“OITNB” star Uzo Aduba reveals how she learned to love herself

You know those people who exude confidence the moment they walk into a room? Well, at one point or another, even they’ve dealt with self-esteem issues. We all have. That’s why we can’t stop relating to Orange is the New Black star Uzo Aduba’s “How I Built Up My Confidence in College After Years of Not Fitting In” essay for Seventeen.

When I was in high school, I was a total romantic and spent a lot of time thinking about boys. I loved to daydream about my crushes, and I’d convince myself we were destined to be a couple,” Uzo writes. “The truth is, I didn’t date anyone in high school. I had two best guy friends — Mark and John — but no ‘boyfriends.’” Though she wanted nothing more than to be in a relationship, no one ever asked Uzo out. She suspects it’s because she didn’t represent her peers’ idea of “beautiful.”

You see, I grew up in a small New England town where the beauty ideal was very traditional and seemingly flawless: blonde hair, blue eyes, legs for days,” the actress explains. “In my mind, that meant anyone who didn’t look that way was considered unattractive.” These circumstances led Uzo to feel uneasy about her body. She states, “I never felt beautiful.

Not feeling attractive caused Uzo to believe that she wouldn’t get asked to prom junior or senior year. However, her friend John invited her the first year and Mark was her date the second. Both these friends made Uzo feel like she mattered. Essentially, Mark and John guided Uzo on the path to loving herself.

After high school, Uzo attended Boston University and her self-esteem continued to grow. “The school’s diverse culture embraced everything that I am, so instead of feeling defeated like I did back home, I started to think about what I did value about myself, tooth gap and all,” remembers Uzo. “And then the craziest thing happened: My beauty radiated from within.

Though going to college helped Uzo find her confidence, she explains that one doesn’t need to attend university to find their self-esteem. She advises, “Take whatever it is you like about yourself — even if it’s your pinkie toes — and walk around every day saying, “You know what? I have really great pinkie toes.” Eventually that positive feeling will seep into every part of who you are, and the people around you will see it too.” When those around you pay attention, Uzo recommends that you never forget them. Perfect example:

And I know it’s easier said than done, but try your best not to second-guess yourself,” Uzo beautifully concludes. “You are enough, just as you are.

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