When she was in her twenties, Jamilah Abdullah was often told that she was “too fat” or “not pretty enough” because she didn’t meet conventional ideas of beauty.
“Girls were ‘supposed’ to be slim and have characteristics which I didn’t. I had greasy, uncontrollable hair and eczema. In my late teens and early 20s, I was the girl that often didn’t get asked out by guys,” says Jamilah, who works in marketing communications.
At 1.63m and weighing 60kg, she was heavier than other girls at her college.
“But I soon realised it was because I was big boned so even at my optimum weight, I would still be considered ‘fat’ by some," she says.
But today, Jamilah, 37, is happily married to a “wonderful man who loves me as I am.”.
“It might sound cliché but when I first met her, I was really attracted to her bubbly personality. I remember thinking, she’s someone that makes me so comfortable and I wouldn’t mind coming home to her every day,” says Khairy M, 37.
“I find her attractive physically. She takes good care of herself and is healthy. To me, beauty is an overall package,” he says. The couple have been married for seven years.
Jamilah reveals that her negative self-image when she was younger resulted in depression and suicidal thoughts.
“All through my mid to late-20s, I went through a deep depression and was even suicidal because of my negative self-image and being constantly bullied for how I looked.
“Then a friend shared this quote with me: ‘There is no such thing as an ugly woman – there are only the ones who do not know how to make themselves attractive’ and encouraged me to take active steps to improve myself – not because of anyone else but for myself,” she says.
“I started exercising, changed my lifestyle to improve my skin condition, went for hair treatments and got a haircut that suits me, learnt how to wear make-up and dress to suit my body type, and read books on self-improvement.
“All that helped me to become a more confident person,” she says.
Jamilah emphasises that she changed not because she wanted to find a life partner but because she wanted to improve herself.
“It’s only when I focused on improving myself for myself that I discovered I started to become more attractive to those around me,” she says.
Judged for being nerdy
Growing up, Benjamin Ng was often overlooked by girls because he was, in his words, “very nerdy”.
“I wore glasses, was very thin and awkward around girls. I was the average guy-next-door,” says the 29-year-old IT executive.
Ng admits that he wasn’t people’s typical idea of what is good looking. But the turning point came when his girlfriend left him.
“I’m not sure how I even managed to get a girlfriend!” he exclaimed, and laughs in retrospect. “We were together for six months, but eventually, it ended because she kept comparing me to other guys who were fitter, taller, better looking, and more charismatic,” he reveals.
It was difficult being judged like that and Ng was sad and depressed for a long time.
“But then a friend encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. I read a lot of self-improvement books and started going for Toastmasters to learn how to communicate better in front of a crowd and gain confidence talking to people,” he says.
“I also started exercising. From someone who was underweight, I put on a little weight,” he adds.
“Although I’ll never be the ‘fit type’, I’m healthy and satisfied with how I look now and I’m also more confident around girls even though I still consider myself the ‘nerdy’ type,” he concludes, and laughs good-naturedly.