Yes, I am 23, and I have never felt pretty in my life.

I wish I could say the opposite and that I have always felt great about myself.

However, the fact remains that I do not like what I see when I have to face myself.

Sadly, I know I am not the only woman who feels this way.

As a woman of color, I have had to face so many obstacles.

One of the many obstacles that many little girls of color face are that there is little to no representation of them in the media.

Instead, they are forced to watch.

And relate to other little girls who do not face any of the issues that they may face on a day-to-day basis.

They watch the privileged girls as they are told how beautiful they are.

And are coddled from everyday struggles.

And feel hopeless and inadequate as they attempt to straighten their hair.

Or lighten their skin so that they can have a piece of that simple kind of life.

I vividly remember crying every time my hair was in its natural state because it meant that I was different again.

I so badly longed to be normal.

I wanted to be like the other girls who weren’t different and could have the luxury of being enough by just being themselves.

I wanted and still desire to a certain degree to feel the level of comfort in myself that was stripped away through many societal factors.

Every time, I have ever felt close to feeling beautiful the feeling has been stripped away from me in one way or another.

The few times that I have been complimented for my looks, I was told that I was “pretty for a black girl” or that I would be so pretty if “my nose wasn’t so [fill-in-the-blank comment about the size of my nose].”

When I would go on dates, my partners would inquire about “What my family would think about me dating a white or Hispanic male?”.

As that is what tended to be the majority of men that went to my high school.

And I would later learn that that statement was code for “I feel insecure dating a girl outside of my race because what would my family or friends think”

And watching them go on to show off girls that they did not have to hide.

And could be referred to by most in society as beautiful left an everlasting scar that I am not sure will ever heal.

I have so badly just wanted to be the kind of woman that any man is happy and proud to show off to their friends, peers, and most importantly family.

I have wanted to be loved unapologetically.

And without fear of what their parents would think if they saw my hair in its natural state or fear of preconceived judgment of me solely based on aspects of myself that I was born with.

I just have always desired to be beautiful. To me, beauty represented a solution to my problem of feeling as if I was not enough. If I was beautiful, I could be enough to someone and through that, I could finally heal from all the scars of being ignored, taunted, and bullied.

If I was beautiful the problems that I faced that were seemingly invisible to everyone else would finally cease.

I would no longer be gaslit under the guise of everything that I felt was all in my head.

Because of those subtle jabs, the hyper or hypo sexualization (depending on who the offender was) of my being would disappear.

I would be a woman worthy of respect and as such would be a part of a club.

That I never had the privilege to join, to begin with.

The only true compliment that I can genuinely say that I have received is that I am strong.

“You are such a strong woman”, people say on the rare occasion I dare show a peak of my humanity and in every moment when those words are uttered, I want to crumble into a thousand pieces because I am tired of being strong.

I want to be delicate.

I want to be cherished and taken care of like something that is worthy of being protected.

I want to be seen as a multi-faceted human with complex emotions and insecurities.

I would like to know what it means to just be a woman.

I am not interested in solely being a strong woman or a black woman or even a queer woman.

Although those traits are certainly major aspects of my character those traits do not by any means highlight or prove that I am subhuman.

And therefore not capable of feeling the same emotional depth as white women.

I would just want to be a woman who is beloved.

I would want to be protected and not have to defend myself alone against the ugliness of the world.

I have always desired to just for once be the very thing that our society truly coveted.

And once we can openly name what that standard is and how hard it is to obtain I would hope that we change it so that other girls do not grow up to become the woman that I am today.

A world in which all girls can be beautiful not because of standards that society indoctrinated them with but because they decided they themselves were worthy of being enough.