in glasses, and was always self-conscious in them. Getting contacts was my cliche movie transformation, and I loved it. The switch did wonders for my self-esteem and confidence. Of course now, I’m also fine with the way I look in glasses, but I do prefer going lens-less.

I met someone special. No, not in that way. I met a bodacious, confident girl. She was open and in tune with her sexuality. She knew how to let loose and have fun, and when she wanted something, she went after it. Her outgoing nature definitely rubbed off on me even in the short time I spent with her, and I came more out of my timid shell and became more accepting of my crazy and oddball personality.

I never thought much of myself before. I never thought anyone would ever find me desirable, and when someone actually did, I was surprised beyond belief. Once the shock wore off, I was extremely flattered. This experience helped me believe in my own abilities, and that I was actually likable as a person to others.

Today I can say that I am beautiful. Inside and out. And it took a long while to finally believe that. I appreciate myself, even if at first it was only aesthetics, but now I also love myself more as a person. I became more confident and more outgoing, which encouraged me to be brave and try new things, like talking to new people and opening myself up to them.

This isn’t a guide on how to be pretty. It’s my story of how I finally came to embrace myself as a person and be happy with my identity. For everyone, it’s different. And especially the people who accepted me, ugly duckling or swan, really made a difference in my attitude about the world.

And as for photos, I pretend I’m photogenic, and then I am. Don’t ever think, “I’m going to look awful,” because then you will. Life is a camera, and even if there are bad photos that come out, you can still have a good laugh about it, move on, and hope the next picture is better.

Just smile!

“You really glowed up this year.”