It took a while for me to build up the courage to write something this personal, and I hope people do not perceive it exclusively as a “rant post,” but it seems like every day I realize more and more how deeply insecure everybody is in high school. Maybe I cannot fix such a deep-rooted issue on my own, but I certainly can rage against it. And I think I just did.

“What you feel is what you are, and what you are is beautiful.”

– The Goo Goo Dolls

“You know, I bet you could get a lot more guys if you let the rest of your hair grow out,” someone told me once.

The statement was meant to be a casual observation, nothing more. In fact, it really did not bother me at the time. I know not everyone is crazy with what I did to my hair last year—namely, take my older brother’s razor in the bathroom one night, and shave half of my head almost to the scalp. I am okay with that. What my friend did not understand, though, is that I shaved my hair my year last year in order to make a statement that I feel people should be encouraged to make far more often. I shaved my hair to show the world that I am an individual, that I am confident in who I am, and above all else, that I refuse to conform to any social ‘standard’ of beauty.

We live in a culture nowadays where self-loathing is rampant and often even expected in women. Almost every girl I know spends at least an hour on her makeup and hair before leaving her dorm or her house. And it really isn’t surprising. They are terrified of being disregarded or ignored, and so they allow themselves to be sexualized, objectified, and ultimately used. Our insecurities have a tendency to consume us. I am no exception to this.

We all seem to have forgotten that beauty is a mutable and ultimately irrelevant concept. I look around Commons every single day and see so many people whose beauty goes entirely unrecognized. It might sound cliché, but it is completely and indisputably true. Because beauty is not confined to a certain body type, hairstyle, or face—beauty can be found in passion, individuality, exuberance, and love. It is imperative that we recognize this.

My second year of high school, attending academy that is competitive in more ways than one, has taken an enormous toll upon my already fragile self-image. I wake up every morning, and try not to see myself in the mirror. I smear makeup on my face until I feel ready to step outside. I pick myself apart—the size and shape of my nose, the color of my eyes, the proportions of my mouth, the imperfections of my body, and of course, the scars on my skin from these past four years of dermatillomania. And every time I watch someone disregard me for one of my prettier friends, or when I learn that someone has assumed that I am a lesbian due to my appearance or opinions, it is like nails against the blackboard of my mind.

I hate this society, but more than anything else I hate what it has done to me. I hate that I never feel good about myself anymore. I hate how many times I instinctively check the mirror before leaving for school in the morning. I will never be beautiful in the way that they all expect me to be. I never have been capable of it, and I am tired of pretending that I am.

I want to make it clear, though, that I do not want anybody’s sympathy. That is not what this is about. So if you do not think I am pretty, do not tell me that I am. If you do not find me attractive, do not enter a relationship with me. And if my appearance is more important to you than my passion or my interest or my individuality—in that case do not even condescend to speak to me. I am not writing this for any of you. I am writing this to remind the world that if I am able to love myself despite the opinions of others, then I am above all of this.

We see this world in terms of pretty and ugly. Instead of seeing the beauty in everyone, we constricted our standards—made them rigid and exclusive and fitted to one small group of people. We could have found passion and gratification, but chose to create devastating stereotypes and unbreakable stigmas instead. And in doing so, we have handicapped our own ability to love.

I am tired of putting on a face and praying that others accept it. I am tired of hoping to be viewed as a sexual object rather than the complex, flawed, and ultimately beautiful person that I am.

I did not title this post “Confessions Of An Ugly Girl” because I hate the way that I look. I titled this post “Confessions Of An Ugly Girl” because I am tired as being perceived as one. A lack of status, looks, and conformity has resulted in my failure to meet the certain social standards that should never have existed in the first place. My inability and refusal to satisfy these ideals will always make me ugly in the eyes of society. I think that unfair stigmas and preconceived notions have created an image of me that does not line up at all with who I truly am. I think that image has been projected to the world, and I hate the world for that.

Maybe nothing will ever change—especially not where I am from. But if we all truly hate the stigmatized, sexualized, and judgmental culture in which live, it is time for us to consider who created it.

I am so much more than a face caked in makeup or a body that is never quite thin enough. I am so much more than my imperfections and my insecurities. I am passionate and I am individual and I am infinitely flawed—but above all else, I love fiercely, and I see no reason to hide that.

So here are the confessions of a self-proclaimed “ugly girl.” And no matter how beautiful you actually are, I’m willing to bet quite a few of you read this and understood. It is exceptionally lonely, frustrating, and at times, exorbitantly painful for me to accept the way that I am, and to love myself despite whatever the social perception of me may be. But I will continue to do so anyways, because with nothing more than judgment and gossip we created these standards—and through tolerance, acceptance, and a newfound understanding of the true nature of beauty, we can break them too.