I am sick of it! It is hard accepting yourself as is; society makes it worse. Out of the womb, people are picking babies apart. Kids hear about their heads being too big, their legs being too skinny, their eyes being too slanted or not slanted enough, their skin being too dark, or their bellies being too round. Other kids hear, "You have pretty eyes." "Your lips are so perfect!" "You have cute, big legs." "You're so cute and petite!" "You have that good hair." So already we have the "haves" and the "have nots." Why are we complimenting a little girl on her body’s shape before she even knows what that is about? These comments are a result of our programming and our own insecurities.
Parents, I believe in complimenting kids on their appearance, but really to combat the ridiculous standards that society sets up for us. We have to deemphasize the need to change anything about our kids: "I love you just the way you are." Not, "Look at your hair, we have to do something about that. It is so nappy." Instead, "Let's comb your hair and style it. Your hair texture and hairstyle is so beautiful and unique." or "I love how neat you look. That haircut is tough." Even this can be detrimental if we shower our kids with compliments so much that they start to do things only for the approval of others, so I say teach them to appreciate themselves and how they take care of themselves. “You did a great job putting on your clothes and brushing your teeth. You do a great job taking care of yourself.” Call it extreme, but be desperate for showing your kids how to love themselves. “You are doing a great job of taking care of your beautiful smile.” “When you take time to brush your hair, and put on neat and clean clothes, you are showing up at your best.” “Look in the mirror. What a nice look for an already beautiful girl.”
Let’s go deeper because compliments about a kid’s beauty will not survive to combat what she’ll face when people try to tear her down or just plain old ignore her altogether. You can add a filter or airbrush your face to hide so called imperfections, but let's cherish our natural beauty. I am not saying that those who wear makeup or use filters necessarily have self-esteem issues or need to change anything. I am not advocating anything but self-love and acceptance. Sometimes, it is fun to just play around with the filters (I have never added a filter to a post, but I dabble with makeup and I do the funny ones during video chats). However, let’s be careful because we might be contributing to the epidemic of girls trying to attain an unrealistic expectation of beauty. Girls cannot walk around filtering themselves in real life. Can you imagine? “Yes, I would love to walk around with a sepia or juno filter every day. With the snap of my fingers, my lighting would be perfect wherever I go. Otherwise, people won’t see my smoky eyes pop.” Mascara runs and a hairstyle can get rained on or sweated out. I think it is fun to add a little extra pizzazz to your look. However, let's celebrate who we are unadulterated, unedited, and never duplicated, not trying to look like the next person. I believe that you are uniquely and beautifully made before adding anything.
I am not going to bite my tongue. Often, I'm sick of the superficial. We spend so much time complimenting each other on the facade, the shell, until we forget what really matters. For every girl who you say is “slaying,” there are ten girls who are getting ignored, so what do they do? They start adding and changing things about themselves to get attention because otherwise they feel unloved, unpretty, imperfect, and invisible. I think some fads spread so fast because we are so busy comparing ourselves to the next girl to even stop to enjoy and admire what we already have. Then, we start to get cookie-cutter images. While we are praising girls for living up to some predetermined, unrealistic image of beauty, we are shaking the foundation of self-esteem of the rest. Praise a girl for something other than her looks. You can still tell someone they look nice but what else matters: attitude, kindness, courage, leadership, cheerfulness, sense of humor, love of learning, financial smarts, wittiness, and the list goes on. Don't try to give girls makeovers saying you are making them look better. Instead, emphasize that a part of loving yourself is taking care of yourself: health, hygiene, and grooming. It is important to be you and develop your own sense of style. Getting a new outfit is cool, but you can't shop your way into self-love. Proof: let's take away your wardrobe. Now what? Let's do facials and get nails done together; these should not be necessities. Why? Because without nails, hair extensions, and a new outfit, you are still beautiful.
