Beauty means different things to everyone.
But when you're in a quiet moment starring into the mirror do you ever delight your senses by saying, 'gee I'm beautiful'?
If you do, is it because you have a new hairstyle, skin product, new nose or lips?
What about the day your hair refuses to obey the comb's command or those awful pimples just won't let up no matter how many glasses of water you drink?
Could you still say, 'gee I'm beautiful'?
I believe that the word beauty is relative. I use it differently depending on the context. For example, I call my sista friends 'beautiful girls' not because I think their hair looks amazing (that's a separate compliment) but because there's something wonderful in them that evokes love in me.
As media and technology evolves, the notion of beauty equally does so or better yet, gets distorted by mainstream media.
It is well documented that it (mainstream media) recognises the European look as a benchmark for beauty. To add to this askew perception is the consequences of colonisation. The remnants of colonisation play a significant role in self-hatred, thus the inability (for most) to say 'gee I'm beautiful'.
Over time, media has taught the dark skinned girl that you will be beautiful if your hair is longer and silky, if your skin is lighter, if your curves are smaller. But when my sistas achieve these prescribed qualities whom do they become beautiful for?
There are many examples of skin bleaching, cosmetic surgery, invasive weight loss techniques, and more online, which I will not repeat here.
These sistas' beauty will never be enough; because they will never be European enough or ethnic enough, thin enough or fit enough. Following their transformations can they look at themselves in the mirror and honestly say, 'gee I'm beautiful'? I can only wonder.
I will be transparent here in saying like many dark skinned women; I'm not immune to these prescribed European standards of beauty. I grew up watching American shows on TV with black girls in straight hair. To my naive young self-media said, this is the way to go and the hairdressers relished at any opportunity to straighten my nappy hair with harsh chemicals that have contributed to my now sensitive scalp.
I can go on about hair but that's just one aspect of the concept of beauty that's based on self-hatred.
But here's the thing, I believe that we can teach ourselves to love our own beauty in all its variations. And when anything stems from a place of love it emanates beyond the image in the mirror. The beauty becomes evident in everything we do, touch and say.
I acknowledge the challenge of moving beyond self-hatred when mainstream images consistently say, ‘your beauty is not enough’. That if your heels are higher and your thigh-gap a tad wider then you're beautiful. That your dress needs to be two sizes smaller for people to start noticing your beauty.
Well my SoulSista I'm here to tell you that your beauty is enough; it is perfect just as it is. Hear me right, I'm not saying don't look after yourself, I'm merely saying don't go to extreme and unnecessary lengths to achieve the 'ideal' beauty as depicted by liberally photo shopped images.
Here are some ways (and there are many more) to encourage you to love thyself and say 'gee I'm beautiful':
1) Say it loud and proud.
Yes you've probably heard it before but go ahead, look at yourself in the mirror every morning and say, 'gee I'm beautiful'. Chances are, the first few times will feel like nothing but be persistent and believe your words until something inside you begins to turn.
2) Say ‘thank you’.
Compliment yourself but don't be vain. This way you'll be able to accept compliments from others. Next time someone says you have a great smile, just say 'thank you'. You'll feel like justifying the shape of your mouth, or how you prefer to smile without teeth but just silence those thoughts and say 'thank you' and return the compliment.
3) Look after your body.
Do a physical activity that makes you feel good. So you're not a gym bunny? That's fine, take up a yoga class or a dance class and sweat it up in the most fun way. If time is an issue, set aside 15 minutes after dinner, crank up the volume of your favourite tunes and dance like no one's watching.
4) Be kind to yourself.
This begins with forgiveness. I believe that forgiveness leads to love and love is the core of all our emotions. Avoid calling yourself an idiot when you do something wrong, or hurling insults at yourself for having two serves of desert at lunch. So what? It is a caramel slice, who wouldn’t? Enjoy the slice and then dance for 30 minutes after dinner.
Share ways that you encourage self-love in the comment section below.
Dorcas Maphakela is a writer, visual artist and holistic well-being advocate, using art and words to share knowledge and inspiration on living a full life. She is also a TV presenter, public speaker and founder and producer of the Antenna Award-winning OZ AFRICAN TV (OATV). Alongside her role with Multicultural Arts Victoria, Dorcas co-founded Yo CiTY, a platform that champions the culturally diverse experience through Art & music. Dorcas is an Academic Screen Lecturer at the University of Melbourne. She studied Fine Arts and Master of Arts in Writing.