When I was 10-years old, I overheard a family member tell someone that she thought I was cute, not pretty, not beautiful, just cute. I was taking a nap on the couch and woke up in time to hear her conversation. It damaged me. I pretended like I was asleep, but turned around to hide the teardrops falling from my eyes.
For years, I looked at myself as just cute, not pretty, not beautiful, but cute. In reality, I questioned why others didn’t view me as I viewed myself. I loved my skin color. I am amber brown, a combination of my mother’s fair skin and my father’s rich dark skin. I have beautiful full lips, big brown eyes, as bright as the sun and a button nose. I have a small gap in my teeth, which adds to my beautiful imperfections. My hair is cotton soft and was never really able to grow very long (it has a mind of its own). I loved who I saw looking back at me when I looked in the mirror, but to others, I guess I wasn’t good enough.
When I was 15, my boyfriend told me “You’re Beautiful” for the first time in my life, I heard those words; it made me love him even more. My whole worth was warped into how he viewed me. I wanted to be his ideal; I wanted to remain beautiful in his eyes. Once our relationship ended, I was completely lost. I spent years trying to reverse the effect that he had on me. I was insecure and I felt rejected. Who would ever love me as much as he did? Who would ever view me as beautiful again? I was broken.
A week before my college graduation my friend asked me “Do you think you’re cute, pretty or beautiful?” I replied, “I think I am cute and pretty. I don’t think I am beautiful” as the words left my mouth my soul dropped. I said it because I was afraid that if I did say I was beautiful she would have objected. I questioned my response immediately, What was I talking about? Where was my worth? She looked at me with a face of pity and pompously replied, “Well, I think I am beautiful.”
It’s ironic but I was days away from attaining a college degree and I still was not smart enough to accurately measure my own beauty. I was still not empowered enough to see me as God saw me, beautifully and wonderfully made.
Beauty comes from the inside out. I am a beautiful person inside, and I can finally say I am a beautiful person out. I can no longer let the societal standards of what beautiful is affect the way I view myself. For so long, I let others define my beauty. I let others tell me who I was and who I wasn’t. I let them tell me that I am too dark, or too light; that my hair is too short or too kinky; that I needed to go natural and stop wearing weaves, or that I needed to wear weaves and stop being natural; that my lips were too full or that my nose wasn’t straight enough; I heard all the things that I “lacked” in order to be seen as aesthetically appealing. All the while, I saw the outer and inner beauty all along. I never viewed myself as less than, but I let others perceptions of me skew my own vision.
It’s hard for me to write these things, and expose the negative things that people have said to me. Although it seems like I am a confident person, sometimes I still feel like that brokenhearted 10-year old whose family doesn’t think she’s pretty or that insecure 15-year old whose worth is completely tied up in her boyfriend. I am still that weak 22-year old that doesn’t have enough courage to scream from the rooftops that she is beautiful but now I am that bold 26-year old that is not going to take it anymore. I am working hard to reclaim my beauty not only for myself but also for others by actually speaking about this dirty little secret that I’ve held onto in silence for so long.