Imagine you’re 11 years old and back in middle school. You’re walking down the hallway when a boy says to you “Dang. You’re darker than me.” He says it in a condescending way, but you don’t understand why it’s such a bad thing. You don’t understand why your whole life, people have told you that you were “too dark.”
Throughout my time in middle school, even before then, I experienced scenarios similar to this one. My self-esteem was extremely low for at least 10 years of my life. I spent a whole decade feeling inferior simply because of how I looked. But, through my adolescence, I have learned that just because I don’t look the way people think I should, doesn’t mean I’m not beautiful. Because of this, I have learned to find beauty in even the most unconventional looking people.
As cheesy as it may sound, I believe that everyone is beautiful. The Eurocentric beauty standards that we are brainwashed into believing aren’t really the end-all-be-all. Dark is not synonymous with ugly; Afrocentric features are just as beautiful as the ones you’re taught to covet your whole life. I believe in unconventional beauty. I believe that everyone truly is beautiful in his or her own way. If you don’t agree, just watch a person smile a big, genuine smile. The smile takes over his or her face, the eyes squint and the cheeks bunch up. I believe that a person is most beautiful when they smile a real smile.
I learned how to love how I look by first learning to love my smile. Even though I grew up being taught to hate my skin color and my big nose and big lips, eventually I learned for myself how to love those features. Thankfully, as I’ve grown older, there has been a small shift in the media. I have seen more and more women in pop culture who look like me. For the first time in history, Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe are all black women. Even though I didn’t grow up seeing this sort of thing, I’m happy that little black girls today can grow up seeing people like them get praised in the media. The world has come far, and so have I; and although it’s been a long road, I’m not quite to the finish yet. But, I finally believe that I am beautiful.