In May of last year, I was in a terrible mental space. It was the second time in my life where I’d reached the proverbial “rock bottom” emotionally. I was forced to face all of the feelings that I had bottled-in for over 5 years. While I won’t go into much of the specifics, I will say that it was the result of not being honest with myself. I would tell myself that I was fine when I wasn’t, say I was taking a “break” from dating when I really wanted to be in a relationship, etc… I wasn’t taking the best care of myself and I certainly wasn’t putting myself first. I think the only thing I cared about was making money. I was struggling mentally and it had started to affect my job, so I quit and decided that I would take on the financial burden of going two months without pay- the beginning of the financial crisis I’m in now, to figure myself out.
FYI: This is one of my lengthy posts, so here’s a summary of what I did, for those who don’t wanna read the whole thing.
As my semester came to a close and I had more time, I often found myself swiping through the photos on my phone. It had been months- nearly a year since I had taken any pictures of myself. I gained weight, I was tired, and after dealing with two traumatic incidents back-to-back, I was completely exhausted. My hair didn’t seem to be growing and every outfit I wore just wasn’t flattering. I didn’t like how I looked and I had lost who I was.
I continued to scroll through and saw my photos from a year and a half prior. I had just lost weight, gotten in shape, and was glowing. When I saw these pictures, I remembered my aspirations to become my best self, which included caring for my looks. I wanted to make a change and I knew that I was in no condition to attract the type of man that I wanted- once I admitted that I wanted a man. At 24 years old, I shouldn’t have been feeling so run down.
Believe it or not, the motivation to finally make a change came from celebrity gossip. I watched a video about a woman was whom the internet decided to judge because of who she was dating. She was being bombarded with insults for having gotten so many body enhancements to make herself look good and her response was what captured me. She didn’t deny her surgeries and she mentioned how no one was even batting an eyelash in her direction before she got her work done. Changing her look upgraded her entire lifestyle and I’m a firm believer in if you look better, you feel better. I didn’t want to necessarily follow in her exact footsteps, but I had to admit that she was right.
I wanted to improve the way that I looked and see the change radiate on the inside and outside of my life. I knew that if I looked better, I’d feel better. I wasn’t willing to go as far as surgery, but I was willing to make a change and this is how I did it:
Watched YouTube videos about self-confidence and becoming more attractive
I knew that the root of my personal problems with my looks were simply that I just wasn’t very happy being me. It didn’t matter if I had a full face of makeup on, a pretty outfit, or long hair, I just didn’t like any of it on myself. So the first week that I had to myself, I started searching Pinterest and YouTube. I typed in “how to increase your self confidence” and “how to become more attractive” and scanned diligently through the results. After a few days of going through videos and pins, I came across a YouTube channel by a woman who looked like me. Her advice went beyond increasing attractiveness, but also about changing yourself from the inside out. I learned to accept myself and to not compare myself to other women, especially those that I look nothing like.
Pinterest didn’t really afford me anything solid, so I started my own beauty board. This was such a great idea and to this day, I treasure that beauty board so much.
I can honestly say that this step was the most important. Despite the fact that I put a lot of intention behind trying to look good now, I always see myself as beautiful- even when I’m not all dressed up.
Stopped posting selfies on the internet
Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us post selfies because we want the world to validate the idea that we are, in-fact, desirable. When I decided that I wanted to make a change, I made the choice to stop posting my picture for others to view and critique.
I kept my selfies to myself and I made folders on my phone to categorize the pictures. For example, I made a folder just for my attempts at makeup. I would favorite my own photos and give myself lots of praises. My desire to post selfies slowly went away and even now, I almost never post any selfies. I actually think it has added the slight element of “mystery” to my persona. No longer feeling the anxiety of internet criticisms helped me tremendously.
Learned how to take more flattering photos
I went from being obsessed about looking “perfect” in every photo, to being so relaxed that I couldn’t care less about how I looked- in the span of just a few years. I had to learn how to take photos that looked better and how to look better in photos being taken of me. The internet has lots of information about flattering poses and selfie-angles. I studied hard and would dress up and play around with my phone’s camera. I even bought a tripod and remote. I would also search Instagram for women who looked like me to get some inspiration on what poses would work best for me.