I like getting pedicures! I love facials. Clothes can be really cute. A good tingly skin treatment with a massage can give me life. We can do “cute” stuff...but if girls don't have a strong foundation of “you look good without any extra,” we are setting them up to be imprisoned inside the house until they are wearing enough add-ons: makeup, lashes, a wig or extensions, spanks, nails, and I can keep adding onto this list. Before someone gets offended, I have done it all (or a lot I should say because I have never had any cosmetic surgery). Before someone calls me a hypocrite, let’s get to the heart of the matter. If you love yourself regardless, I don’t see the problem. However, if you lose yourself under the mask, you require these things to be satisfied with yourself, and/or you are steady adding more layers, when will it be enough? I want my daughter to feel comfortable walking out of the house without a 20-step beauty routine, to be able to speak up in class or stand on a stage without fear of people noticing her “imperfections.” Or to post a picture without a filter. Or put on an outfit without critiquing every part of her body. Tell your friend, daughter, cousin, mother, aunt, or whomever that she is beautiful, but don't forget to show them the reality of things.... beautiful women have rolls, scars, cellulite, stretch marks, hair in unusual places, moles, uneven body parts, and the list goes on... Beautiful women aren't perfect! And if you continue to "fix" the outside and never love who you are, you might never be happy with you. I know I will get some push back, but I have been a woman too long and heard too many disappointing conversations to shut up!!!!!!!!
What about the soul of a woman? How are we phenomenal? Sis, I can't count all of the ways. However, here’s the proof that beauty is more than external. If you have ever been around someone who has checked off every box on the list of beauty standards, but who is lacking where it matters, you will second guess those standards of beauty. I mean this girl could be so “beautiful,” but she talks to people like they’re nothing. It starts to change your position on beauty, helping you think more about the whole person in front of you. Your beauty has very little to do with your lashes or your edges (appearance). Try loving yourself, looking in the mirror at yourself, metaphorically and even physically naked with no additions. If we don’t start being honest about what is happening on the inside, we are in trouble. Let's start trying to get girls to accept who they are or at least allow them to strive to love themselves. We can’t keep showing our children that we are working to "fix" what’s “wrong” with us. Instead we must love ourselves first, realizing our greatness. Improving ourselves with this mindset is just evidence of loving ourselves. Then, they will internalize the mantra of “because I am good enough, I will…” instead of “I will not be good enough until….”
As for body image, there is nothing wrong with being fit or having a good workout routine, but ideally healthy habits would be a byproduct of self-love, not the other way around. So not “I love myself because I look this way,” but “because I love myself, I will set goals to be healthy and fit.” We might have to practice positive self-talk and love ourselves to health, but we are in need of serious recovery as a society. It has taken me over 30 years to delete enough of the messages and unprogram the mess that I learned about beauty. “Kesia, you are too fat, your teeth are chipped, you have a gap, your skin is bad, and your hair needs to be straight or else it is ‘nappy’” are just a few of the ideas that were embedded in my mind. Let me be more precise..."Ms. Piggy." "Chip, chip, chip, chip and dale rescue rangers." "You are going to be bigger than the two of us combined if you do not stop eating." "When are you going to do something else to your hair." I have stopped listening. I have stopped replaying the recording while looking in the mirror. Let's help girls (and boys) start out strong by getting rid of the mentality that "fixing" your outer appearance without loving yourself is a healthy thing to do. Sometimes, a new look might make you feel good and "cleaning up" your appearance can take the edge off of low self-esteem, but self-love will pick up a person's spirit for the long-term, not temporarily. There simply is no substitute.
Cultivating self-love is an inside job with long-lasting external results. I don't have time for beauty product advertisements telling women what they need to change or fix to look better. If you want to work hard on looking like the girl on t.v. who had a hair and makeup team, an expensive wardrobe at her disposal, airbrushing, photoshop, the best lighting ever, a stylist, beauty treatments, liposuction, botox and you name it, do you boo! I mean, try to be them, and you will fail and be stressed out in the process. No, truly do you! Stop allowing other people to tell you the standard that you need to meet. Truth is some things you just cannot change, so love who you are.
