Yesterday, I shared the fact that I have reached a point in my journey in which I can celebrate my beauty without guilt or shame. I look into the mirror, and say to myself, “You are one gorgeous woman!” I say it with deep pleasure, joy, and pride, because it took me quite a journey to get here.
Of course, like everybody else, I have my “off” days. However, most of the time, the celebration of my beautiful is turned all the way on. So what if I’m having a bad hair day? Who doesn’t? So what if my skin is a little dry one day? Whose isn’t, sometimes? There is so much that I’ve grown to love about myself that having one thing be slightly off isn’t going to change how I think I look, in general. I can only hope this lasts, and is something I can pass on to my children from an early age. [Now, that is another post by itself].
As promised, here are some of the steps I took on my Journey to Beautiful. I still hold on to several of them today.
Nix mainstream magazines – at least until you learn to celebrate your own beauty fully.
I love magazines! I’m an avid magazine reader. [Okay, I'm an avid reader - period!] In fact, one of my dreams as long as I can remember was to be a magazine editor, and own my own magazine, eventually. Many magazines give a wonderful peek into the lives of others, and create pictures of amazing fantasy. However, so many images are just that – fantasies! That actress who looks otherworldly on your favorite cover? Ummm … it’s because that image is otherwordly. You do realize that it took HOURS of hair and makeup to get her to look like that, don’t you? As if that weren’t enough, she has probably been airbrushed, enhanced, and Photoshopped beyond human recognition. You’re looking at her name on the cover, but you’re sure as heck not seeing her.
When you’re actively bombarded with images that just aren’t real, you start to believe that they are real. Prepare to have your self-esteem take a major nosedive. It’s time to step away from the fakeness and look to what’s real.
Look for images that reinforce your own beauty.
Now that you’ve decided to nix the mainstream magazines (at least for a while), you still want to read editorials, stories, and see beautiful images. Hey, you’re a 21st Century woman! Enter: the Internet! There has never been such an incredible time for women to find alternative sources of inspiration. There are many: Tumblr, Pinterest, and many amazing blogs and online magazines that cater to pretty much every type of woman. Look for images of women that look like you, and spaces that celebrate them. Particularly if you’re Black in a very White-centric beauty industry, these reinforcing images are very important.
Speak yourself beautiful!
You’ve found wonderful alternative sources of inspiration: spaces that celebrate you, acknowledge you, see you! However, it’s still easy to get sucked down into that web. Now, you’re looking at real women and wondering, “Why don’t I look like her?” The point isn’t for you to be someone else’s version of pretty – even if she looks kind of like you. The point is to be beautiful as YOU!
One of the most important things I did along my journey was to look into the mirror and speak myself beautiful. I would call myself beautiful. I would look at the features I loved, and say I loved them out loud. I wouldn’t just think I was beautiful, I’d celebrate myself with words. It can feel weird or awkward at the beginning, but you’ll be surprised at the transformation. Feel free to take some time to write down what you love about yourself. Speak your beauty into existence; guess what: it already exists. You just have to recognize it!
Pray! Pray!! Pray some more!!!
This is the singular MOST important step I took on my Journey to Beautiful. I would pray and talk to God all the time about my frustration with the way I saw myself. I knew that I could never be truly who I am if I didn’t love the skin I was in. I wrote in my journals – a lot! I talked to God about it – all the time! I studied the Bible to give me insight. Slowly but surely, my eyes were opened, and the light came shining through.
Go au naturale - with your hair, that is.
Of course, this step is completely optional. However, for me, this was the next most important step after prayer. I’ve never been as in love with myself as I have been since I’ve gone natural. It amazes me, sometimes! My hair journey has been interesting, frustrating, and tenuous. Truthfully, for many many years, I hated to get my hair relaxed. It burned, it left my hair flatter than it was for several days, and I suffered intense hair breakage. I had always fantasized about doing away with the procedure – even when, as a young girl in Nigeria, I didn’t know anyone who grew their hair out in its natural state.
When I did go natural the first time, I was (unfortunately) not confident enough to stand brazenly in the face of the negative feedback I received from family and some friends. Also, truth be told, I wanted to be natural, but wasn’t ready to “do the work” – the physical work of learning to care for my hair, the spiritual work to accept myself the way I was created, and the mental stamina to ignore any negative remarks that I knew would come my way. I soon caved, and got my hair relaxed again – but it wasn’t a decision I made with joy.
Long story short (I had another bout with going natural, only to succumb yet again), the 3rd time was the charm. This time, I was determined to stick it out. With some trepidation, but a whole lot of determination, I was finally ready to do the work. On that fateful August day in 2009, I cut my hair down to half an inch, and decided that I was ready.
Going natural has allowed me to fall in love with EVERY part of my physical self, and made me much more willing to stand out from the crowd in ways I never would have before. While learning to care for and fall in love with my hair, I learned to care for and fall in love with my skin, and the rest of my body. Words cannot begin to describe the lessons I’ve learned – and I’m still learning – on this incredible journey.
Finally, realize that your true “Beautiful” comes from within.
It shines like a diamond from the deepest crevices of your soul. From the words you speak, and the thoughts you think. From the help you lend, and the burdens you lift. From the laughter that pours out of the corners of your lips, and the tears that flow from your very soul. From the way you walk to the way you talk. From the dreams you dream, to the fears you face.
Cheers to you on your Journey to Beautiful! Cheers to me on mine. There are still so many lessons we have to learn.
What has helped you fall in love with you? What’s your Journey to Beautiful?