My Mental Wellness Improved Through My Self Acceptance

ToriBPowellToriBPowell
Feb. 17
campaign, cherie
When I was around 13 or 14 years old, I remember routinely taking one of my older sister’s black eyeliner pencils before school every morning. I’d arrive early so that I could slip away to the girl’s bathroom to apply a single black line to my eyelids. My parents didn’t allow me to wear any makeup at the time. Although this smudgy line on my eyelids didn’t make me look all that much different, I never felt comfortable at school without it. My teenage mind convinced myself that I needed some sort of cosmetic symbol in order to appropriately express my femininity. Up until that point in my life, society had told girls that looked like me - tall, Black, and with kinky hair - that we somehow weren’t as beautiful as the other girls. For far too long, I believed it too. And I’m not the only one either. According to a study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine, “young Black women continue to feel held hostage to White beauty standards that essentially deem them unattractive and unfeminine.” The study notes that Black girls are more likely to “feel like they are under constant assault (blatant and latent) for their perceived ‘ugliness’ by media, peers and even family.” Through historic oppression like microaggressions, racism, oversexualization, and colorism, Black women are told early on that beauty excludes them. For me, the insecurities that I developed due to systemic racism affected my overall mental health. I saw my anxiety worsen, my outlook on self-worth decline, and my ideas on body image deteriorate. I felt as though it was impossible for me to be pretty because of my hair texture and complexion. I became a quieter person when interacting with others because I thought that I didn’t matter. Hyperfemininity to me was the only way that I felt I could prove myself to other girls. Although my road to confidence is still an ongoing battle, over time through self acceptance I’ve managed to debunk some of these fallacies that society fed to me. Black women are resilient, beautiful, and the standard behind a lot of current trends that we see today. Through therapy, I unlearned internalized thoughts of feeling inferior aesthetically. I let go of hyperfeminine symbols that I once felt I needed in order to feel beautiful, which allowed me to freely express myself and find beauty within the multifaceted authenticity of who I truly am. I redefined beauty on my own terms, which included me and all types of different underrepresented concepts within it. I slowly began to see myself in the media outside of the stereotypes that Black women have historically been constrained to. I leaned on other beautiful Black women who looked like me and that had similar experiences with their own confidence due to racism. We created a safe space and found solidarity within each other. Through this ongoing process, I slowly began to feel more confident in my skin, my height, and my hair. I began to take myself more seriously, set boundaries, and celebrate myself. Just like the next girl, my insecurity still flares up from time and time, but now I have the healthy coping mechanisms and support systems that have proved to me that I am not inferior. So despite what society has historically and consistently forced Black women to try and believe, beauty and femininity are up for us to decide. Systemic racism has snuck its way into every facet of daily life and it isn’t always easy to unlearn its myths. No one has the answer to easily accepting yourself, especially as Black women, but as cheesy as it may be to say, confidence starts from within. When we accept ourselves and take note of our true and undeniable beauty, no system or person can take it away from us. Not only is confidence beneficial for mental health, it is an act of radicalism against those that have made us believe otherwise. As the great Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
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