I remember a lot of the comments that were made about my physical appearance when I was young. Not many of them were good. In fact, I don’t remember much at all that were good.
I was told I was smart. That I was well spoken. That I was mature for my age. That I looked older than I was. I was told that I was bright and insightful. Talkative and inquisitive. I had potential to be a doctor or a lawyer. That I read beyond my grade level.
I was never called cute or beautiful. I was tall, lanky and awkward. Most of my clothes were baggy on me because naturally children’s clothes aren’t customizable. The sleeves were often too short and the pant leg too short. I had no sense of style and no matter how hard I tried I never could replicate what I saw on tv.
Between my sister and I, I was the “darker” one, so she was cuter than me by default. Colourism is a cancer that silently kills the confidence of black girls worldwide. Even in the home. No matter how hard my mom tried to shield me from it, every time my sister and I stepped into a room where we were introduced we both knew from the looks what was coming. Children aren’t stupid. Even as children, we were silent but not stupid. We knew what they thought and some made it very clear they had a preference.
I never fit in. I was too eloquent and well spoken to be black. That reality was very real when I lived in Florida. In fact, I was warned that I would make myself a target if I didn’t change my way of speech. It sucks. Imagine learning a language so well and still be told it’s not good enough because it’s too perfect.
If it’s not my weight, it’s my height. If it’s not my speech, it’s my thought. Then fast forward a few decades and I’m projecting my own insecurities on my children. I’m denying myself the ability to heal by putting on a mask.
I have a fear of being slim. I’m afraid that those words of my childhood will return to haunt like the ghost of Christmas past. I’m afraid that if I go below a certain weight class I will no longer be seen as a woman but as a less than deserving citizen.
I have a fear of not being black enough. I’m afraid that if people see the me that my family sees, I will be seen as an “Oreo”. I’m afraid of being addressed as an outsider and treated like I don’t belong.
I have perfected my accent, I have become cool enough, loud enough and “black” enough to be seen as a black woman. What will happen if the world finds out that I really don’t like Rap the way they thought I did? What if they know that I’d rather listen to Mozart over T-Pain? What if I’m labeled an imposter?
The nightmare is what if I begin to project my own insecurities on my girls. The things I fear, they too, begin to fear? Will silently contemplate and weigh every word of flattery they hear? Can I be trusted to teach them they are worth far more than the treasures of this world while I secretly and silently battle my own past?
I was a child in need of affirmation. I needed to believe I was beautiful. Though the past is over, I have a duty to heal from that trauma. That chapter must close. If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self how beautiful she was. She’s beauty and brains which make her a rare treasure. I would tell her that her weight and height were perfect. She doesn’t need to over eat to gain weight. She doesn’t to be lighter or darker. She’s perfect just the way she is.
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