• Wed, Sep 18 - 4:30 pm ET

On Being The The Ugliest Girl In The World

ugly girl gremlin

Like most women, I’m often afflicted by feelings of not being beautiful enough, but as of late those feelings have been particularly bad. Body dysmorphia is something I’ve been handling and working on for a long time, so sometimes I forget just how troubling it can be to lose my grip and let toxic thoughts take over.

Out of nowhereand with no particular trigger, my self image has been all but entirely shattered and I’m seriously considering quitting everything and going back to ringing that bell at Notre Dame or assisting that nice Dr. Frankenstein in his laboratory. I can’t even say that in my heart of hearts that I know I look okay or that I know it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m so very hideous that I want to apologize to everyone that has to look at me.

Head to toe, I just hate my appearance and there’s nothing I can do about it. Last week, I saw some pictures of myself that confirmed what I already knew: I am the ugliest girl in the world. My hair? Awful. My face? Deformed. My body? Disproportionate, stumpy and lumpy. Why didn’t anyone tell me that I had gotten so fucking fat? I’m not just a goblin, but the most unfortunate looking goblin of all.

If I look in the mirror, my eyes will zero in on one body part and then dart from flaw to flaw until my eyes blur from frustration. I could spend all day picking myself apart inch by inch if that was at all an okay or productive activity. Name a body part and I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. If we were having a conversation in person, all of my imperfections and disfigurations would be glaring you right in the face.

I’m not always like this. Sometimes I feel like I’m able to fool people into thinking I’m average or even kind of cute, but when I’m overcome by bouts of physical self loathing, I’m the one who looks foolish for thinking strategic eyeliner and some bobby pins could trick the world into being attracted to me. Those moments, when I realize what an arrogant idiot I was for not remembering I was irreparably ugly for a minute are when I most want to hide in the shadows and let the darkness cloak my repellant form. It’s completely illogical, this whole thing, but recognizing that doesn’t do anything but make me feel crazy and homely.

Part of me knows that I focus so much on my appearance to distract myself from my “real problems.” Every minute spent toiling about how masculine my face is or my witch-like my complexion or my squishy thighs is a minute I don’t spend being crushed by guilt and anxiety about bigger things. Why couldn’t I have a better coping mechanism than self loathing? More importantly, why couldn’t I just be prettier?

Boys who have rejected me romantically have always told me that I’m smart and funny as some sort of consolation. I hate that. Not that I don’t want to be a clever girl or a laugh, but it’s hard to have a sense of humor when you feel like the joke is on you for not being very pretty. I don’t always want high fives from the boys and I don’t always want to make people laugh; sometime, I’d like to be a bombshell or a vixen or at the very least the kind of woman that gets taken seriously romantically. It feels like it’s been a long time since someone looked at me like that.

Unfortunately, lines of admirers and suitors wouldn’t do much. Compliments from friends or family or even well intentioned strangers wouldn’t either. The only person with an opinion that matters is the haggard banshee in the mirror screaming at me: “You’re fat!” and “How dare you go outside like that?” and “Anyone who tells you differently is pandering to your ego!” Everybody loses.

My vanity and bad body image aren’t entirely incapacitating, of course. I go to work, read books, try to learn new things and spend time with loved ones. There is more to me than what I look like, even I know that, but it doesn’t matter when your brain is telling you that you’re the ugliest girl in the world.

Image via Warner Brothers Gremlins (1984) 

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  • anon

    There are lots of things wrong with those photos (bad angle, terrible lighting, badly exposed) but the woman in them isn’t one of them.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Aghhh I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make them unflattering; I thought (and still think) you look lovely both in the photos and in person.

  • Samantha_Escobar

    I’m so sorry you feel terrible. I know how that feels — not that that makes it any better, I know — and I know it is nearly impossible not to feel that way once you already do (especially in NYC, though you know I am biased regarding this). Anyway, I know you are not fishing for compliments, because you are clearly not that kind of person, but I think you are very beautiful and I feel very envious of you on a regular basis.

