Beautiful Friend

Ugochi’s Story:

My mom always told me you don’t need friends. I think that’s why she and my dad had so many kids. Being the black sheep of the family, I wanted to prove her wrong. Finding friends would be challenging because I was not cool, I had a gap between my front teeth and I had a very Nigerian name.

Growing up, I was a nerd who loved books and learning. In my neighborhood in southwest Houston, those things were not popular. I was bullied. Kids made fun of me, threw things at me on the bus and made up vicious lies about how I was dirty and smelled. My gap added to the ammunition. Kids hurled insults at me almost every day, and I don’t remember a teacher or adult standing up for me. My mom tried to convince me I was beautiful. But I didn’t believe her, and for a long time I chose to hide my smile. The last strike against my congeniality was my name. I remember listening for pauses when names were called at school. Long pauses meant that someone was going to make a feeble attempt to pronounce my name – which always resulted in laughter. Many days I felt even death might be better than living as a target of taunting and bullying – days where I questioned my purpose and doubted anyone would or could ever love me.

Despite these setbacks God had plans for all these problems, and he still continues to use these scars to help me make friends and build my confidence in the beauty he has given me. In elementary school I became besties with a friend named Micole, who shared my love for learning, especially reading and writing. Just as authors would, we created secret characters we brought to life with our imaginations.

The gifts God gave me became the tools that connected me to others and repeatedly helped me with my struggles with low self-esteem. When I met Dawn during my high school years, I gravitated to her because she was pretty and cool, and I was shocked she wanted to be my friend. We combined our love for writing with 90s Houston hip-hop culture and created competing rap labels in which we would “diss” each other using the tunes of popular songs.

As an adult, I continued to fight with the mirror – hardly looking at myself for fear I would see an ugly duckling. During the pandemic my college friends and I wanted to join the trend and have a themed Zoom party. One theme was Pretty in Pink. I didn’t have anything pink, and I didn’t feel pretty. I told one of my friends that I would go off screen because I wasn’t good with make-up and didn’t feel pretty anyway. She offered to go off screen with me so I wouldn’t feel alone. I stayed off the screen for that Zoom party but over time began turning the camera back on for other Zoom events. After a year of seeing my own face on Zoom, I actually started to believe Ephesians 2:10: “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

This battle to find my beauty and to experience the Savior’s love through friends is not over yet. There are still days I struggle to look in the mirror and days I question if I will ever be loved by a man if I look the way I do. I would venture to say my relationship with my son’s father was based on my attempts to alleviate my insecurities – so putting down the cross of low self-esteem and leaving it at the altar is an everyday battle.

But there are other days. One day as I walked by, a random stranger yelled from a car, “I love your hair and I live for your smile!” I recently took a professional photo for my friends’ wedding and smiled with my teeth. That was a huge step for me – because I still hurt, I still struggle, but I don’t let that pain hold me back. I am learning to be my own friend – just like all the other friends that God has put in my life.

God Himself is my best friend. He wrote letters, notes and songs to me in his Word. He gave me beauty for the ashes of low self-esteem, and he has put people in my life to show me the physical manifestation of his friendship. He put away the 99 insults I believed and gave me his 1 truth. What bullies meant for evil, God turned to good. He is my very best friend – so yes, Mom, you do need friends.

I’d Like to Talk to Someone via Email

Sacred Stories together

Your emails are confidential. Connect via Secure Email.

Connect Now

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to our Story Library and Podcast and receive notifications of new posts by email.