Stopped buying clothing that didn’t look nice on me
Now, you might be thinking… “Why in the world would anyone buy clothes that didn’t look nice on them??”
Hear me out. For one, I had a habit of buying male clothing and treating it as unisex. Some women have the figure and face to pull this off effortless… but not me. Besides that, I also had a habit of buying clothes because they were cute- NOT because they were cute on me. I made the choice not to buy any clothing unless I was sure that it looked nice on me and that I was actually going to wear it. Since then, I’ve started to wear more clothes, accessories, and hairstyles that really bring out my feminine features.
Channeled my inner femininity
This was one of the changes that I made to myself that really changed my life. First, I had to define what it meant to me to be feminine. I had to erase the idea that it meant that I had to be weak, or intentionally ignorant, to be feminine. The more learned I learned about femininity, the more I could see the ways in which femininity should compliment masculinity. I was able to see where I had been going wrong in my failed dating attempts. I was trying to be the man and the woman of the relationship at the same time because I felt the need to be so strong and independent.
I applied this concept to my entire life. I finally put the “strong black woman” narrative down and decided that I can just be a (black) woman. It didn’t mean that I wasn’t strong. It just meant I no longer felt the need to prove my strength to anyone anymore.
I was watching a video of a woman giving a speech one day and as she approached the stairs to come down from the stage, a man rushed over and put his hand out to help her. As she accepted his help she said (something to the tune of), “I know I could’ve gone down the stairs perfectly fine on my own, but why would I when I could get a man to help me?” Choosing to let a man (or anyone) help me and contribute to my life. Not because I can’t live without him, but because I don’t want to.
Learned how to take care of myself
Around this time last year, I decided to address the elephant in my life. My hair wasn’t growing.
Being natural hadn’t been working for me and forcing myself to deal with my hair when I didn’t want to was causing me too much stress. I would wear cheap wigs that just looked wiggy, comb and rip away at my tresses, and sometimes cry because I just didn’t know what to do with my hair. I didn’t want to rely on wigs and hair extensions to feel beautiful anymore, especially when I am blessed with a healthy scalp that produces lots of hair.
I decided to relax it, or as some would say, I went back to the “creamy crack”. My hair refused to relax straight but it became much more manageable. I spent lots of time learning how to handle my hair and come up with a regimen that fit into my schedule. And for the naysayers who feel that I’ve abandoned some aspect of my blackness by choosing to relax my hair, I say screw you and your opinion.
Within a few months, I could see the growth happening and I was taking photos along the way. My hair grew long enough that I became comfortable with wearing out all the time. Now, it’s grown to my goal length!
Actually, this past winter I wanted to learn how to care for my hair without heat and I’ve found girls on Instagram who have taught me how to get by without it. My hair is flourishing!
I didn’t stop at hair when learning to take care of myself though. I also learned to take care of my skin, do my own manicure and pedicure, and learned how to do simple- yet eye catching makeup for my face. Believe it or not, I actually don’t even really have to wear much makeup anymore, besides filling in my brows and some mascara. My skin looks great and people sometimes mistake me for wearing foundation when I’m not!
Prayed for help
I’d always heard in church that God wants to be active in all parts of my life, not just the religious parts, and that He wants to be involved with even the most minuscule parts of your daily living. With that in mind, I invited him into my journey to unlocking my inner (and outer) beauty.
There was no aspect of my glo-up that I didn’t ask for God’s help in. I definitely asked for His help with finding peace and acceptance in who I am. I prayed for help when shopping. I asked God to show me how to do my hair. I’m not a beauty guru, so I knew I needed some extra assistance when it came to getting my look right. The fact that I’ve been able to improve my look as much as I have is the proof that His hand was in this!
So that’s it. That’s how I upgraded my look! Or at least, that how I feel that I upgraded it. Perhaps I was always beautiful and just couldn’t see it before. Either way, I look and feel like my best self!
Writing about my experience has been fun and I will definitely be coming back to this post if I feel like I’ve lost my “juice” again in life! I hope that anyone who reads this also gets inspired to take their selves to the next level!