(SeLoFest17 Post: Day 17, click here for all prompts so far)
My mother is a beautiful woman. I have never met a woman more beautiful than my mother. I would obviously say she’s beautiful, because she’s my mother, but I also know that many other people would agree. Including the two very handsome husbands she has had. To me, her beauty is only enhanced by the outer layers of her expression. Her beautiful dark hair, cascading down her back, her tallness. To me, the beauty of my mother’s skin reflected my history, my ancestry, my home, nurturing, femininity, Nefertiti, Aphrodite, Mother Nature herself. That is the beauty of my mother.
I grew up surrounded by a beautiful family and beautiful home, and as a girl in the 21st century, I grew up being taught the importance of being beautiful.As society would have it, as the daughter in a family, I grew up hearing “you are beautiful” over and over again, as the first thing people would say to me. Beaming at me, proudly, as if I had succeeded in meeting their expectations. I felt good, of course, at first. Eventually, it felt like cheating, to be praised for something I couldn’t control, that was deemed on to me based on fickle trends, and people’s own perspective. I also felt guilty when placed in a situation where I was being compared to someone else as being more beautiful, and like I’d failed as a human when being told I was less than.
At one point, I wanted to separate myself from the whole aspect of being beautiful, and spent a long time questioning my need to be beautiful, to gain other people’s approval. I also, like most women in today’s world, was dealing with body image issues.
It’s been a long healing process.
There was a strong part of me, however, that felt attracted to aesthetics, that cherished beauty, if in more nuanced ways perhaps, but I still appreciated it. Running away from that aspect of myself just to prove a point, was just as shallow as only caring about the exterior beauty of things, since it removes the importance of our own creative expression. As humans, we are filled with an undeniable urge to create, and our inspiration is the breath of creation.
There is one thing I appreciate about the French culture and it is that it has opened my eyes into better understanding the importance of art in living. And art is the expression of the beauty within us. Beauty is just as intrinsic in our nature as art itself, healing our relationship with beauty, among so many other things, allows us to express our greatness in more creative and effective ways.
But before coming to France, I wasn’t there yet. In fact, I feared beauty.
Beauty had begun to feel like a responsibility, like a contract. If I didn’t look beautiful, people would comment on what I needed to do to be more like what they thought should be beautiful, like lose weight, wear a little bit of make up, do something normal with my hair, dont get too many piercings or tattoos, and dress within a certain acceptable boundary. And be beautiful for the rest of your life, which everyone knows you can’t be, so just pretend to be for as long as possible, and then once we all agree you no longer are young and beautiful, your femininity becomes irrelevant and eventually, so does your humanity.
I knew that the weight was, in fact, a construct of society. I thought it, and so did society. We all agreed on this contract.
So I cut my hair. And that was the beginning to the first step of taking my femininity and my beauty back in my hands. Feeling beautiful, being beautiful, life Love, is about Knowing one is beautiful. It is about accessing that within us, and Knowing it to be true, then Living that truth.
Interestingly enough, a huge factor in me learning this, and being free from the responsibility of being every other beholder’s beautiful, was Instagram.
Back when I first began this journey in body positivity (I had gained a lot of weight and was dealing with horrible self laothing) I began finding, on instagram, beautiful confident fat women that were models, or simply spoke person for the Proud Black Woman living her true self.
In 2017, this market has exploded, into hundreds (probably thousands) of profiles of people who celebrate their bodies and their right to love themselves as they are. It hasn’t stopped there, instagram eventually became the place for me to find the people that looked nothing like me yet somehow sounded just like me in their expression of the freedom they wanted for themselves. And despite so many of them being considered outside of what I was taught was the box of beauty and normalcy I should look within, I found beauty in these people living their authentic selves.
While there is also the very unhealthy side of Instagram which is people making up fake lives of perfection only to be the source of immense envy (Yep, it’s The Joneses: The App) it’s also an excellent tool of communication for so many people across the globe that are somehow part of the same community.
I still like my hair short, because I reclaimed my right to feel beautiful regardless of what anyone else says I should. I know I have the risk-taking boldness of youth, but I have seen past generations, and my own, have the experienced boldness of age, and I hope to dance into my 40’s, and 50’s, as gracefully as my mother has, while doing it with the courage to be myself that my generation has taught me.
Loving every roll, wrinkle, hair, mole, and scar.
The Prompt: What makes you feel beautiful? Are there things you have stopped doing because you don’t feel they are appropriate or afraid that someone else would judge you? Has it felt good in the long run? Do you under or overdo your makeup, hair, and clothes as a way to run away from your authentic beauty?
The activity: Write a love letter to your body
In your journal: draw yourself in a way that makes you feel cute, sexy, beautiful, gorgeous. Design your outfit, your make up. How do you express your beauty to the world?