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Finding Beauty in An Ugly Place

My journey to far.

By Kelsey O'MalleyPublished 12 months ago Updated 12 months ago 6 min read
Finding Beauty in An Ugly Place
Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

Looking through photographs of me when I was a little girl, you would find that I was a thin girl with blonde hair and blue eyes that were very apparent to everyone. I turned from a skinny toddler to a tall, rectangle-shaped teenage brunette who is wide enough to be noticed by a lot of people. I had a lot of attention directed at me, the majority of it very negative from my peers and adults. I always thought of myself as “ugly” because my hair was cut very short, I was tomboyish, and I did not have very feminine features. I was also suffering from emotional problems due to bullying at school and also abuse in the home. I had hardly any positive role models except for my English teacher who stood by me through it all until she retired.

Now, at the age of 29, I am slowly starting to see the beauty that I had this entire time but the journey to that point was a painful one. As far as coping mechanisms go, I made sure to almost completely cover my body as to deter any attention from me. I also hid anything “autistic” about me, mainly because of the stigma and, knowing that everyone has cameras on their phones now, the cruelty towards Autistic people has no limits online. Did I want to risk stimming in public and possibly face ridicule? I also know that many BIPOC Autistic people face far worse repercussions for unmasking or else do not have the means to mask their symptoms. I would be considered highly privileged and they would be right in that instance.

I hated insults but I also hated compliments with the same vitriol. It didn’t matter if that person was sincere; I did not believe a word that came from their mouth. My Autistic mind always pointed out the logical fallacies of their compliments: How could I be beautiful if I did not fit the standard? Being born in the early 90’s was also a confusing time due to changing fashion and beauty trends. With low-riding jeans being popular in the 2000’s, I did not pay attention to any of it because what would the point of it be? I mainly stuck to my t-shirts and pants because those were the more comfortable clothes for me and they still are to this day. I never viewed myself as beautiful in any way, just plain.

I viewed my body as a prison because everyone else around me viewed my body as an object of both disgust and something to discard after use. Previous partners who claimed good intentions turned out to be users who viewed me as a means to “get off” without the emotional commitment. I came to the conclusion that I am not somebody worth being praised or even worthy enough to be a “partner”, just a shameful “side-piece” for emotionally stunted men. I based all of my worth on what other people thought of me because that was what I was taught that my value was based on other’s opinions of me.

Back in 2019, I took it upon myself to do a boudoir photoshoot; I am not going to show the photos because of privacy but during that hour and a half, I felt at least slightly better about myself and I still have that photo album. I am going to do another boudoir shoot for a few reasons:

1. The photographer is going to be leaving soon and I want to have another shoot with her before she leaves.

2. I felt absolutely amazing the first time that I went and wanted to experience that feeling again.

3. I wanted to see how bolder I could be this time around.

4. The session will be during the month of April, which is Autism Awareness Month and I will be wearing red as a protest against the blue nonsense.

I have had many great and challenging things happen to me since that shoot. I lost my job extension due to an employment freeze, the pandemic left me feeling a tad lonely, and paranoid about becoming ill. I missed my family even when they have shown that they were, at times, toxic. My friends felt more like my real family mainly because they did validate my feelings regarding systemic ableism. My mental health has been in flux for a long time and will continue to be in flux due to uncertainties around my future. My body also went through some changes with my new nutrition program. I became physically stronger as I also started going to the gym more and enjoying the change that I am seeing in my body.

I am also learning to unmask my Autism symptoms and becoming more proud of my Autism. My Autism is the reason why I am able to gain so many useful skills especially in terms of employment, I am also advocating for other Autistic people in terms of representation in the media and why their voices need to be included in all discussions surrounding environmental justice, racism, poverty, violence, discrimination, and queer visibility. I have had many people try to silence me due to me being Autistic and viewing me speaking out as being “disobedient”, this used to bother me but not anymore. I will no longer be that woman who will sit quietly and “be good.”

I am learning how to communicate my boundaries with people and being consistent with them. As I gain more confidence in myself, I notice that people are either supportive or very agitated with it. The “agitated” ones are those who are used to demanding things from me and me never complaining and hate that I have changed. It does give me joy knowing that those people take themselves out of my life, I do not have to do the work of removing them and I am free from the burden of having to please them. I am doing things for me now and nobody else, at least not without my consent.

While I have never gotten a chance to experience the child-like carelessness during my childhood, I am learning to do this now. I will not allow the stigma and limits that others place on me to stop me from living my life. It isn’t my Autism that causes these limits, it is society’s views of me that causes my limits. I will fight tooth and nail not just for me but for every other Autistic person who wanted the freedom to stim publicly, to not have to fear being institutionalized for having a meltdown in public, to be given the same opportunity to succeed even if they are “at the bottom rung” because we all deserve that and much more.


About the Creator

Kelsey O'Malley

Canadian Autistic writer! Creator of the Breaking the (Autistic) Code series, Autistic Woman Vs, and Who is the Real Monster!

Want to support my work? Consider donating to my paypal at @kelseyomalley

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Comments (3)

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  • Gina C.4 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this. ❤️ I can relate to a lot of your obstacles. I am so happy for you that you are moving into a brighter space; wishing you love, light, and luck 🥰❤️

  • Heather Hubler4 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this personal piece so full of hardship, turmoil and ultimately hope and positivity. I'm so happy for you that you're learning to love yourself more :) It's not always easy to do.

  • Thank you for sharing this, we are our own worst critics and we should all love ourselves much more

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