Artwork by Polly Nor

“Hey, I want to confess something!” she said.

I was a bit perplexed.“Confession? What could it be?” I thought to myself, reconnecting with an old school friend on Instagram.

We were never friends in school, just classmates. There was no awkwardness between us though. I remember spending an entire year as her partner. But our bond never moved beyond those classroom benches. And one day, I heard from her on social media. So what could she possibly want to confess to me after all those years? 

“I was insecure of you during our school days. When we used to sit together, I used to see you and compare myself to you. You were pretty, and I wasn’t. In fact, I was a loser,” she said. 

I was taken aback. Her words shook my conscience, hitting me hard. Something felt wrong. I wanted to tell her that she had always been pretty.

I distinctly remember my school days, when our teachers’ would only pick pretty-looking kids for performances on special occasions and only a few favorites would corner all opportunities. Why was it never her? She could have been there, standing in solidarity with others. Why did she never have enough friends? Not that she didn’t try. I am sure she did. Why couldn’t I see what she was going through or try empathizing with her? Would her life have been any different had we told her how beautiful she is? Or would it have been better if somebody had told her what being beautiful really means?

So, who is to be blamed for her insecurities? Me, her family, our friends, teachers, classmates? Who is responsible for letting a 10-year-old girl think she isn’t beautiful? 

What is being beautiful anyways? I won’t deny that all of us love being validated. I am personally guilty of relishing compliments. But who in particular is to be held liable for our inhibitions? Why are we always compared with others? Our lives are measured on a constant scorecard, and we foolishly hand over that card to others and let them judge us. They tell us: “you are pretty” and we feel pretty. They tell us someone else is better, and we believe it. 

Once a bunch of seniors in my college, all girls, tried to convince me that I wasn’t good enough to walk a ramp at the college freshers. “There is some issue, perhaps your walk; something is amiss,” one of the ladies told me. I was devastated but I still walked the aisle, outshining everyone and soon, I was leading the fashion club of my college. Life wasn’t unfair, you see. Some people were. And often, these are the people constantly rating others on some flawed criteria to fan the fire of their superfluous vanity. 

And despite everything, I wish the world were as fair as the annual class photograph – where everyone got equal visibility, stood shoulder to shoulder, was captured smiling, beaming or blushing, without feeling judged (or maybe not) but who cares? We have still bloomed well.  Haven’t we?

Manisha Sharma

Manisha Sharma

Currently engaged in building, strengthening, and sustaining Pernod Ricard India’s corporate reputation as Lead-Corporate Communications, Manisha is a passionate communicator with over 11 years of experience across various sectors. Outside work, she is a fitness enthusiast, yoga practitioner and an inveterate music lover with a distinctive flavor for poetry, wines, and everything classical and classic. 


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