For the majority of my time spent in grade school, I was teased mercilessly by my peers and called ugly. If it wasn’t for my superior academic performance, my dark brown complexion, or the fact that I, a black child, spoke an East Asian language, it was for just plain old “not being pretty”. My strong, African features that my ancestors blessed me with have always been prime targets for my antagonists. Over time, I started to see their point about everything but my complexion. (For some reason, the black comments just never got under my skin and I always enjoyed my dark color.) Perhaps I should have a slimmer nose, Brazilian wavy curls, and huge breasts. Not to mention, I was obsessed with my weight and I never saw myself as slim enough or capable of losing weight by any means other than starvation.
Of course I carried these concerns into my adulthood and when the age of being an “Instagram baddie” began, my self-esteem plummeted. There was no way I could afford all the cosmetic upgrades those girls had, so I’d never be able to catch up. I’d never become pretty. I kept these thoughts to myself and covered them nicely with a fake sense of narcissism for a couple of years before I realized I needed to learn to love myself as I am. Fast forward to two months ago. I had been feeling the need to improve my look for the past year or so, but I was afraid to do it because I’d gone to the opposite extreme of thinking. I’d spent years learning to love myself and I was afraid that a person who truly loves their self doesn’t try to change how they look. I didn’t want to go backwards. Not to mention, not that long ago, I used to judge women (usually out of jealousy) for things like getting the fat sucked out of their body and injected into other places. I was a firm believer that women with unnatural bodies hated their selves.
But two months ago, I sat alone in a park with a pen and paper, with a line drawn down the crease in the middle. The top of the page, above each half, wrote “Embracing” and “Not Embracing”. I’d started challenging what I thought about changing my appearance when I’d heard several people I listen to online mention that you have to love and embrace yourself exactly as you are before you change anything. So change did not equal self-hate. The weather was perfect and warm and the sunlight felt amazing on my skin. I stared up into the clouds and pondered on what embracing my flaws looked like, then I began writing. After 45 minutes, both sides of the page were filled with words that are so valuable to me that I still keep them nearby today. I wrote what embracing each of my “flaws” that I’d like to work on looked like versus what not embracing them looked like.
For me, embracing meant unapologetically admitting what I don’t really like about myself, then admitting that I wanted to change it. Embracing my flaws was all about the relationship that I have with myself and no one else, so I didn’t need to compare myself to anyone or worry about anyone else’s thoughts because nobody has to live in this body besides me. Anyone who knows that I am trying to change a feature about myself and has a problem with it can keep it to their self because I will no longer take their harsh criticism.
An example that I don’t mind sharing is my desire to have a certain body type. Specifically, wanting to lose weight and maintain it. As an adult, I’ve always had a complex relationship with my weight because during my teen years I had an unhealthy obsession with being thin. I always worry that my desire to lose weight was just because I was going back to my childhood insecurities, not because I was actually gaining a lot of weight. So I wouldn’t admit that I wanted to lose weight, while secretly comparing myself to girls on the internet (major mistake) and hating my appearance. Eventually, I lost the weight and got less than 15 pounds away from my ideal size, but I still was unwilling to admit that I really wanted to lose the weight in the first place. I still compared myself to women who I told myself were just “inspiration” and I’d get disappointed when I couldn’t seem to keep up. I still couldn’t see that eating large portions of food, assuming I’m incapable of changing my eating habits, and becoming comfortable with being overweight was so counterproductive. So I gained about 10 or 15 pounds back and I haven’t been able to lose it again since then.
While journaling, I realized that I could be enjoying who and where I am right now in life, while still planning to be better in the future if I did things like wear clothes that flatter my current figure, dress fashionably and intentionally, and seek out the right method for myself to lose weight. I wouldn’t be rushing myself or beating myself up. That’s the difference between embracing my flaws, making the most of life with them, and not embracing them and making myself miserable. Since this realization, I have always been unashamed to be honest with myself about what I really want in my life, including cosmetic upgrades. Believe it or not, that one thing alone has made me so much happier because I am only putting energy into things that I know I want, and I am getting to enjoy the fruits of my labor much more. I feel more comfortable with who I am.
In the end, changing anything about yourself is about your own happiness, success, and peace of mind. Do what you believe will be best for you. If you’re uncomfortable with your looks because you’re comparing yourself to other people, then you should spend more time with yourself and get to know yourself. If you love who you are on the inside, you’ll appreciate who you are on the outside more. Also, remember that the same person that you’re comparing yourself to is probably comparing their self to someone else. If you want to improve your looks but you’re afraid of what other people will say, you’ve got to understand that people will criticize you no matter what, so you might as well do what’s going to make you happy. And don’t stop there. If there’s something you want in your life, good or bad, you need to admit it and accept it before you’re actually able to do anything about it. Perhaps if I’m feeling more comfortable, I’ll share more things on my list in another post.
What do you think? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to change about yourself? Is it because you’re ashamed of who you are? Are you afraid to go through with it because of what other people might think? Let’s chat in the comments.