Sometimes people need to hear it constantly before it sinks in, but honestly each person has to accept it for themselves. I learned this the hard way in Girls on Fire because self-esteem makeovers don't happen overnight or by showering girls with compliments that they can’t even hear (though we still compliment each other). Self-love cannot take root in the psyche unless a person is actively pursuing it to reverse the course. I believe that if we tear down the stereotypes of beauty and love each other nurturing the internal beauty a girl has, we can make headway. While still complimenting her personal style, look, and choices, beauty's true definition will sink in eventually. The inroad to doing the real work might require a little bit of fluff. Who knows how you will be able to cut through the noise?
Being affirmative, not just general, but also specific is important. Yes, you look nice and you are beautiful. You are a young woman or girl which makes you beautiful from jump because you are made with the power to bring forth life, but you are even more than that. Beautiful girl, you do not have to change your hair or skin to be beautiful. Your skin is dark brown, and you are rocking a 4C. You do not have to be light-skinned with curly hair to be pretty. Side note: I hate hair types except for the ability to acknowledge the fact that different hair types exist, they might require different care for maintenance and health, and they are all beautiful; sometimes I think hair types contribute to the problem because some people are trying to achieve what they do not have, reinforcing a stereotypical standard of beauty. I am light-skinned with semi-curly hair, and I am commenting on this whether my comment is welcomed or not. I have beautiful women in my immediate family and circle of friends who needed this message a long time ago, so I will say it. There are brown girls who never doubted their beauty. Kudos to the people who raised you or who surrounded you throughout your formative years. All over the world, beautiful brown girls are accepting and have accepted their beauty, and I am happy to be here for it. Beautiful girl, if you are pale or have little body or texture to your hair, love yourself anyway because getting tans that change your skin tone or adding hair will never be as good as accepting your skin or hair the way that it naturally is. If you like the tanned look, I am not mad. Once again, the question remains: Aren't you beautiful without it?
It is not by accident that a lot of people want what they don’t have. Thanks commercialism and the health and beauty industry perpetuating insecurities and reaffirming stereotypes of beauty. With only a handful of companies that are affirming the diversity of beauty, looks like we are getting a lot of “beauty” stereotypes but little health. Thank God for revolution, or more people in America would still think that you have to be white and skinny with blue eyes and blonde hair to be beautiful. We still have far to go. It is powerful how your mindset dictates true health. You will never feel good enough if you are either trying to please others or you have not accepted your true self! To this day, people will compliment me more or less based on how much I have “defined” my curl pattern with products. With or without product, my hair is my hair. I don’t care. I can be fro’ed out and frizzy or have slicked edges and still love myself. Arggh! This stuff is deep. Shout out to women who proudly wear their scars out or bald heads! You are so brave! What you are doing does not make anyone who doesn't do this less beautiful, but your willingness to show your real self and everything that you have gone through is more than beautiful. And maybe you will inspire someone else to believe that she is beautiful regardless of how she presents herself to the world.
Once you get this mess about “the standard” out of your head, look at every inch of your body and focus on how to accept it. The alternative is picking apart every "flaw" to determine a course of action to fix things. It’s a shame that even if you accept yourself, you will have to be strong enough to deal with what society has created. You will still have to walk onto a job site, face your opinionated family, or deal with the programming of your students’ parents in my case. I am close to immune, but not blind about the perceptions and opinions of the masses.
If you are “overweight,” know that your weight does not determine your beauty. I have lost at least 50 lbs. at least three times in my life, and I can say that my esteem was never defined by my weight or weight loss because weight loss is a temporary bandage if you have a real self-esteem problem. I appreciate every person who is going through a healthy weight loss journey to live better, this message is not for you. However, you have to think about how to maintain physical health. What other things about yourself are you struggling with that could make you gain your weight back? Is it the pain of abuse? Are you stressed out to no end because of work or family issues? Are you letting your attractiveness be determined by physical standards alone? Are you searching for approval from someone? You should deal with the route of the problem before, during, and after weight loss, so you can truly sustain healthy weight loss.
