[An Open Letter] I Grew Up Being The Crush Ng Bayan’s Best Friend—Here’s What I Learned

Disclaimer: Before anything else, I want to make this clear—this post is not meant to pit one woman against another. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Just keep doing you, babe!

I can still remember the day my grade school crush told me that he liked my best friend. As silly as it may seem today, I consider that my first heartbreak. Hey, we have to admit: confessing to crushes was a big deal back in 6th grade.

That “revelation” didn’t come as a surprise to me. After all, almost half of the boys in our batch liked my best friend—she was pretty, friendly, and smart. Oh, and she was super athletic, too—and by that time, I’d already accepted my fate: I would never learn how to properly serve a volleyball in this lifetime.

I knew my best friend liked him back, so I ended up shipping the both of them, joining the chorus of “yiheee”s and “uuuuuyyy”s whenever my classmates would see them spend lunch break together. (They’ve gone separate ways now, but hey, isn’t puppy love so sweet and innocent?) But deep inside, my 11-year-old heart couldn’t help but wonder—will I ever become crush-ng-bayan-worthy?

Growing up, I never considered myself a “pretty girl”. I knew I looked average (or on good hair days, maybe even above average. Wink.)—but never crush-ng-bayan-worthy. Back in the day, there wasn’t Instagram yet—so my past time was spent flipping through teen magazines, admiring the models on the pages, wanting to be just like them. They were just like the crush ng bayan in our school. Fair and flawless, with long, straight hair and a pretty set of teeth. But I was none of those: I am dark-skinned, my hair is wavy, and before getting braces, I had a crooked smile with two prominent front teeth. Because of that, bullies in elementary school even called me a rat. Harsh, I know.

Like most girls my age, I was very insecure about how I looked—but I’m glad I overcame that. It wasn’t easy learning to love myself, though—it was years of self-discovery. But a recent encounter with a pre-teen urged me to write this blog post. During Kids Church a week ago, a girl in our class said, “Teacher, I want to be pretty like the girls on YouTube.” As cute as that may seem, as a teacher, an ate, and a blogger, my heart was a bit troubled.

I cannot imagine how hard it is to be a teenager in the digital age, where most of what they see are “perfect”, Instagram-worthy, and curated. I mean, if growing up reading fashion magazines already took huge toll on my self-esteem—what more being a teenager and seeing all these people living seemingly perfect lives on social media!

I’m not saying all posts can lead to low self-esteem—but let’s be reminded to guard our hearts whenever we consume digital content. Sometimes, social media makes us feel like we aren’t good enough—or in this case, pretty enough. We read posts of our classmates getting into top universities, photos of our officemates getting promotions, or even see posts of our close friends getting engaged. We consume all those beautiful vacation photos, those selfies, and even those flat-lays of all things pretty.

But what we have to remember is that all of those don’t fully depict reality—because those are only a fraction of life. Real life happens outside of Instagram and YouTube—and yes, that includes our failures, our evenings getting stuck EDSA traffic, and even our not-so-picture-perfect morning faces.

I’ve always believed that everyone, that includes you and I, are influencers, and we all have the power to reach out to others using digital platforms. So here I am, writing an open letter to every girl, young or old, who feels like she isn’t good enough “like the other girls”. I too have felt that way—it’s normal. It’s human! But here are 4 things I learned along the way:

READ: An Open Letter To Students Who Didn't Graduate On Time

1. “Another woman’s beauty is not the absence of your own.”—author unknown

Nowadays, it’s so easy to be a mean girl. But we should remember that life isn’t a competition. Acknowledging that other girls are beautiful doesn’t mean we’re not! Instead of bringing other women down (“She wears lots of makeup, but I don’t!”, “She likes to wear super short skirts, but I prefer wearing sneakers!”), let’s uplift each other up.

Those models on magazines with legs that go on forever? They’re beautiful. Your friend with the short, stubby legs? She’s beautiful. The girl you saw at the MRT station this morning with the edgy pixie cut? She’s beautiful. Your classmate with braces who never fails to flash a warm, unassuming smile? She’s beautiful. Your best friend, who happens to attract all the cute guys in your circle of friends? She’s beautiful. That girl you see in the mirror? She’s beautiful, too.

