How I Learned To Love My Face

Olapeju Kazeem
8 min readJun 14, 2021
Photo by Anna Shvets (Pexels)

It took me a while, but I’m proud to say that I love my face. It may not be conventionally attractive, definitely won’t qualify as a beauty pageant contestant, but this face has helped me have my own identity which is something I think most of us are lacking. I want to write about how I came to love a somewhat mundane face and shed off all the insecurities that come with not being pretty enough, hoping that it will help someone become more comfortable with themselves and start towards the journey of self-love.


I’m trying to think back to when I first became conscious of what I looked like and I think that was when I moved to boarding school at age 10. But before that, I had an awareness of what being pretty meant but in an abstract sense. Let me try and explain. Growing up, I remember times when my mum will rave about how gorgeous a friend or an acquaintance’s daughter was. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but after a while, I started to feel weird about it. My mum had never called me pretty or talked positively about my features. I never asked her if I was pretty too because, as I’ve come to realize, I was scared of what the answer would be. Thankfully, as a young girl with two brothers, I always had a lot of other things to distract me.

Another aspect of my awareness of beauty was being one of a handful of black kids at an elementary school in France. Unfortunately, this also means that I was subjected to racist encounters, specifically by older boys, who targeted the way I looked in their racist attacks. Back then, I didn’t understand the concept of racism. Almost all my friends were white, and the kids that stood up for me were white as well. They reassured me that the older boys were just stupid. I’d wipe my tears and we’d carry on playing. Then I had my first crush on one of the cutest boys in our class. It was like a right of passage, every girl at some point or another had a crush on him. I didn’t stand a chance. He was fixated on having a relationship with the cutest girl in our year. I felt some type of way about it but not too much because it wasn’t just me that he rejected, it was a lot of us. There is solitude in numbers. So again, I decided to not think about it too much and distract myself with other things.

This strategy of distracting myself with other things would not work in secondary school. For the next 6 years, I would be in and out of a boarding facility with 600 other students between the ages of 10 and 17 where the hottest topics were who’s dating who, who looks hot in their school uniforms and all talks about physical appearances. It was hard but it laid the foundation for me to learn to accept myself in the future.

I should mention, the first step in learning to love your face is understanding the nature of beauty. All those times my mum used to rave about how beautiful someone’s kid was. When I saw some of the kids, I didn’t get it. At first, it made me feel bad that even though her standard was so low, I still didn’t qualify. But then I’d see some others and they would indeed be gorgeous. It threw me off for a bit. And then during elementary school, I would have superficial crushes on kids my friends didn’t necessarily find attractive. As a 7–9-year-old, I couldn’t understand it and didn’t have the brainpower to dwell on it too much. The point is beauty is really in the eyes of the beholder. We see things differently. Literally, colour, perception, focus etc. Two people can look at the same face and see something different, and also have different emotional responses to it.

Having friends and other interests

Going to boarding school during my formative years was one hell of an experience. I made some of my best friends during that time and I also experienced some of my most traumatic moments there. Like I stated earlier, almost all our conversations were about boys or dating. I found it a bit hard to adjust because I was used to talking about pokemons, Digimon monsters and all sorts of kid shows that were on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Fox Kids. If I was going to have any chance of making any friends, I had to adapt. During our conversations, some of the girls would talk about who had crushes on them and who they planned on going out with. I was one of those girls who never had anyone crushing on them. The few boys I ever crushed on obviously had someone else they were fixated on. It was honestly embarrassing and demoralizing and had I not found my tribe of people early on, I would have been depressed much earlier in my life. Finding people that have similar interests to you early in your formative years makes a huge difference in your life. It’s the first time you get to build a family with members you choose. And the only way you can find those people is by being yourself. Even while I was trying to adapt to my new environment I would still let my real interests slip, not intentionally, but in that process, the right people found me, and I was free to distract myself with other things. Actually, what I thought were distractions were the things I cared about. I never really cared that much about how I looked, in fact, I only remembered my face when people talked about beauty standards and things like that. But if the topic wasn’t presented to me, I never thought about it on my own. My life was so much more interesting than worrying about what I looked like. My friends and I talked about music a lot, I used to narrate true crime stories to them, we used to crush on musicians on a very superficial level ( I never got to talk about animes and cartoon shows because no girl I knew was really into them in school ☹ . I had my brothers for that though, so no love lost there).

