I was at lunch with a friend when she made a statement unexpectedly. “You’re comfortable in your skin.”
The statement was a bit jarring when I first heard it, but later after thinking about it I took it as a complement. Initially I took the statement to mean, how can you be happy being fat. I immediately went to body type because she was someone that prided herself on fitness. If her complexion had been light, I’m sure I would have gone into the light skin, dark skin thing with her and ended a friendship. But after I meditated on what she said I could see there was a lot to unpack with that statement.
Black women have been struggling to fit into someone else’s standard of beauty for too long. As little girls we were given white dolls to play with. We saw White women on TV and was told that she was the face of beauty. Some of us identified so much with those dolls and the images on TV that we spent the rest of our lives trying to look like them. I was a child in the sixties, so my white dolls were replaced by black dolls fairly early in my childhood. But the black dolls were just darker versions of the white dolls. The hair was the same and the body type was the same. So, how was a chubby, dark kid with short hair, suppose to think she was beautiful? She didn’t. I wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to see myself as pretty, beautiful was still too big a label for me. It took years of rejecting the dominant culture definition of beauty.
Every time media showed an image of what beauty looked like to them, I would tell myself that beauty comes in different forms. It took me standing in the mirror, looking at myself, and affirming that I was beautiful. It took me looking at other black woman and seeing the beauty in them.
Yes, I’m comfortable in my own skin but it was a long road that I travelled to get there.
Today White women are plumping their lips, buttocks and enlarging their breasts. Black women are following suit, and once again trying to imitate the dominant culture's definition of what beauty looks like.
The truth is we were always beautiful. We didn’t need to over sexualize ourselves we were always desirable. Beauty comes in different packages, and we don’t have to look the same to be beautiful. We have to stop letting society bastardize our images with exaggerated body parts and hair. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are beautiful so that you can become comfortable in your own skin.