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“Pretty Ugly” is a poem by Abdullah Shoaib that echoes the importance of self-worth. The poem not only breaks the conventional beauty standards but also the conventional poetry standards as it is structured as a reverse poem.
About the poet
Abdullah Shoaib is a poet who is most-known for his poem “Pretty Ugly”. The reverse structure of the poem was so creative that it took over the Internet. Shoaib reflects upon the unrealistic body standards and expectations of the society on an individual.
“Pretty Ugly” is a Reverse poem, it can be read upwards and downwards. When read from top to bottom, the poem gives a pessimistic tone. The speaker has lost all hope and thinks very low of himself. But when read from bottom to top, the same verses seem optimistic, where the speaker believes that his life has worth and he is truly beautiful from the inside.
Summary and Analysis
I'm very ugly So don't try to convince me that I am a very beautiful person
The speaker of the poem believes he is very ugly. He is so sure of it that no one can convince him that he is a very beautiful person.
The poem begins as the speaker of the poem states “I’m very ugly”. The speaker claims this in a way that seems like it is a known fact. He is aware of his looks and he is not trying to sugarcoat it. There is no euphemism used here, it is as if the speaker has accepted the fact that he is ugly and he does not feel any resentment anymore. He agrees, and he has learned to live with it.
The next two lines of the poem displays the confidence that the speaker has regarding his ugliness. He is fed up with all the lies that people say to convince a person of their own beauty. The way the speaker says these lines is as if he has experienced it countless times. That people have constantly tried to tell him that he is not ugly, they have tried to convince him that he is, in fact, pretty, which seems to bother the speaker. Maybe because he finds them contradicting themselves.
Because at the end of the day I hate myself in every single way And I'm not going to lie to myself by saying There is beauty inside of me that matters
No one can convince him because at the end of the day he hates himself in every possible way. And therefore he is not going to lie to himself and believe that there is some sort of beauty that resides inside him.
In the next lines of the poem, the speaker continues to say that he doesn’t want anyone to convince him that he is not ugly because no matter how hard they try, at the end of the day, the speaker hates himself, everyday.
These lines show lack of self-worth, and lack of self-confidence, the speaker must have been through something really traumatic or must’ve had an abusive relationship. There are many people who think they are bad, that they don’t deserve love, and they hate themselves for this, everyday. And most of these people haven’t even done anything majorly wrong to feel that way.
The speaker is also going through this self-hatred state of mind where he is not going to lie to himself that he has beauty even inside him. He has already accepted his ugly outside, and he believes his inside is equally ugly.
So rest assured I will remind myself That I am a worthless, terrible person And nothing you say will make me believe I still deserve love
He will keep assuring himself that he has no worth and that he is a terrible person. And no one can say anything that will make him believe that he still deserves love.
Here again, the speaker says that he constantly reminds himself that he has no worth at all. He believes he is a terrible person. This makes one wonder why he would believe so?
Why does he think he is a terrible person who has no worth?
And because he has accepted this fact and constantly repeats it in his head every day, no one can help him believe otherwise.
The speaker also believes that he doesn’t deserve any love. Just because he is ugly, he believes all of these things, it’s as if someone shattered his confidence.
Lines 12- 17
Because no matter what I am not good enough to be loved And I am in no position to believe that Beauty does exist within me Because whenever I look in the mirror I always think Am I as ugly as people say?
Because he has accepted the fact that he is not good enough to be loved. And he is in no position to believe that there is any beauty that exists inside him. This is because when he looks in the mirror he always questions hs=is beauty. He always questions if he is as ugly as people say he is.
These last lines of the poem reveal that the reason the speaker feels this way is because of the high societal standards of beauty. These standards still continue to crush many people under a load of expectations that possibly can’t be met by any humans.
The speaker therefore believes that he will never be good enough and therefore he will never be loved by anyone. And he refuses to believe that there is any beauty inside him because whenever he looks in the mirror he questions himself. Is he really as ugly as the people say?
Last line in parentheses
(Now read bottom to top)
The poem does not end here, although it may seem like this was the end, the last line of the poem says to read the poem from bottom to top. When we read the poem in this reverse order, we find it completely different from what we read just now.
The downside-up order starts with the last line, “Am I as ugly as people say?”. It continues upwards. The speaker questions himself, is he as ugly as they say? But he doesn’t believe so, because whenever he looks in the mirror, he knows that beauty exists within himself. It is the inner beauty that really matters. And he is in no position to believe that he is not good enough to be loved again.
Because no matter what, everyone deserves love. And nothing anyone says should affect the way you think about yourself. One should never believe that he is a worthless and terrible person. One should always remind himself that beauty is always inside us and that’s what matters the most.
The speaker is not going to lie to himself by convincing that he is not good enough, that he must hate himself everyday. Because at the end of the day, he is a very beautiful person, so don’t try to convince him that he is very ugly.