I will say that working out and eating right has tremendous benefits. You feel energized and confident, but if you do not love “you” anyway, you will still be aching for acceptance. Trying to sustain weight loss can be unhealthy if you haven't committed to renewing your mind about who you are. You start to think that you are not okay unless you are a certain size; lies I tell you! Just live somewhere else in the world and see how the beauty standard shifts. It's arbitrary!
Please don't fall into a trap: with regard to appearance, your ability to attract others or how attractive other people find you should not be your measure either. You are in for a surprise. You can easily be manipulated; you will be crushed when that person or people start to ignore you. You exist outside of likes on Instagram and Facebook. If your mate is only attracted to your looks, they don't really like you. If your mate hasn't seen you and does not accept you without a 10-hour beauty routine, they don't like you, but they like the image you've created. So it is best to love yourself and find someone who likes you inside and out no filters! And if you want to work on something about you to attract the right person, let it be something that isn't physical. Otherwise, what you get will be a product of what you put out there. You might just get someone who likes a small fraction of you, your looks. If that's what you are going for, more power to you. If your appearance has to be redone over and over before it fades altogether, a relationship based off of those same looks will also fade.
If you have health issues due to your weight, get into a fitness program that is not trying to kill you or break your spirit but helps you understand that your appearance is only a small part of why you are working out instead of the only reason you are working out. It is okay to want to be pleased with what you see in the mirror, but check it. Ask yourself the following: why am I doing this; am I trying to live up to some arbitrary standard of beauty; what is my body type and how does this impact what I do (there are people who are born with different body types); am I trying to be comfortable (not comfortable during the workout itself because you might be in some pain), feel healthy, and love myself at every stage; am I in it for the long haul or just for a season; and am I obsessing over my weight too much? Answering these questions will help with whether or not working out alone is the right thing for you. Maybe you need a personal coach more than just a personal trainer. Someone to help nurture your personal growth, not just target your weight loss goals and manage your dietary habits. I have been through the fire, and I am not done yet. What is certain is that making over my physical appearance 1,000 fold will never conquer the negativity about myself that could take root in my mind. I am killing every seed and uprooting every tree that ever produced fruit of self-hatred. I am simultaneously planting seeds of love and forgiveness.
I'm ready for the push back! "You mean to tell me that nobody is ugly." With a fierce neck roll and my most hood voice, I am shouting, “Who asked you?!” The most important opinion belongs to the person you see in the mirror (you). After all, confidence and a sense of self is attractive. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, so look at yourself and call yourself beautiful. Forget opinions to the contrary. People will always have something to say. Let your positive internal dialogue drown out the images of so called beauty you see in the media, or better yet, turn it off entirely. Choose what you feed yourself wisely. Choose the people you hang around wisely. Parents, choose or intentionally affect what your child consumes. Their friends or associates, videos, TV shows, music and much more can make or break the positivity you are trying to feed them. With media, other people created this “programming,” and they are marketing their ideas to you and yours. Be careful about your media diet.
Adults, let's be better about how we approach issues of beauty and self-love. Bottom line: Are you covering up or hiding the real you because you do not love yourself? This is not about judgement, but about getting rid of the judge, so you can be free to be you. Already free? Great! Regardless, we have to love ourselves in front of our children, so the kids who are looking at us are not set up to fail. This is a tall order with so many layers. I haven’t even mentioned my opinion about the greatest love of all.
I am not perfect in this matter, but I have learned a lot over time. I just don't want to see girls hate themselves because we are struggling with the same issues. We have been lazy about how we model self-love in front of them, and we do not show them how much we value their true individual beauty. Together we can aggressively change course. We need to go to war! Die self-hatred. Die beauty standards that rob our girls of hope. We will no longer allow you to do us harm. #ripselfhatred #iaintholdingmytongue #ilovemyself #mindsetmakeover #iambeautifulbecauseisaidso #idefinemybeauty