These are a few words I would use to describe myself whenever I looked into the mirror. Not only because I was ‘crazy’, but because people’s daunting insults and jokes ingrained these descriptions deeper into my being every time they were uttered. I was the source of jokes from a young age. I had to cut off all my hair when I got ringworm of the scalp (better known as mashilingi) on my head around Standard One. The taunting began.
My head seemed bigger to me.
My skin tone seemed even darker to me because I felt so ‘naked’ without hair.
As I grew older, I got so many pimples on my face and tried everything to get rid of them. This included drinking more water, using aloe vera gel and roughly scrubbing my face every night. I didn’t have long nice hair. I didn’t have nice smooth skin. The boys my age did not give me as much attention as they gave the other girls in my class. Oh puberty. I would not go back to that period of my life even if you paid me one million dollars.
Years later I have learned to embrace my uniqueness and flaws instead of wallowing in self-pity. I am not a slave to people’s opinions. I am not a slave to people’s expectations. I will not let words enslave me. Why should mere syllables have enough strength to tear my self-esteem down? I will not feel forced to live up to society’s definitions of beauty. They have tied me down for too long.
I am a queen and I celebrate myself. I feel like so many people struggle with low self-esteem and have perfected the art of faking smiles. I know I had. I would cry myself to sleep after school and wake up the next day and smile at the same people who bullied me the previous day. I was perfect at hiding that I was okay. This was NOT okay.
It took me a lot to man up and face my own insecurities. I am glad to see more public figures who look like me in the media and on magazine covers. It became a source of solace to see that famous people like Aja Naomi King and Lupita Nyong’o also hated the shades of their skin at some points of their lives. I felt normal.
Goodness. Why can’t we just celebrate our flaws ladies? Instead of tearing each other down, we should strive to build each other up. Halt the gossip for a few minutes at your sleepover and just share what you love about each other the most. Tell your girlfriend how pretty you think she is without the layers of foundation and concealer on. Stop putting on those Instagram filters and editing out the blemishes. If you don’t love yourself for the queen you are, you are wasting away all you have to give. This is because you will always doubt yourself. Stop! Nobody has time for that.
“I am dripping melanin with honey. I am black without apology”– Upile
If you are struggling with your insecurities as you read this, put your chin up you beautiful butterfly. I have been where you are and I got out. You can too. There is so much to love about yourself. Do not beat yourself up for suffering in silence. We feel ashamed to openly share how we truly feel. You may be called beautiful every single day of your life but this will mean nothing unless you truly believe that you are from within. I wish you nothing but self-love. It is a long journey but one worth taking, and one you will definitely reach.