Firstly – HAPPY NEW YEAR! May 2016 be everything sweet!
I may have told this story before but I’m telling it again. When I was 7 years old, I was playing on the stairs of my childhood church when I lost my footing and fell down the entire staircase. Thankfully, I was not seriously injured but I did hit the side of my face during that less than graceful tumble. What emerged from that incident was a hyper pigmented left cheek. In laymen’s terms, my left cheek is darker than the rest of my face.
I don’t think my parents and I ever really received a proper diagnosis for this problem. I believe we were told the problem was rosacea, a condition that usually presents as redness on the cheeks with small bumps or patches. Mine was dark, which kinda makes sense since my skin is darker. The dermatologist prescribed a cream for the problem when I was a preteen, which was a bleaching agent that would help with the darkness of my cheek. Though I hated how dark my cheek was, I did not persistently apply the cream as prescribed. Eventually I stopped using the cream and relied on my glasses to cover the dark spot for me.
Over the years, I’ve learned little hacks to hide this skin condition that has plagued me for over 20 years. Foundation, glasses, good lighting that makes my complexion look more even than it is, the great equalizer that are filters. Through the use of all these things, I had been able to allow myself to believe that I had become pretty good at loving how I look – except when my skin started going crazy at the end of December and I went into a minor depression.
I knew the whole “when you look good, you feel good” schtick and I knew it to be true. But as I would be reminded unfortunately, when you don’t feel like you look good, you don’t feel good. As much work as I had been doing, especially over the past 3 years, to really be OK with who I am wholly, the room to grow was exposed with this 2 week long stint with dry patches, break outs, and an ever-darkening cheek. I felt so ugly and cried a lot.
I think I always conceptualized self love as something that I would eventually just take ownership of and it would be unshakable. I didn’t want to look at it as a journey with highs and lows because I’m honestly tired of fighting in some ways. Before this dark spot, the insecurity was my skin complexion, and after it has been a number of things – my weight, my heavy-chestedness, my hair texture. There was always something that inhibited the self love that I should have shamelessly owned.
So as I found myself daily putting on foundation to cover the dark spot, I had to look at myself seriously and ask why I wanted to do this. I have nothing against make up; I appreciate what some good foundation, mascara, and a good lipstick can do for my countenance. But for me, when I started to depend on it in order to feel good enough to walk out of the house in the morning, I knew I had to take a few steps back and confront the issue.
In my journey, facing the issue has meant looking in the mirror in the morning, smiling, and resisting the urge to cover up the imperfections. It’s meant not giving in to the fear of people looking at me and ONLY seeing the spot. It’s meant giving myself room not to care what people may think when they scan the whole of me. The truth of the matter is that though I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I should always be enough in my own eyes. And sometimes fighting for that means stepping outside of the comfort zone to not just see what I see but to see beyond what I see.
For most of us, self love is a lifelong journey full of learning and relearning. It’s full of unlearning what one is “supposed to be” and living in the magic that is who one is. If you don’t have it down yet, you are not alone. But nothing beats a good try.
There are so many messages thrown at us all and we absorb so many erroneous ideals of what it means to be. Whatever you need to do to protect your sense of worth, do it. People will look at how you are and will make assumptions without knowing an ounce of what’s behind what’s presented. But there’s nothing that protects self love like the stubborn audacity to be all that you are and continue on your journey to who you will be.
I look at my 17 month old niece with her recently acquired 4 teeth. It’s already clear that she will have a gap between her two front teeth, something that is so endearing to me because she’s so stinkin’ cute but could possibly become a hindrance to her self love down the line. I never want her to fight to love herself like I’ve had to fight to love myself. So I’m determined to keep on my journey so, if for no other reason, she can look to me and see that it’s OK to love who you are and how you’re made.
I plan to go back to the dermatologist soon to see if I can get an updated answer about what’s going on with my skin. And I’ve worn foundation more days this week than not. But whether bare-faced or looking like I’m ready for a night out on the town, the journey to self love continues. With the dark spot. With the dark skin. With the number on the scale. With the larger-than-I’d-like chest. With the 4a hair. With the pigeon-toed stance. With #alladat.
I’m just reminding myself that it’s a journey and not a destination.
This post is dedicated to the Lovely Natasha, who transitioned yesterday after a heroic fight against cancer. Natasha was a sweet person and a great supporter of this blog. Her courage, tenacity, and sweetness of spirit in light of all she went through was such a source of encouragement. She journeyed well until the end and I am thankful that our paths crossed. Rest well, lovely one. #TeamNatasha #NatashaWON