“I was teased growing up,” I began. “For three years, male and female tweens talked about the size of my nose, the color of my skin, my skinny legs, and non existent breast,” I continued. Initially, I had no intentions of divulging my adolescent tale of woe with the fourth and fifth grade mentees, but I deemed it necessary.
Just before my comments the girls viewed a PowerPoint presentation of women thought of as beautiful: Beyonce, Rihanna, Ciara, and then Lupita Nyong’o. The immediate response to Lupita’s image was one of disdain. She was dark and her hair was short.
“She’s bald headed,” one said. Another described her as, “Black.” Even though her features mirrored several of the girls in the room, she was harshly criticized. Before I knew it an indignation rose in me. I had to speak.
I had to speak because I knew somewhere in that crowd of estrogen was a girl who felt just as I did when I was her age. She needed an advocate, someone to stand up and say you are beautiful. She needed someone to teach her how to love herself.
The effects of self hatred and low self-esteem are subtle: slowly infiltrating our psyche until we don’t even notice it. Constantly, we are bombarded with a barrage of images dictating what beauty is and is not. Air brushed women with hair and wardrobe stylist, personal makeup artist and plastic surgery are touted as the world’s standard of beauty. And I’ll be the first to say I have believed the lie, often enduring a torture filled regiment of hair straightening, face painting, eyebrow plucking, and spanx (need I say more).
I do this in an attempt to reach the ever rising beauty bar. If I didn’t straighten, paint, pluck or squeeze my appearance would be drastically different. In my purest state I’d have bushy eyebrows, uneven skin, a protruding belly, and a rather large afro. This image will never meet the societal standard of beauty, but it does meet God’s.
I know this, and like a good Christian woman I am quick to quote Psalm 139: 14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” But yet, if I’m honest, I periodically continue the detrimental habit of self hatred as I look in the mirror sizing myself up to images super glued to my brain.
Even though I am grown, and old enough to know better, sometimes the lessons I learned in my youth are difficult to overcome. What I learned was that the “fearfully and wonderfully made” me needed some work done in order to measure up. This perspective was impacted by society’s dominant images, the taunting of children who didn’t understand the ramifications of their actions, and the lack of affirmation I received from my father.
As I approach 40 I have yet to hear my earthly father tell me that I am beautiful. And as much as the little girl in me longs to hear him say it, the adult woman I’ve become knows I must embrace the truth about my beauty from the words of my heavenly father.
I am a handmade one-of-a-kind original creation of God himself. There are no defects, imperfections, or mistakes in his eyes. God, a lover of diversity intentionally, created me and you.
We are wanted and have a value that far outweighs the physical. So however you see yourself today: big nose, flat chest, round stomach, top heavy, splotchy skin, short, tall, skinny, fat, peach, tan, brown or caramel, know that you are loved by your Creator. When He looks at you, what He sees is beautiful.