Letters To My Freshman Self: On Beauty Standards
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
A big, black body is worth love. A big, black frame is worth a photo. It will take some unlearning, relearning, and a bit of audacity but honey, it'll be worth it.
Sweet, Sweet, Girl -
I know you set a goal to lose weight. Forgive yourself for thousands of days of looking in the mirror and crying tears of shame.
Allow yourself to live freely in your body.
Accept the extra rolls and pudge as an ode to your mixedness, your Afro-latinidad, and the beauty of all the cultural dishes you’ve experienced your entire life.
Take a deep breathe. The only person stopping you from believing you are beautiful is you. Write a list of all the parts of your body that you love. You have always thought you were beautiful; you were always confused why others couldn’t find that beauty in you.
Honey, it’s never been you. Deep down - you know this.
Self-hatred eats at your soul. And the young women (and men) around you can’t stand to look at themselves in the mirror either. They hate what they see.
These beauty standards you set for yourself are the same cultural rules they try to live by as well. While they are unattainable for you, they are just as unattainable for them. It kills them inside.
While you were taught from a young age to suck it up, put a smile on your face, and pretend it’s all okay, they don’t know how to do it. The world was built for them, and yet they too can’t play God. They don’t know how to process this.
They often speak of how confident they are, how they dream of stick straight hair and huge thigh gaps, how they love the fact that their ribs pop out when they lie down, that as long as this week’s crush likes how they look they are happy with themselves.
Mariama, that doesn't have to be you. You can change the rules. You can forget it was ever a competition. Actually, who said there even has to be rules?
You can believe you are beautiful simply because you choose to. Because you are beautiful.
Just as you’ve trained your mind to believe the lies, you can train your soul into the reality that accepting your beauty now is the only thing that will lead to you freedom.
You will not feel free when you weigh 165 lbs. You will not feel free when you fit into the pants hanging on your wall for motivation. (By the way, shame tactics will never give you energy to start or finish your goals).
In fact, the level of anxiety you will feel and the fear of staying within the box will indeed strangle the life from you. How can you be free if you are too lifeless to experience it?
Are you open to freedom? Perhaps scarier than being inside the box is the confidence that comes from living outside it.
You have not seen this done before. Your mother speaks of your need to lose weight. Your father speaks for your need to lose weight. Your best friend tells you that you are beautiful, but she too is constantly reminding herself that she is as well.
Embracing yourself will mean confronting the lies and fighting the daily urge to hide your body behind flowy clothes (cause we both know you dream of crop tops and sheer shirts in the summer).
It will mean becoming the author and illustrator of your story and no longer allowing others to write within your book. You will need to be strong against the insults and when others call you a liar, recognize they are merely projecting the lies they’ve come to believe too.
It’s never been rooted in truth. Can’t you see it? Can’t you feel it? I know you can.
You can be free. You will be free. Walk toward it. No, run toward it. Actually, stop waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and light the b**** up yourself.
Ignite the truth within yourself - choose to believe in your beauty. Choose to believe you are beautiful. That rustling in your soul, yeah, it’s me pushing us towards the brim of your teeth and the moment when pass the mirror and say out loud...
“Damn, I’m beautiful.”
Your 24-year old self.