A quick glance at my Insta-feed and I think “Damn, that’s a lot of selfies.” Immediately I feel extremely vain and almost embarrassed for myself to the point that I’m ready to delete a couple posts. I start to wonder what someone new checking out my feed might think or even the people who follow me. My next thought is “But do I really care though?”
I post them in celebration of myself. For self-love. They are a reflection of a moment in time that I felt happy & secure and loved who I was seeing in the mirror. A remembrance that I didn’t look in the mirror that morning & felt like garbage and continued to feel so regardless of what had to be done that day. Self-love is something I’ve finally started embracing now, at the age of 26.
Self-loathing is a feeling that is close to my heart. It’s been hard for me to feel comfortable in my skin, satisfied with my choices or genuinely happy in my thoughts. My nit-picking can run on overdrive and it can be hard to just relax. Though I will verbally accept compliments, the immediate response in my head is very often to object & deny them. While I cannot pinpoint the exact moment in time this way of thinking was set, my earliest memories of feeling out of place was as a kid.
For anyone who watched my Natural Hair Journey video on my YouTube channel (don’t go looking for it. I deleted it during a period of extreme self-doubt & sorrow) then you’d know how I felt about my image back then. My mother is from Jamaica of African descent and my father was born in Canada of European descent thus creating me, fair skinned with Afro-textured hair. My peers in elementary school were predominately Caucasian and very few of African decent. (This became definitively apparent to me when the handful of us of African decent or mixed with were called out of class in grade 5 to perform a step-dance on stage during an assembly in honor of Black History Month.) One of the main reasons I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb growing up was because of my features. There weren’t other girls who looked like me so I was very uneasy as I felt like the odd one out. I felt like the ugly duckling for a majority of my childhood (and most of my teenage years). The only celebrity who I remember remotely identifying with was Scary Spice. As a child, you don’t want to be the one that stands out. It creates feelings of loneliness and alienation that generally manifest into other forms. If I wasn’t feeling self-conscious about my big hair then it was my freckles and social awkwardness. If it wasn’t my teeth or my smile that I was ashamed of then it was my body. Before hitting puberty, I was very self-conscious about my body shape and felt I looked ‘fat’. And by the time I hit puberty, one of the first girls to do so in grade 4, I felt very uncomfortable with how I was transforming. All of this combined with how I felt in my home life filled me with low self-esteem issues that would alter my mindset unfortunately into adulthood.
In middle & high school, my body issues really took center stage. I wore baggy sweaters and shirts as much as possible. I went through times of barely eating to feel skinny which resulted in overeating when I couldn’t handle it anymore equaling feelings of sadness and anger at how ‘fat I was’. In grade 8 I felt helpless and resorted to whatever diet pill was in style then. Ashamed is what I felt because I would hide them under my bed in hopes of my mom not being able to find them…which she did. I vividly remember mornings in grade 9 late for school, crying on the floor in a pile of clothes that accentuated my ‘fatness’. Crying because I couldn’t afford new clothes and because there was no point to me in even buying them since I was ashamed of my body anyways. Crying because I wished in that moment there was a way I could magically remove it all and feel like the version of normal and skinny I had in my head. Crying because the only items of clothes I felt comfortable wearing to school were my older brothers (usually smelly) gym clothes.
While I didn’t remain reclusive entirely, I didn’t at all have many friends either. In each school I had one good friend I could depend on and vibe comfortably with in & out of school. With everything that clouded my mind, I found it very challenging to connect with most people. More so that anyone would find me funny, interesting, entertaining, trusting, genuine, compatible, etc etc, enough to have as a friend. Usually after a majority of interactions I’d be consumed in my thoughts; analyzing each word, look, movement. In my teenage years through romantic relationships, I was able to reach a level of intimacy with each partner where I could feel comfortable and fluid enough with my mind and body to be content, only for short periods of time. With each close relationship, romantic or not, anxiety would peak with my feelings of inadequacy; not being pretty or sexy enough, not being happy or sociable enough, not being intelligent or successful, and not being someone deserving of experiencing relationships because of my ‘baggage’. Ultimately though, in all of my sadness and feelings of low self worth, there is not a single person I talked to about my long stemmed issues and how they were affecting that current mind state.
My natural hair journey helped to alter my standard of beauty in which I fully embraced my Afro-texture hair and in turn even my features that I was born and blessed with. Features from my parents and the kinks & curls that crowned my head.
After having 2 kids, any stretch marks left over are simple reminders that little humans developed and lived in my body for 18 months in total. Any lower back or hip aches that linger time to time remind me that I carried and birthed little miracles. Yes there are nights that I don’t get adequate sleep and I crave chocolate to make it through the next day. I make it a priority to counter the junk with vegetables the next chance I get. I may look in the mirror and wish I were leaner but through regular exercise and being mindful of what I put in my body or how I treat my body I know I’m doing my best. It’s truly astonishing what the female body goes through.
Through my partner I’ve been blessed with a rock, a light and a guide. On my hardest, darkest, and dullest days he’s been there to help me remain strong and unwavering. As someone who has had a troubled past as well, he’s been a confidant and crutch to constantly provide me with new/ improved ways of thinking and handling lingering emotional issues.
With the love and support of those I hold dear to my heart, who know me better than I know myself sometimes… I really don’t know what I’d do without you. When the days ahead seem blurry and I feel like I’m losing faith, I look to you for guidance, inspiration and strength. You keep me keeping on.
Developing self-awareness has allowed me to reflect, grow, admit & accept my faults and love various aspects of myself. Keeping tools in my arsenal to battle through a rough day, night or stretch of days make them somewhat easier to handle. Ultimately the only thing holding me back from being my true self had been myself. And although I wish I formed stronger bonds with everyone I’ve had any sort of relationship with, the only thing I can do moving forward is to be more open and transparent in every way possible.