what you doThis post is inspired by some comments on a TV advert that I was recently featured in. Netizens have taken the liberty to highlight my non-beauty by comparing me to 如花, a Taiwanese entertainment personality famous for her “exaggerated ugliness”. Actually, this is not the first time that netizens have said that I reminded them of 如花. A few years ago, when I was featured in an online article on Yahoo! there were similar comments as well.

The truth is if you were to measure my physical appearance by the standard worldly yardsticks, I am definitely not Miss Universe. It has been said that the more symmetrical your face is, the more beautiful you are. If you look closely at my facial features, my left eye is bigger than my right eye. My left eyebrow is also higher than my right eyebrow. Other than having one eye bigger than the other, I also have single eyelids. I also have lazy eyes on one eye. Having always been on the heavier side, I do not recall ever be considered “slim” in my entire life.

Growing up, I remembered struggling with an extremely low self-esteem. I was overweight, had acne all over my face and had a very ordinary or below average face. Boys would usually befriend me not because they want to know me but because they wanted me to introduce them to my beautiful friends. One of my guy friends commented how flat my face was. Another commented that, “If I were a girl and I am not pretty, I would rather die!”

When I was 15 or 16, I recalled feeling really resentful of my beautiful friends. Their beautiful looks were something that they were born with. They did not work for it. I felt that life was really unfair because they did nothing to deserve the love, the adoration, and the attention that they were getting. And I do not deserve being sidelined just because I was not born beautiful.

Being someone who feels that being a victim is disempowering, I quickly snapped out of it. I realized that there was no point harping over something that I could not change. And I focused on things that I could change.

I could be a better friend.
I could be a persuasive public speaker.
I could become an impactful writer.
I could be a motivational leader.
I could be a change maker.

From then on, I did not invest too much time on dolling up or making myself look better. I focused on developing my confidence and other skillsets.

I honed my listening skills. Friends love talking to me because I am a good listener. I joined Toastmasters, a public speaking club. I practiced in front of mirrors, I recorded my speeches, I took videos of them. I perfected my speeches, took part in speech competitions and won. Till today, I am thankful for the comprehensive training that Toastmasters has given me. I learnt how to create a personal blog through HTML and Dreamweaver (when we did not have WordPress yet) and wrote to my heart’s content. I took up leadership positions in school, in college and at university. I joined service clubs like Rotary International and spearheaded many community service projects.

When I first met Jamie, the love of my life at 20 years old, he did not even remember the first time we met. Why? Because I was not the type of girl that he was usually interested in. In those days, he was only pursuing the prettiest girls in school. He did remember the second time we met. When I was delivering my campaign speech to be the President of a students’ society. He was impressed by my speech delivery and my concrete plans for the society.

For many years, I have forgotten that I was not “beautiful”. Because my beauty or lack-of did not matter as I graduated from law school, did a Masters, landed a job with Citigroup as a management associate and subsequently starting Lunch Actually with Jamie, and then tying the knot a year later.

That was until I started to appear more frequently in the media, and netizens decided to chime in with their comments.

When the first nasty comment surfaced on the Yahoo! article, I cried. I did not understand why people who did not even know me could be so cruel. It disturbed me for days. Eventually, I got used to it and realize that this is something I have to live with if I were to continue to be in the public eye.

Hence, when it happened again recently, I was not as affected. However, it did spur me to write this post.

After going through all that I have gone through, you know what? I am thankful that I was not born beautiful.

If I were born beautiful, I probably would not have met Jamie as I would not value him as much as I did when he spoke to me. I would have found his approach boring because if I was born beautiful, I would have had many other suitors and would not given him the time of the day. Because I was not born beautiful, I treasure each and every encounter, each and every person who took time to get to know me. And I know that he loves me for me and not for my looks. I know that even when I am old and wrinkly at 80, it would not matter. Because that was never the reason why he was attracted to me in the first place.

If I were born beautiful, I would not be who I am today. I would not have spent so much time compensating for my “non-beauty” and honing the skillsets that are now priceless to what I do. I would not have been as good a listener, or as patient a manager or as empathetic a friend. I would not have honed my public speaking skills and I would not have taken up as many leadership positions in my youth. Without these skills that I have spent thousand of hours on, I would not be leading a 100-people organization, inspiring hundreds through speaking engagements and appearing in thousands of media coverage worldwide advocating for happy marriages.

My purpose of writing this post is to share with my young women friends out there – it really does not matter if you are not beautiful by the “world’s standard”. You do not need to be beautiful or slim to succeed in life. It does not matter you do not have a “thigh gap”. It does not matter that you do not have double eyelids. It does not matter that your nose is too flat. It does not matter what others say. Because it is not about what they say, but how you respond.

I could have ended up being a real bitter person blaming my misfortunes on not being born with a beautiful face. I could have continued to secretly resent my beautiful friends for the attention they were getting. I could have continued to suffer from low self-esteem and play victim. Instead, I decided to channel this negative energy into something positive that propelled me to become a better person.

What we make of our life is up to us. I have learnt to ignore those who laugh at me because as long as I continue to focus on doing the right things, one day, I would have the last laugh.