I’m currently 20 years old. I’m comfortable to walk around half-naked in my room, friends’ rooms, up and down corridors at my residence in university and in my boyfriend’s flat. There are parts of my body that I dislike, such as the sprinkle of acne spots on my back, the slight bulge on my lower abdomen and on both sides of my hips. I also dislike the little scars just under my right buttock, as well as my uneven toned forehead.
On a daily basis however, I almost never think about any of these. Hardly ever, unless someone points them out to me. However, reaching this point of being completely at ease with myself and comfortable in my skin isn’t something I woke up with miraculously on day. It took years and tons of introspection & internal conflict.These are the messages & lessons which led me to my journey to self love.
- You’re enough. Every characteristic you have are all the carefully measured ingredients which make up the perfect you. Those who love you & mean it are happy with “you” rather than their projected versions of you they want to see.
- You don’t owe anyone beauty. When you feel beautiful, that beauty belongs to you & you alone. That a womxn’s beauty is meant to be enjoyed by everyone else but her is a dangerous myth which is objectifying & dehumanising. I learned this from Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Caster Semenya, Brenda Ngxoli, Leslie Jones, Adele and so many others. These womxn showed me that regardless of your excellence and exceptional achievements in life, they are all ultimately quantified by whether or not you’re beautiful. Yet this standard doesn’t apply for men. And so they tried to preoccupy us with arguments about whether so-and-so looks feminine enough, or soft enough or loveable enough… Beauty is not and should not be a prerequisite for people to respect you, take you seriously or value you.
- Don’t trust “beauty”. It must never be viewed as an achievement nor an aspiration to be beautiful. Beauty constructs are people’s regurgitations of beauty standards they have been socialised & indoctrinated into (often eurocentric, ableist, or at worst, exoticising & fetishising). In many communities now, those considered the least attractive somehow have the least characteristics in common with the western beauty ideal (straight silky hair for Africans, lighter skin for Indians and pretty much every other race on the planet, double eyelids for Asians), and those who do but are considered beautiful still by those standards are called so with such emphasis that it sounds a tad bit over-compensation-ish. So “improve” or “enhance” your image if you feel it will boost your self esteem because it’s your body & you’re the captain – but always ask yourself, to what ideals of beauty you are conforming to or are being influenced by. Question always.
- Beauty is the lowest form of compliment to offer. It’s nice to hear but so is the adjective “nice”… so so weak. Aspire to be more than beautiful – try indomitable, resilient, compassionate, inspiring, intriguing… Let these be the first compliments that tumble from the mouths of your admirers or just pure speechlessness. May your presence be so astounding that “beautiful” appears a lazy, lousy description for you. Appreciate sentiments like, “your eyes are bright with warmth and character” or that “your skin shows great self-care” and “your hair style is most creative and complimentary to those lips which utter such profound ideas”. Do not accept – “you’re beautiful” for that is to be complacent & content with your majestic aura being viewed as an inanimate entity. But your beauty is alive, it speaks, walks, sings, builds, crushes. Your beauty is not an accolade, nor a cherry on top. It is not ornamental. Your beauty is a fierce, breath-taking torrent of waves which cannot be merely capped into a single word at a single glance.
- Do not downplay your confidence. Confidence from yourself is the best kind of reassurance & validation. When you’re feeling absolutely gorgeous and show it, it threatens those who do not feel the same. Humxns love exercising power over others (i.e. you feel good when you tell someone they look good & they smile in response) so when the power to make or break someone based on the compliments or insults they hurl is disempowering. Confidence in your physical attributes is not something to downplay because of fear of the “beauty or brains” false dichotomy. Please. Just because some people can’t handle both in a person and force themselves to choose one, doesn’t mean we have to do the same. This is a pseudo-compliment – humour it no more.
- Realise that the word “beautiful” is laden with power. So many people read through tons of self-help books and magazine articles by pseudo-plus sizes about how to love their bodies. Those who define beauty hold the power, they reinforce these ideas through the media, art, family opinions, “health” tips and the toys you’re bought before you could even speak. This power isn’t concentrated in the hands of a single entity, its dispersed and anyone can own it but we’ve just somehow bought into this one sided image of what it entails. Challenge & redefine what is attractive, question your own views and who that new definition includes and excludes. Re-adjust it. And then live your greatest life.