Zarah: Discovering My True Beauty 

Zarah is a content creator from the Philippines. She shares her journey with PCOS, skin positivity, and body image. 

When was in college, I was diagnosed with PCOS, and I was very shocked. Back then, social media wasn’t very common. So, I had no idea what PCOS was, and I didn’t know anyone with it. It was very foreign to me. However, as social media has gotten more popular, I’ve become surprised by how many women in the world actually have PCOS and have gone through the same skin concerns. 

Zarah explains how PCOS began to impact her self-image.

After college,  I decided to get off birth control, and I switched my OBGYN. She was very respectful towards my desire to come off of pills. After getting off of birth control, I started breaking out drastically on both sides of my cheeks. That greatly affected my confidence, and I covered up with makeup. I loved full-coverage makeup because it helped me face the world. I was a teacher back then. So, I didn’t have the choice to stay inside even though I wanted to. However, I was very grateful that my students were kindergarteners. They didn’t really understand acne, and they generally didn’t mind how I looked on a day-to-day basis. In the midst of going to work with acne, one thing that helped me live normally was thinking about how my students had not yet internalized ideas around  “beautiful and ugly.” So, even though I had begun to see myself differently in the mirror - out of innocence, my students still saw me the same. Luckily, my co-workers did too. During that time, I was very insecure, and I didn’t like the way I looked. On top of that, I still struggled with accepting my eyes and other features such as having round face and being short. So, adding acne to my physical look deeply affected me, and I greatly relied on makeup to cover myself.

Zarah continues to describe her experiences with beauty standards.

I vividly remember my transition from school to work as a teacher, Korean dramas were getting big in the Phillippines, and those beauty standards became very popular.  In  the Philippines, the beauty standard of having big eyes and pale skin was becoming the trend. Although I am considered to have pale skin, the insecurity was still there because as someone who is of mixed blood (Chinese-Filipino), I still felt like I didn’t fit the standard. I wanted round eyes because I was taught that having round eyes made you look more pure and attractive. Living in the Philippines, people would tell me that my eyes made me look intense or unapproachable.  But upon meeting me, they’d say, “You’re completely different from my first impression.”

In the Philippines, this perception greatly influenced my behavior and how I saw my reflection. But even when I was in China, I still felt like I didn’t match the beauty standards. I felt like I wasn’t thin or as of I had too much weight. When I lived there, people even spoke the local dialect to me because they thought that I was a local. However, I still was not fully confident.  Even though I shared similar features with some others, I was still self-conscious of my weight, and I felt like my PCOS wasn’t allowing my body to look like everyone else’s since the condition causes weight gain at times. 

However, I’ve learned to appreciate my body and even my eyes. I finally got tired of trying to achieve each society’s beauty standards. I used to uphold Kendell Jenner and Victoria's Secret models as the epitome of beauty. I wanted their angular, shaped faces, but I can’t be like them. Even with the Korean movie stars - some of them get plastic surgery, they have very talented makeup artists, and the camera angles are really transforming. So, instead of comparing myself, I’ve started to learn about myself and  the ways in which I’m unique. Before, I kept wanting to be like other girls, but as I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve begun to understand that the beauty I want is already within me. 

I just have to keep discovering it.