A World Determined To Make Us Feel Ugly

5 min readJun 16, 2022

I’m tying back my hijab piece as a girl rushes in, mascara and lipstick waving in one hand, makeup brushes and bottles in the other. She sees me, sleeves raised up, water dripping down my arms. Feet still not fully back in my shoes. I was doing wudhu.

She grins at me and apologizes. I grin back.

I see her look down at her phone and then hurriedly start unbottling everything. In one hand she’s curling her eyelashes, with the other she pats her cheeks with some blush. She is obviously in a hurry.

‘My boyfriend decided to surprise me and pick me up today’. She sounded more agitated than excited.

‘Aww that’s cute’ says me, a sucker for any semblance of real life romance.

‘Nooo it’s not’ she wails as she continues to draw her eyes with one hand and her lips with the other. ‘I don’t have any makeup on and he’s already here.’

I didn’t understand why she needed makeup. She looked beautiful. And I told her exactly that. She looked young, maybe 18. She was in warehouse overalls and a hi-vis jacket that was a size too big for her, making her look petite. Her hair was glowing and she had a beautifully sweet smile. I could imagine her with a young lad, cruising down the countryside lanes, laughing, her head thrown back in the air.

She paused for a second, obviously not used to being told that she looked beautiful just the way she was. I asked her if her boyfriend had ever seen her without makeup and she answered no.

For some reason that just made me really sad.

Why do we conform?

I want the man I love to find me, in my raw self, as beautiful. And I’m sure she does too. But we live in a world where we scroll on our feed to see and walk down the streets to see nothing but perfection. The thing is we know its the lighting, the editing and the angles. The thing is we are completely aware that it’s not at all true. But instead of pushing against the wave and being outraged at the blasphemy of the lies sold to us, instead as a society, we’ve raised the bar instead.

The standards of beauty of today are just so high. So high that it makes my heart.

The compounding effect

It’s crazy to think what a compounding effect these unrealistic standards have had. The girl may have been scrolling through her feed that day and seen photo after photo of her celebrities, her close friends, random influencers all looking picture perfect. She walks into her classroom in college and sees the girls around her without a single pimple on their faces, sharp cheekbones and noses. She passes a mirror in the hallway and sees the mass of acne on her chin, her too-large nose and dark circles. How can she not help but feel ugly?

So she goes to town that evening and the next day walks past the same mirror in the hallway, glowy skin and contoured cheeks. The sun beams in through the window, so she quickly whips out her phone, positions her face to accentuate her features, takes a picture and uploads it.

And it carries on…

Another girl, in a different city far away, is getting ready to go out with her friends for a cute picnic. She’s scrolling online for picnic decor inspo when she sees a picture of a girl her age. The girl seems to have just casually snapped a quick one while on her way to class. But she looks so stunning! Her skin so glowy and her cheeks so sharp.

She glances up at the mirror. She’s wearing the cute dress she found in town the other day and matched her hijab and cardigan with its colour. She’d felt pretty that morning when she picked the outfit out. But suddenly she’s seeing the uneven skin tone, the round cheeks.

She picks up the foundation brush at her desk.

Sigh. It’s a struggle. Some days are harder than others.

I know personally I’ve come a long way since my high school days. There was a time that I struggled to even look at the mirror. But alhamdulillah for how things have changed.

These are a few steps I use to help me stay afloat with the way I look in a world that’s determined to make me feel ugly.

1. Manage your circle of influence

(to read more, click here)

Humans are inevitably affected by what they surround themselves with. That’s why as Muslims we are constantly reminded to look at who is closest to us.

“A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.” (Hadith)

If the people in your circle are the type of people who tend to judge appearances and hold too much focus on looks and figures, maybe it’s a good idea to take a small step back away from them. Surround yourself with people who focus on beautifying their inward appearance over their outward.

In the world of the internet, this extends past the physical company we have. It extends to the books we read, the movies we watch and the social media accounts we follow. If all the social media accounts you follow are of people constantly posting picture-perfect images of themselves, of emphasising how to look prettier, taller and thinner, it’s inevitable that you are going to start feeling less than about yourself.

My simple rule is not to follow any accounts like that. There are a few go-to accounts I have when I need some fashion inspo, but overall any account/influencer whose main role is based around makeup and products, is a no-no for me. And alhamdulillah, I can’t recommend it enough! Honestly, go on an unfollowing spree.

2. Dua

Dua. Dua. Dua. We sometimes forget that Allah has absolute control of everything. That means even the way we feel.

When you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see, raise your hands and tell Him. Ask Him to make you love what He gifted you with. Ask Him to make you never want to change a single thing about yourself. Ask Him to make you completely content with you.

If you reached till the end of this ramble, thank you my friend. I appreciate it!

I hope we get to meet each other in my next post too. Until then, if you have any thoughts about what you’ve just read let me know (in the comments or any other way). I’d love to start a conversation!

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I write to make sense of the world, to make sense of myself. Reflecting on life and faith through fiction and daily happenings. Instagram: @tas.neemuu