In elementary school, I didn’t have too many friends. I mostly stuck around the same five people all the way through and I was content living that way. Through these friendships, I also had another relationship with an online, multiplayer game: RuneScape. RuneScape self-describes as the “Free to Play Fantasy MMORPG Game.” The RuneScape now is definitely different from the RuneScape I used to play, but this is a small detail. What matters is that RuneScape changed my life and showed me how I viewed myself.
For starters, when I was in elementary school, I desperately, desperately wanted to be white. In particular, I wanted blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. At the time, my hair was a combination of black and brown, my eyes a deep brown, and my skin a deep tan. I hated myself more than words can describe. My arms and legs were covered in black hair that I inherited from my Filipino father. Meanwhile, my friends would have translucent hairs that you couldn’t notice unless you tried to. I felt like an outsider and I acted like such, finding solace in the many online games that I played (SecondLife, Sims Online, Toontown, Club Penguin, WebKinz, Neopets, World of Warcraft, etc.) All my human avatars in these online games were white, blonde women that I aspired to be one day….somehow, some way.
Writing this down hurts deep inside. I always knew it was strange that my avatars never actually looked like me, but I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly the problem was. Now, at age 18, I have the terminology and self-understanding to do just that. Self-hatred in communities of color due to European beauty standards is common and it affected me for years. I would spend hours staring in the mirror (a bit melodramatic, but I digress), wishing my skin would turn just a few shades lighter. Wishing that my nose was just a little less flat. My eyes at least light brown, instead of the black-brown that they are. Wishing that my lips were less full and actually fit the size of my face. Wishing that I didn’t exist.
Fast forward to today, and I absolutely love myself. I love the way that you can’t tell what race I am. I love my deep brown eyes and hair. I love my eyebrows, the way my nose looks. I love my skin color?—?not because it got lighter, but because it’s mine. I love my nails, my eyelashes, my lips. I love everything, and sometimes, people are turned off by this unapologetic self-love. However, I don’t care. I can’t afford to care. I wish I could have told my younger self that wanting to be white was a waste of time. That in a few years people would call me beautiful, sometimes offensively “exotic,” but my younger self would have taken that word any day. That way my younger self could have been more confident. She could have sang more often, danced more often. Most importantly, her RuneScape avatar could have looked like her.
Here we are at the conclusion of this article and I’m in tears. I’ve been wanting to write an article on this subject matter for a while now, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I couldn’t confront all that past self-hatred because the intensity and magnitude of it was just so great that I feared it would consume me. Yet, now that this article is done, I’ve found that I’ve conquered it. Self-hatred is not welcome in my headspace anymore. It doesn’t belong here. I hope this article finds its way to other little girls who want to be white and who pretend to be white online because that’s their only hope for the future. I hope this article helps them realize that they are beautiful, despite the way European beauty standards are championed in every corner of the Earth. I hope this article does something for someone. Thank you.