I think you might be starting to see a trend here, not thinking about it too much. Also, why do you want to be conventionally beautiful? What’s really in it for you? Do you want to be a model? Some of the most successful models are not conventionally pretty, they have striking features. Do you want to be an actor? Some of the best actors are not conventionally beautiful. In fact, their charisma is the most attractive quality they possess. I feel like if we think about it deeply, the reason most of us want to be classified as beautiful is because of the attention it brings. We want people to faun over us, do a double-take when they see us on the street. In short, it helps feed vanity. I used to think it was a matter of insecurity, but if it was really about insecurity, won’t you be content being average? Knowing that you blend in with the majority of people and won’t stand out negatively. I don’t know, I’m probably just oversimplifying it. But seriously, ask yourself, why do you want to meet the conventional standard of beauty?

Developing a personality

I think the biggest advantage of not being beautiful is the fact that you have to work on yourself in other ways. It also made me grateful for being broke. You couldn’t cop out of the process by having cosmetic surgery, you had to face it yourself. Makeup also wasn’t allowed in school, so it really was just you and what the good Lord gave you. I’m not familiar with the psychology of developing a personality. What I remember happening is when I became more like myself at that time, I actually had boys interested in me. If you asked any of the guys why they liked me, being pretty wasn’t near the top of the list, and I’m talking about a time before I went from wearing an oversized tunic to wearing a skirt (that transition was another weird period that won’t be covered in this post). I didn’t necessarily attract the cutest boys or whatnot, but I attracted people that got me, and I would not have had it any other way. I think another tragedy of being pretty is the type of people that are attracted to you. I saw a lot of beautiful girls end up with people that had douche written all over them and you start to wonder why they’d make such foolish decisions. Heartbreak after heartbreak. Not to say the average-looking people don’t make those kinds of mistakes, but with the limited sample pool I had, it was really attractive people that made the dumbest relationship mistakes.

I think seeing beautiful people make dumb mistakes sealed the whole deal for me. At that point, I wasn’t 100% comfortable with my face (I had acne and was always oily with hyperpigmentation) but with each passing year, I became less and less insecure about it. Even in university, where the stakes of beauty are higher, I think I stopped caring overall in my second year. I had other things on my mind and worrying about what I looked like or who liked me was nowhere near my mind. Once I got better again, I found my tribe of people and kept living my life as such.

Side Note: Media Consumption

I know social media plays a huge role in how people perceive themselves. What I wonder is for people that grew up watching animes instead of live shows (shows with people), how are you fairing with self-esteem in the beauty department? I realize that most of the media I consumed growing up was either crime shows or animated shows. I know I watched a few teen shows here and there but the only shows that I remember vividly are animated shows, and honestly, it’s really hard to compare yourself to animated characters in terms of beauty standard… at least the way they used to draw them then.

In Conclusion

So I guess what I’m trying to say is keep watching your animes and animates shows, don’t focus too much on how you look, develop your personality, that’s what will attract the people you truly deserve. And also, beauty is a scam. You will never be beautiful enough because how are they supposed to make money if you’ve attained the standard? People have a vested interest in making and keeping you insecure. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. You can’t look like your favourite celebrity and that’s okay. What you have to work with is good enough. You can be beautiful through your skills and personality. Have you ever read a book or watched a movie that made you fall in love with an otherwise mundane character? Yes, see, physical beauty isn’t the only kind of beauty. You can’t always change how you look, but you can always improve on a skill or your personality. Focus on those things and give yourself some time. In a couple of years, you’ll realize you don’t care about beauty standards anymore.

Good luck!



Olapeju Kazeem

I love to think about the world and how it could be a better place. Maybe writing my thoughts would bring some life into these ideas.