2. It’s okay not to be “the pretty girl”—after all, we can be so many other things!

Let’s be honest: while everyone has her own unique beauty, not everyone can be as drop-dead gorgeous as “the crush ng bayan”—and that’s completely okay. After all, society tells us that in order to be “beautiful”, we have to have whiter skin, a sharp nose, a pimple-free face, and long, beautiful hair. (Say it with me girls, to hell with what society dictates upon us!) Some women are blessed to have all of those qualities, and that’s totally fine. I admit, by society’s standards, they’re really, really pretty!

But most girls, including me, don’t check all of those boxes—and that’s okay, too. When I finally accepted the fact that I’ll never be crush-ng-bayan-worthy, that’s when I began focusing on my other strengths. I realized I was funny (or at least I THINK I am!) and confident (that, I’m certain of)—and I focused on those. Ladies, remember this: when we hone our qualities, we’ll shine. Effortlessly.

In high school, I had a crush on this cute guy with eyeglasses. He was funny, and he happened to be one of my closest friends. But one day, he told me he had a huge crush on my best friend—and I got pretty bummed. But I kept on being my bubbly myself! I kept on telling jokes and being silly, and the next thing I knew, we ended up being a “thing” (LOL! Soooo high school!)

You see, even if I wasn’t the crush ng bayan, I still ended up going to prom with the cutest guy in class—not just once, but twice. And that was because I worked on my strength: my humor! Or okay fine, my confidence! :P (Diclaimer: We broke things off in college because of a stupid mistake I did, but we both are perfectly happy seeing other people now. I am genuinely rooting for his happiness—hey, we all deserve true love!)  

Ladies, there’s a lot more other things we can be than just pretty. We can be hilarious, and brave, and witty, and quick, and strong, and mighty, and brainy. We can be great writers, musicians, scientists, athletes, professors, creatives, and a whole lot more. Being smart and pretty are not mutually exclusive, either. We can be a combination of all these things. What I’m saying is, the possibilities are endless for you and me.

3. Puberty is real—wait for it to do its magic!

This one’s for the late bloomers out there who are reading this. I was also a late bloomer: before hitting my 20s, I looked very nene. My braces made my smile look funny, my hair had a life of its own, and my wardrobe choices were definitely questionable. I always giggle at photos of pre-puberty Hershey—but that’s normal, and is totally part of growing up!

It helped that throughout my college years, I was surrounded by women I loved and admired. My first ever college friend, Chesca, is a confident theatre actress and a stunning girl. Our freshman block chose her to represent our course in an inter-university pageant (yup, I used to be a nursing student—but that’s for another story), and I remember being so damn proud of her when I saw her on stage. I was one with the crowd in cheering her on—she was a true friend to me, and she inspired me to break out of my shell! (Hey Chesca, if you’re reading this, I love you!)

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A photo taken years back! :P Yes, that’s me at Chesca’s right—the girl with the super long hair. :P

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I was also a part of a sorority. Back then, at 17, I was the youngest member of the organization—so I looked up to my sisses, whom I considered my big sisters, for fashion, beauty, and grooming advice.

Everyone was nene at some point—we just have to wait for puberty to do its magic!

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My first day as a sorority sister! <3 Spot me standing at the back with permed hair! Yup, my hair went through A LOT the past decade—from rebonding, to perming, to bleaching…you name it!. hahaha.

With my sorority sis and Lady Chancellor, Jam, at the first-ever party I organized and headed! Look at my eyeshadow! Was that….BLUE?? HAHA!

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I wasn’t kidding when I said my fashion sense was questionable!

4. Finally, once we become secure with our identities, we will no longer feel the need to prove ourselves to anyone.

“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” (Song of Solomon 4:7)

Whenever we look at the mirror and think that we aren’t “good enough”, let’s remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully created by God in His image. The mole on your face is perfect. The birthmark on your cheek is perfect. Your height, your color, your eye shape...they’re perfect. In His eyes, we are perfect.

And once we become secure in our identity—we are children of God!—we will no longer have the urge to prove the world of our beauty, because God already told us—my love, there is no flaw in you

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