It comes from within. It comes from knowing that everything external can change at the drop of a dime, but who I am in my soul — well, that’s constant. And my soul is good. My soul loves. My soul pours love into the mini-soul I created every day.
Thick. Fat. Large. Voluptuous. Big Booty. Ghetto Booty. Ms. Fat Booty. Chub-a-Lub. Curvy. Womanly. Shapely. Round. BIG. Black. Dark. Darkie. Blue-Black. Blurple. Field Negro. Oreo. Wannabe. Sellout. Gap Tooth. Gap. Ugly. Fugly. Pretty. Beautiful. Stunning. Radiant.
Yep. I think that’s all of them. That right there is every single word I have ever heard used to describe my appearance. I think the first time I remember hearing myself referred to as a descriptor I was in junior high. I remember the boy’s name and oh my GOD I am so tempted to call him out RIGHT NOW . . . but I won’t. I’ll keep it classy.
Anyhow, he tormented me every single day, taunting me about the color of my skin (where’s Lupita when you need her?), taunting me about the gap in my teeth (he was convinced I could fit a roll of quarters in there), and taunting me about the way I spoke (how dare I not use slang on a daily basis - HOW. DARE. I.). I also remember the day he broke me. He had the entire city bus (adults included — yes, adults) laughing as he used my appearance as fodder for his jokes on our 20-minute bus ride. I ran home and broke down into a messy, junior-high heap on the floor, telling my mom I hated being so ugly. Why couldn’t she make me beautiful? And because she’s a good mom, she did what all moms do — what moms are supposed to do. She took me in the bathroom, washed my face, told me I was beautiful, that beauty was only skin-deep. That beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Hold up. Hold up hold up hold up. If beauty is only skin-deep, and my skin is ugly, then you just proved his fucking point!
Well, that’s what I thought in my head — but I wasn’t dumb enough to say it out loud. I blew my nose, wiped my tears, nodded, and wondered how I could be “pretty.” That night I went to bed with my head swimming in fantasies of skin fade cream, blue contacts, braces, and a size-five waist. How did this translate in every day life? I wore my girlfriend's makeup at school. My white girlfriend's makeup. Now, I’m just gonna pause for one looooonnnnnnggggg-ass minute here and let that sink in.
Black girl skin.
White girl makeup.
While I was wise enough to not let there ever be photographic evidence of this ridiculousness, let me just tell you this — dark brown girls should never ever ever ever EVER wear frosty pink lipstick. EVER. I don’t give a rat’s ass what Cosmo says — just no. I won’t even follow Bey behind that one.
Let’s see — how else did this self hatred manifest itself? A brief run in college with an eating disorder — twice. I love food too much to give it up, so anorexia was out of the picture. But bulimia — well that was right up my alley! Eat all the things, and then get rid of all the things. Yes.
That worked. For a while. And for a very very brief moment in time I wore color contacts. They were violet. Yup. Vi-o-fucking-let. And you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t fly. However, looking back, I wasn't fly. Not even the slightest bit. There isn’t a black girl on this planet who has naturally violet eyes. Not even Google could find one — I looked it up and ya know what came up? Japanese anime figures. It doesn’t exist. A black girl with naturally violet eyes is a mythical, magical being — like a unicorn, or a griffin, or better yet, a pegasus.
But there I was, rockin’ those violet contacts, pretending my shit didn’t stink — but on the inside I was slowly dying, sinking deeper and deeper into my feelings of worthlessness and unloveability. Nobody wanted me. I was the big girl in my group of friends. I was the black girl in my group of friends. I was the girl with the gap in her teeth and the funny name in my group of friends. No one was checkin’ for ME. And so for years I smiled, and repeated my mantra “fake it till ya make it.” Only I never believed I would ever “make it.” Making it meant being pretty, being thin, being loved. Little did I know that the only way I’d ever really “make it” would be if I stopped seeking out the love and respect and adoration of others, and just gave all those things to myself.
Who’d a thunk it, huh? What a novel idea. Loving myself. Back fat, dimply thighs, stretched-out-had-a-baby-five-years-ago-and-if-you-didn’t-know-it-you-may-think-I-was-pregnant-again-belly, bruised legs from a bitch of an autoimmune disorder, gap that can fit two quarters (and NOT a whole damn roll of quarters) in my teeth, dark brown skin and all. I had to learn to love myself. My whole self.
And so I did. It wasn’t a journey. It’s always a journey. It will forever be a journey. I will probably never be 100% comfortable with the gap in my teeth, but I have learned to love it because it makes up a huge part of my smile, and when I smile, I smile from my heart. I am less than thrilled (read: ANNOYED AS FUCK) with this streak of gray hair I have coming in right in the front of my head — It ain’t cute. I’m not ready to go all Ruby Dee in life. I’m not knockin’ Ruby Dee — she is the flyest of the fly ladies that EVAH walked this earth. I’m just sayin’ I ain’t ready.
But you know what? It’s hair. And I can dye it if I want to. I can pluck them if I want to. I can hide those evil-ass gray hairs in braids if I want to. But they do not determine my self-worth. My gap does not determine my self-worth. The scale that reads 224 pounds does not determine my self-worth. Nothing external determines my self-worth.
It comes from within. It comes from knowing that everything external can change at the drop of a hat, but who I am in my soul . . . well, that’s constant. And my soul is good. My soul loves. My soul pours love into the mini-soul I created every day. My soul wants to help make this world a better place. My soul is happy, and wants others to be happy, too. Those things define me. And those things are worthy of love. Which means I am too. Don’t seek out your worth in the mirror, or in the scale, or in the label of your jeans, or in the arms of a lover, or in the board room, or the classroom, or in anything external, because it can all change in the blink of an eye.
Seek out your self-worth by loving the core of who you are. I guarantee that when you do, you won’t have to fake it anymore.
You’ll have made it.