Frances Okoro: Imperfectly Perfect
It has been almost 10 years since that fateful day but I can still see the scene vividly in my head whenever I want to…
Me lying on my bunk bed, cowering under the imaginary weight of their eyes. Their voices screaming out in my head through the haze of my sadness and tears; “see her half past eyes, big lips, ugly girl”…
That wasn’t the first time I had heard such words from the lips of people, and that incident wasn’t the last either.
When I was 9 years old, I inadvertently eavesdropped on a gossip session of my neighbors who, not knowing that I was within earshot came to a general consensus that I was the ugliest in my family. And it didn’t stop there; I also attended a boarding secondary school where the consensus reached above was reiterated time and time again. Everyone seemed to think that I wasn’t pretty, I was ugly, and ultimately, what they thought about me became my thoughts about myself.
As a result of my experiences, I honestly believed that I was ugly and it wasn’t till I was in the university that I dared to believe that I was pretty.
I became fascinated with the word “beauty”. There were times when I would lay on my bed, stare at the ceiling and ponder on what people meant when they said a woman was beautiful and another was ugly.
I thought a lot about this thing called “beauty.”
Who/what determines if one is beautiful/not?
By what yardstick is beauty measured?
I know now the answers to these questions.
I know now that I am beautiful and that beauty is very different from what my neighbors and class mates thought it to be.
I even know enough about beauty to be able recognize it in others. In fact, I saw beauty on 23rd November 2013. She was helped up the stage and I did not know the significance of this till she told us that she had had a hip-replacement 6weeks before and thus had to be assisted till she was strong enough to walk without support. My attention was captured at that and as I listened, her story was one that blew me away.
She had been told right from when she was 4 years old that she was ugly, and thus had pretty low self- esteem about herself. And as if that wasn’t enough, life threw her balls that made it seem like the people who called her ugly were right.
She had an accident that left her with 250 scars on her face and an almost amputated leg; she lost her hair in a battle with cancer, she had had surgery to have fibroid removed from her stomach but there she was, still standing right there at 50 years of age, having gone through situations the world would say could render your beauty to naught.
But as she stood there on the podium, it dawned on me that with all her supposed scars from life’s battles and her choosing to go without weaves on her head, Eryca Freemantle is one of the most beautiful women I have had the privilege of meeting.
I didn’t come to this conclusion because of the perfect makeup on her face, (although she is a celebrity makeup artist known worldwide), I also didn’t base my conclusions on the fact that she has a pretty face. It wasn’t because she has a great fashion sense and also has a great body to boot even at 50years of age…
My conclusions were based on the fact that beauty radiated from deep within her.
I spoke with Eryca Freemantle after the event and I was amazed at her humility.
Here was someone who has been around the world, who has been a keynote speaker at events I have never even dreamed of attending, who maintains contacts with presidents and dignitaries alike but she was also exchanging pleasantries with me, willing to hear what I had to say and was equally very willing to help a lady she just met achieve her dreams.
She possessed so much humility and kindness of spirit, one which only truly beautiful women have.
I moved a bit farther into the twenties on my birthday on September 6th and if there is anything I have learnt in the 10 years since the incident on my bunk bed, it is the fact that my classmates and neighbors were dead wrong about what beauty is. As a matter of fact, they had absolutely no idea about what true beauty is.
True beauty is purity of the soul.
Beautiful women are not just pretty, they radiate from the inside out.
They possess a light that shines so brightly from within them, so much so that you cannot help but be drawn into it.
They may not necessarily be pretty according to the world’s standard, but they are beautiful in the standard that truly matters.
They glow from within, they touch lives for good where ever they are, and they possess inner attributes that stand out.
I saw beauty on 23rd November 2013, and it wasn’t residing in the physical features of a person or in the perfect makeup on anyone’s face, neither was it in the sexy coke shaped body of any lady like the world believes it does.
I saw it in the heart, in the incorruptible attribute of a wonderful soul, in the dwellings of a kind heart, in the person of a kind word and in a helpful spirit.
I have come a long way from the days of “ugly girl” ringing in my head and I now know from the depths of my heart that I am a beautiful lady. I don’t refer to my physical attributes when I say this (though, in all honesty, my physical attributes does turn heads) but I refer to the me in me, to the attributes I know I possess inside.
I refer to the beauty of my heart.
It has taken me years to come to the point where I can turn to anyone who asks me about my eyes with sincere smiles on my face, and explain to them without any ill feeling within me, that the reason why I look at them but it seems like I am looking elsewhere is because I have crossed eyes.
I have come a long way from the child that thought she was ugly.
I have come a long way from aligning my thoughts with those who believe that beauty lies only in the physical features of a person.
I have realized like Eryca Freemantle says- that “Every woman is beautiful, regardless of age, size or colour”
I have realized that the “half past eyes” they all mocked in the past is something I wouldn’t change for anything right now. They are my trademark, my greatest assets. They make me stand out, and the God who created me actually called me His perfect workmanship even with “the half-past eyes”.
I maybe imperfect in the eyes of the world but I am perfect in the eyes of the one who created me.
I am imperfectly perfect.
And all women should come to this knowledge too.
Our outer features have been made by God and called perfect; He looked at us and called us good.
We have been intricately crafted; no stone was left unturned by our creator before He released us into the world.
We may not be perfect or pretty in the eyes of the world, but we are beautiful in the eyes of the one who matters – in the eyes of God.
So by all means, revel in your k-leg, bow legs, short hands, funny nose… it is yours, it is you.
Work it, flaunt it, and embrace it.
Stand out with whatever physical features you have.
But also know this fact without any iota of doubt; beauty does not start and end with physical features.
True beauty does not arise from merely being pretty.
True beauty can only be found on the inside.
We are only truly beautiful where it counts most- in our hearts… And that is what we should preserve, nurture and value.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Sam74100