  • http://poorgoop.com/ Samantha

    This made me cry a little. I’ve had these thoughts. And as much as I believe you’re completely wrong, and I hope I am wrong when I have them about myself, it’s incredible how our brains can betray us and show a distorted reality.
    You’re lovely. Those photos are lovely, and, in fact, made me quite jealous. You have beautifully-shaped eyes, and (while I know it has nothing to do with your looks) impeccable vintage taste.

    • Amanda

      This is all of my thoughts.

    • Nothingcutesy

      These are my thoughts too.
      I actually scrolled down the page past the photos looking for bad photos until I realised Joanna was talking about the photos of the gorgeous girl who looks like Lea Michele and Zooey Deschanel’s love child.
      And then I realised that if those photos had been of me, I would have been picking them apart, chiding myself for badly chosen hair or never realising that that outfit looked bad on me. But, as always, I am able to see the beauty in others but not in myself. I hope one day Joanna, myself, and the other women who feel this way, will stop thinking that we’re the ugliest girls in the world. For our own sakes.

  • Steph

    I totally get it. I feel so many of these same feelings every day and I’m grateful you’re choosing to put yourself out there and write about it. I don’t want to sound creepy but I want to hug you.

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  • Guestfromaroundtheglobe

    Great article and very brave of you to be open about your feelings (or psychological issues). This sums up what I often feel with my own body. The brain can be utterly mean to yourself sometimes.

    Just a week ago I spend time with a guy who told me over and over again how great, intelligent, cool blablabla I am and all I could think about was ‘Oh great, he thinks I’m ugly’ because he never gave me any compliments regarding my looks.

    But I wonder, if girls like us feel like this or think like this and don’t trust compliments by family members or friends, how can we figure out the reality? I mean, how are we able to know how we REALLY look like and maybe even learn that we look nice/cute/gorgeous/beautiful according to -idk- general standards/criteria? Thats not rhetorical but an honest question… erm, I also should note that english is not my native language :-P

  • Jaclyn

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to a startling realization. Even the girls that I think are gorgeous and perfect are nitpicking themselves and hating their bodies/face/hair. The fact that I’m overweight doesn’t make the skinny girl any less self-concious about her own body insecurities. I realize that your insecurities may go a little deeper than that, but you need to realize that even the girls you think are perfect hate themselves at least like half the time. Part of this realization, for me, was turning 30 and seeing pictures of myself from when I was 16 and thought I was the fattest human being alive. I look at those pictures now and think to myself “wow. I really wish I could have appreciated my body back then. I wasn’t nearly as overweight as I thought I was. And even as a chubby girl, I totally pulled that shit off”. It helped me to really appreciate and take care of myself now. Because I know in another 15 years, I’ll be looking at pictures of myself when I was thirty and think “what exactly was I so insecure about?”.
    As for boys, well, the reality for absolutely everyone is that no one girl is every man’s version of ideal. There are just going to be some guys who aren’t attracted to you. Stop ignoring the ones who think you are great and would totally date you. It’s easy to focus on the guys who wouldn’t date you and put them up on a pedestal and think “of course he wouldn’t date me. He’s gorgeous and awesome and I’m fucking hideous”. It’s ok for any given man to not necessarily be attracted to you. It’s not personal and it’s not an insult. It’s the simple fact that every single person doesn’t have the exact same taste. I mean, would chocolate ice cream be insulted if I told it I preferred vanilla? No, because there are still plenty of people who like chocolate, and then others who don’t like either of those flavors. And then some people think ice cream is gross.
    My point is try to be more logical about it. You don’t have to be the most attractive girl in the world to everyone, always. It doesn’t make a difference. Because the girl you think is the most attractive girl in the world is just as desperately insecure as you are. And she thinks a different girl is the most attractive girl in the world anyway.

