I cannot remember the exact age I first thought to myself “I am ugly”.
In elementary school, I felt as cute as a button. But in high school, it was a different story. I became so aware of myself, and the things I “lacked”. It was in high school I began to have an issue with my gap teeth, my skin colour, and even my lips. I’ll never forget the day my schoolmate said my lips were “BIIIIIIGGGG.” I even had an ex tell me he thought I was ugly till he got a clearer look at my face. (Honestly, adolescence is tough, to every teenager going through it, I am rooting for you!)
I believed external opinions about my image so much that when I looked in the mirror, I was confused by what I saw. The girl in the mirror was beautiful, but the girl in my head looked like the Snapchat filter that distorted your eyes and nose and gave you a square head.
After a few years, I believe in Grade 11 or 12, one of the popular girls in my class said “Oh you’re pretty so you can do that.” and it was like a groundbreaking discovery had just been made. “What, did she just say I am pretty??? I mean if she is saying it, then it must be true” And in that moment, I finally believed I was pretty.
I look back now, and I wish my younger self did not have to go through that to get to where she is now. I let the opinions of others (opinions which changed after a few years) shape what I thought was true of my identity and myself.
It took some time of me looking at and studying myself to realize that “Ahn ahn your girl is very beautiful, not the most beautiful or more beautiful than, BEAUTIFUL.” It took me a while to understand that my gap teeth, my full eyebrows, my lips, my multi-pigmented skin, added to the beauty that I am today, that I have always been.
That my features made me ME and I am not a benchmark on the scale of beauty to be compared with another woman or person.
I would be a liar if I said I came to this realization by myself. It took a community, those who knew me personally and those who did not, for me to realize that my outer appearance was beautiful.
If these movements that celebrate Black beauty never existed, if Black women’s bodies were not praised as they are today, would I or other young Black women be able to say “I am beautiful”? Is it possible to be aware of your beauty, without the external input of others? I want to say yes.
It’s a long journey to finding inner beauty, a tough one, but there is a beautiful destination.
I have learned a few things in this journey:
- First of all, my worth is not dependent on what I look like, or on what apparel I am adorning. My weight has changed a few times, my face has changed too, and so the beauty I have today is not the same beauty from high school or my childhood. This means I have to accept what I look like at every stage of my life, because in a few years it is bound to change. But the truth remains, I am still beautiful.
- No other woman is a standard of beauty. Each woman is beautiful in their own way. Can we actually just shout out how beautiful people are in general? I have grown to recognize and admire other women’s beauty, without going “Oh I wish I had X’s eyes or T’s shape”. No, not anymore. I recognize that each woman’s beauty does not take away or add to mine. So instead of hating or comparing, why not just love them for them?
- I am a beautiful garden, and I need to take care of myself. I always think of the story of the garden of Eden, it was made beautiful, but Adam had to take care of it still. I believe everyone is made beautiful, but we need to take care of ourselves and maintain that beauty along the way. I remember when I used to invest in beauty treatments, and during a period of depression, I felt it was vain and not necessary. But now I am relearning that it is necessary. Sis! I believe bubble baths and facial treatments are necessary. Speaking words of love and care over yourself is necessary. Carving out time to enjoy your own company is crucial in learning and loving who you are.
As I said the journey to finding my inner beauty has not been an easy one, but it has been rewarding every step of the way. I hope it can be the same for you too.
About the Blogger: Ataisi Iris