“My looks? I’m completely satisfied.” I met with a short man in his late 30s who had been suffering from a complex because of his short height. When I met him in person, he really was very short. He was small, with a thin voice, and even had rough skin. The Busan man said he had no choice but to be timid. But he was able to get over the inferiority complex in his mind through meditation. Now he works as a hairdresser and shows off his comfortable and youthful looks. Here’s the ‘Real Talk’ interview with this very confident man.
Interviewer: (Very cautiously) How tall are you?
I’m 5’2” tall. I was on the tall side until fifth grade in elementary school. I was also very bright and cheerful. But when I was in fifth grade I suffered from an extreme shock. I think I stopped growing at that time.
Interviewer: Less than 5’3”? What happened?
I came home from school and saw my mom die during a robbery. I ran into the robber and my fallen mother at the same time when the robber knocked me down with his hand and I passed out. It was a tremendous shock. I haven’t grown since. My personality completely changed, too. I didn’t speak, became passive, and would stare off into space.
Interviewer: Ah… I’m so sorry. That isn’t an easy case to become free from.
I was beside myself when I entered middle school. My classmates began to tease me because I was always in a daze. I felt discouraged and the height gap between my classmates grew worse. They would come back having grown taller after vacation, but I stayed the same. Maybe it was because I didn’t eat well. Also, my voice was as high-pitched as a woman’s as I didn’t talk too much after puberty. I hated it when the class teased me about being gay. I really hated it. But they were tall and big, so I was overpowered. If it had been before my mother died, I would have either beaten them up, bitten them, or would have fought them even if I were to get beat up. But after that incident I just took the beating.
Interviewer: I think you were desperate and didn’t want to live.
All I could do was resent my friends, relatives, and parents. When I got home, my older sisters were having a hard time and my dad was strict and was often angry. I was knocked around at home and at school. When I was in middle and high school, I had such little confidence that I only looked down at the ground when I was walking on the streets. And one more thing. I had severe acne scars. I squeezed my pimples so much that my skin was really bad.
Interviewer: How did you relieve the stress?
My only liberation was music and Samulnori (Korean traditional percussion quartet). The moment I played music, my mind burst wide open. Especially, I liked Gugak (Korean classical music) and Samulnori because they go well together. And I went out to a competition at the age of 28 and won first place in the master class. At that time, it was rare for someone so young to win first place. That was the only thing I could count on.
Interviewer: Didn’t you try to look good?
When I was 20 years old, I wanted to move away from the past and dress up and date. But I was really stressed because I was short. If I bought pants, I had to cut the bottoms and it didn’t look smart at all. Shoes didn’t fit me either. Wearing a suit was also difficult. So, I wore high white canvas shoes with 5 centimeter insoles with a sky blue dress shirt and navy dress pants to look smart and dandy. I would put wax in my hair hoping that it would make me look better. There were a lot of things I had to do for my skin too. I would do little things like washing my face with green tea. And I heard potato face packs would make your skin glow, so I would slice up potatoes and stick them on my skin. I tried mixing honey and yogurt to make face packs and even used organic cosmetics that people raved about. As dermatology treatments at clinics were too expensive, I gave up on those. After seeing my skin, they said one or two treatments were not enough (laughs). Now that I think about it, the complex I had about my appearance is probably what led me to be a hairdresser. Even now, I work extra hard to make short people with big heads and bad skin look more stylish as I can empathize more anyone else.
Interviewer: Have you ever been hurt by your looks?
Our society still judges people only by their appearances and looks down on people if they are short. It excludes looking at the basic mind of a person. I have been greatly looked down upon by my relatives, too. It was because I wasn’t exactly the average office worker most people think of. I had a lot of worries about whether I would go the ‘safe’ way or the way I wanted to go. Then, it seems that I started meditation with the feeling of running away. I wanted to escape.
Interviewer: What did you throw away the most while meditating?
I threw away a lot of thoughts about my parents and the robber who was my worst enemy. It was the hardest to let go of my hateful feelings towards that robber. I also discarded the moments I was teased by my classmates and the suffering I went through as a consequence. Finally, I threw away myself the most. I also discarded my actions where I acted differently from what I felt inside, along with my appearance complex.
Interviewer: Does it disappear as easily as it sounds?
Before meditating, this ‘me’ who had lived throughout my life was my everything. But as anyone who has done this meditation knows, this small body is not just me. Rather this whole universe is my original ‘me’. Knowing that, one doesn’t create an inferiority complex or obsession with one’s body or appearance. As I got to know my true nature, I naturally lost my complex. I was so happy when I found out that this universe is my true nature. Once I came to know that noble nature, I thought I should cherish it. I am determined to live well with this infinite mind of the universe.
Interviewer: What if you were to judge your looks now?
I’m completely satisfied. Look, my first impression is so good and I look young, don’t you think? What is in one’s heart and mind is revealed in his face. During one’s teens and twenties, a person can hide behind make-up. However, as you get older, the first impressions of a person are important because you can see how a person’s mind is made up as it is reflected on the face. That doesn’t mean that you’re consciously trying to brighten up your face. Even though a person is ugly and his skin is dark, the first impression becomes very bright when one is comfortable and free from stress. So it seems possible to look young like me. (Laughs)
Interviewer: These days, diet addicts and plastic surgery addicts are emerging. What do you want to say to people who care too much about their looks?
If you look back on your life, there must be a definite happenstance that created this inferiority complex. You know best what it is. When you discard that inferiority complex and live as the original nature, your perception of ‘myself’ and your appearance itself changes. The expression changes positively and shines. No matter how ugly you are, you become really attractive. It’s not an outward gleam. Maybe this is the real stunning self? (Laughs) I hope you can throw away your inferiority complex, truly love yourself, and be confident about yourself no matter what you look like.