As a black woman who grew up in a predominantly White and Hispanic town, all my life I’ve had impossible standards of beauty imposed upon me. From the media to the friends I hung out with, everyone was telling me that in order to be pretty I needed to be lighter, skinnier and have straighter hair.
I spent years doing everything I could to meet these standards. My go-to moisturizer was a bleaching cream designed to make my face lighter. I tried dieting and exercising and joining sports teams I wasn’t too fond of in order to slim down my figure. I even spent years treating my hair with a chemical relaxer to achieve that straight haired look I so desperately craved.
It wasn’t until college that I realized that changing myself wasn’t making me any happier. In fact, when I looked in the mirror, I was constantly depressed by the sight I saw. There was a time in my life that I would have given everything I had to be white with straight blonde hair and blue eyes. I’m sad to say that it took me a while to realize that I would never be the light skinned beauty I was picturing in my head. I could only be me.
So, I took action. College gave me the opportunity to surround myself with a diverse group of friends, each beautiful in their own way. The best were my colored friends, who gave me tips on how to style my natural hair, how to do my make up and most importantly how to love the skin I was in.
I also took control of how I let the media define me. The Tumblr account I once held that featured photoshopped Victoria Secret models and care-free white girls in different places around the world was gone. In its stead was a new blog (@iamjay-h) that featured natural haired black women of all sizes.
I practiced positive affirmations daily. “I am beautiful, my hair looks great and my skin is glowing,” I would say. I was also quick to dish out these complements to my friends, knowing in my youth, I would have loved hear constant affirmation of how beautiful I was from my friends.
I was surprised by how much these little changes improved my life. Gone was the insecure mess I was in high school and with my new-found confidence I found I could do anything.
If there is anyone out there feeling trapped by impossible standards they have set for themselves, I would suggest they try making a few of the changes I did, so they too can learn to love the skin they’re in.