When my Ghanian Sweetheart came to visit me in Brooklyn a few weeks ago, we had a rather curious discussion about the current chocolate “It” girl of the moment, the beautiful and amazing Lupita Nyong’o. My honey found an article discussing how Norwegian women were shaving their heads to emulate Nyong’o’s now iconic short afro. He thought that it was ridiculous that these women were shaving their heads to look like her.
I piped up, “Well, she is beautiful. I can understand their fascination to copy her style. Don’t you think Lupita is beautiful?”
Me (surprised): “What? C’mon everybody in the WORLD is clamoring around how beautiful she is!”
Him: “I’m sorry, but she just looks like a regular field girl that I grew up with at home.”
Me (now intrigued): “Well, what kind of women do you find attractive?”
Him: “African American women like you are beautiful. I love your skin color and your eyes and your shape. I think everything about you is beautiful.”
[My corresponding actions to his compliments cannot be recorded here because this is a family-oriented blog and I strive to keep it classy…well, at least most of the time!]
My Ghanian Sweetheart has complimented me quite a bit during the course of our seven-month courtship, but this discussion resonated even more because I finally got that to him I was a thing of beauty, a woman to be desired and loved.
Growing up in my beloved Baltimore, “beautiful” and “lovable” might as well have been a foreign language in my world. My self-esteem took a MASSIVE hit during my adolescent and teen years because it appeared that all the boys around me were attracted to ONE version of beauty: fair-skinned African American girls with small figures and long hair. Being that I was the exact opposite of that with a curvy figure, chocolate skin, and kinky hair, it was downright DIFFICULT to feel beautiful. For YEARS I carried this AWFUL story in my head that I was fat and unlovable.
This story literally ran my dating life until last summer. I was at the completion of an evening session at Landmark, when a great friend of mine asked me, “Leah, what do you want in your life this coming fall?”
I replied, “I’d really love to be in a great relationship.”
He looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “Leah, do you believe that you are lovable?”
I said, “No, not all the time.”
He said, “Try taking on the possibility of being LOVABLE and see what happens.”
Three days later, I decided to take a gamble on a date with a cute Ghanian guy on OkCupid, and seven months later my heart still flutters every time I hear his voice.
As the fiercely independent woman that I am, the LAST thing I ever wanted to do is make ANY MAN responsible for how I viewed myself in the world. But it really did take seeing myself through his eyes to finally, FINALLY, get that indeed I am beautiful and lovable. I can now see that I am someone’s cup of tea. I am indeed a woman to be pursued, courted, and beloved. While my honey has played a significant role in my newfound beauty awakening, I also believe that by age 34 I was exhausted from degrading myself and I was READY, I mean really READY, to take on a more empowering perspective on who I REALLY could be in the world, and most importantly, for me.
For those of you like me who are still taking on the ARDUOUS work of building your self-esteem and your sense of beauty from the ground up, start by applying the most effective beauty treatment there is: one of my favorite passages from the Bible, Psalms 139:14, which declares “I will praise you because I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made.” Next, change the conversation. When you hear negative self-talk revving up in your head, cut the negativity off with an affirmation or a prayer. I’m famous for loading up my bathroom mirror with Post-Its filled with quotes that inspire me and reaffirm my worth. (Umm…yeah I’m still waiting for the producers of “Being Mary Jane” to pay me for stealing my idea).
Becoming a thing of beauty isn’t always an easy journey for every woman, but if you aren’t there yet, I urge you to do the work to get here. The world eagerly awaits you to join us on the other side. Trust me, everyone is BEAUTIFUL over here.