  • Charmless

    Why the fuck do feelings like this seem to be part of being a woman? Or even a person, for that matter? I just went into the bathroom at the office and spent several minutes ripping apart my reflection. Why am I so pale? How is it possible that I’m both too thin and that my gut sticks out and makes me look 4 mos. preggo? Dude, seriously. They’re called whitening strips. Look into them, uggo. What made me think I could pull off his haircolor? I’m the ugliest woman in the office and I have no idea how anybody here can stand looking at me all day. Is that why nobody invited me out for lunch today?

    On a good day, I can see how harsh and unfair I’m being, but those days aren’t the majority. And my issues don’t stop with my appearance either. I’m also the worst human being on the planet.

    Please know that you’re not alone.

    And that I’m going to perform some witchcraft to steal your freckles because they’re fucking perfect.

  • Alicia

    you are such a gifted
    writer, joanna, with so much insight and depth. as a 57 year old woman who was
    extremely self-conscious and self-critical as a teenager and a young woman in
    my 20′s, i can relate to all that you say. in my own case, maturation enabled
    me to see that others are not focusing on the minutia of physical beauty. if
    they are, you don’t want to be with them…men or women. it sounds like you
    need to dig down and look inside at what makes you beautiful. it is not only
    about the physical perfection that we are taught is the norm in the media
    (which is enhanced by photoshopping and airbrushing, fans that blow hair around
    and ridiculous contrived laughter and smiles. women with implants in bathing
    suits, drinking beer, surrounded by abercrombie jocks with six packs. everyone
    looks so happy in magazines and commercials. it is all illusion thanks to
    marketing. it is fake). there is beauty in intelligence, humor, athleticism,
    spirituality, quirkiness, vulnerability, honesty, desire to make the world a
    better place, being a good person, being a good friend, inner strength and most
    importantly, self confidence. i have seen so many women…and men…who are really
    average-looking/borderline homely, who exude quiet confidence and
    sensuality…major turn-ons. you are so young and so uniquely beautiful, interesting,
    smart, articulate, and have a heart of gold. please try to be kind to yourself
    and focus on all that is good. and there is so much good.

  • iforgottotellyouthis

    I’m really sorry to hear you feel this way and all I can really say is that I can completely relate. For me, I would go through cycles. During my second year of university I was almost unable to leave the house because I was so consumed with my looks and the hatred I had for myself. I wish I could tell you how it changed, but I really don’t know. I still have those days sometimes, but I’ll say to myself “you have one day to mope, feel bad for yourself.” I would say to allow yourself to feel these things and not beat yourself up over your inability to control them, otherwise it is a vicious cycle. You’ll dig yourself out of this, I promise you that.

  • Ashesela

    I am so sorry that you feel that you are ugly. I have had body dysmorphia as well, so I know how that feels (at 5’7 and 114 lbs I thought I looked *fat*, while I was battling an eating disorder).
    In all 100% honesty, I think you are really beautiful. Truly. I am not just saying that to make you feel better about yourself, I really, truly mean it.
    Now I know that having body dysmorphia can make you ignore compliments from others, because sometimes it doesn’t matter what anyone else says, you still feel the way you feel.
    But that can change!! Have you ever thought about getting counseling for this? It can really help!! <3
    I wish you the best!!

  • Cressida

    I’m so sorry. I read this and I know it all through myself. You have my everlasting compassion xxx

  • wannabevenus

    I totally relate..if there was a school curriculum that could truly teach girls to ignore the media portrayals of the alleged feminine ideal and teach them lifelong self confidence no matter WHAT they looked like, the creator of it would deserve the Nobel Prize. I am fat..no way around it. I am a fat, middle aged, plain woman who is nearly 2X my high school body weight. I don’t FEEL that fat..I do pretty much anything I want, except I can’t jump on the back of a horse by grabbing the mane anymore..but when I see pictures of myself, I realize how truly awful I look.