“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
The Audacity of Beauty… recklessly bold… extremely daring… unrestrained by existing ideas… audacious beauty…
I’ll never forget the day that I was inspired to write my book. I was sitting down on my brand new duvet, in my brand new bed, which was located in my brand new and very first apartment. I was reminiscing on how happy and blessed I was to be at this stage of my life. I had recently graduated and was pursuing two masters’ degrees. I had my own job, my own car, and was finally at a stage in my life that I was completely supporting myself. You see, I was coming into my womanhood and finally learned to embrace every flaw that graced the inner and outer sinews of my being. I was bold, I was beautiful, and I was The Audacity of Beauty. This inner confidence that I was feeling was such an overwhelming experience for me because it took many years for me to get to this place.
This whole interaction with beauty and self-esteem and identity was a very difficult one for me growing up. The self that I attempted to take out into the world was rejected over and over again. And my panic at not having a self that fit, and the confusion that came from my self being rejected, created anxiety, shame and hopelessness, which kind of defined me for a long time. But in retrospect, the destruction of my self was so repetitive that I started to see a pattern. The self-changed, got affected, broken, destroyed, but another one would evolve — sometimes stronger, sometimes hateful, but all the time with a low self-image. The self was not constant.
Growing up in a society that constantly depicts a certain appearance as the standard of beauty, it can become overwhelming at times to view myself as being beautiful if I didn’t fit into that exact mold. You would think that everything would be perfect growing up in the suburbs and being raised by white collar working parents. I had a family who loved me, siblings who protected me, and the world at my fingertips. I went to private schools all my life and never thought of myself as looking different… until high school. Both of my parents are of African American descent and their skin is radiantly and beautifully kissed by the sun, thus natures wicked way created me, another chocolate concoction. I always felt like I fit in at school. I was in choir, I played on the varsity basketball and volleyball team, and I was even the class president… but one crisp autumn day, my delusion of acceptance reared its ugly little head. I’ll never forget that day.
It was my freshman year of high school, and at this stage of my life I felt as though appearance was everything. My friends and I just finished cleaning our food from lunch. I was walking to throw something away, and then it happened. The moment that I realized I didn’t look like the others around me occurred. A boy walked up to me, scrunched up his face in disgust, and with revulsion in his pupils declared, “YUCK! “You’re just so ugly and black! Why is your skin so black and ugly?” I stood in my shadow staring into his eyes to see if this was some sort of cruel practical joke. I looked to see if he was going to yell “just kidding,” to make it all better… but that never happened. As he walked away, I felt my pleasant emotions shatter into a billion pieces.
The words he said to me that day stung worse than any wasp, bee, or yellow jacket. He left a scar on my soul that lasted for years. That was the day it was confirmed. I was ugly because of the dark tone of my skin. If this is how this one person thought of me, this must be how the world perceived me as well. It didn’t matter I had a family that adored me. It didn’t matter that I had just made the dean’s list. I was ugly, and there was nothing that could be done about it. But could this really be true? Could I really be ugly just because my skin was deeply kissed by the sun?
In a quest to find answers I turned to television and magazines. Surely if I found someone who graced the covers of Vogue or dazzled the screens of MTV who looked like me, that would confirm I was beautiful too. I searched and I searched, but my look-a-like never surfaced. I felt ugly in regards to something I would never be able to change. From that day on, I did things to prevent myself from getting any darker. I figured if I was already ugly at my current complexion, then I would be absolutely hideous if I was any darker. So I had to devise a plan. Over the summer months I would hide from the sun. If I needed to go outside, I would shade my face from my enemy’s evil rays. I would have covered my arms and legs if that meant I could temporarily shield my evil curse.
As the years passed, my feelings about my skin only got worse. Peers that I always assumed looked similar to me would hurl insults at me about my dark skin. Adults would approach me with quasi compliments such as- “Wow! You’re pretty… for a dark-skinned girl,” or “I didn’t know dark skinned people could be attractive.” Why couldn’t I just be beautiful in the skin I was in? Why was it that the gorgeous features of my face were overlooked by the color of my skin? Instead of talking to someone about my pain, I suffered in silence.
It wasn’t until six years later when I attended my HBCU, that I was able to learn to love my skin. I no longer shaded the sun’s rays against my skin, I actually welcomed it. I was able to surround myself with others that looked like me, and were proud of their complexion. I no longer needed to be validated about my beauty from seeing models on TV screens or in magazines. I had allowed society’s perception of beauty to mold my mind and infiltrate my thoughts. I allowed the ignorance of peoples words grow into my own false reality. You see, with time I was finally able to realize that no matter if my skin was as pale as the ice caps or as dark as the night I am beautifully and wonderfully made. After years of hurt, pain, and resentment against myself, I finally grew into my beautiful. Once I was able to redirect my thought process and redefine what beauty was to me; that is the moment I became beautiful. You see, my beauty was brilliantly painted on my skin all along!
I wrote all of this to explain why it felt so good to be in a place of self-acceptance and love after literally hating my skin for years. At this exact time of happiness and joy that I was experiencing I felt inspired by God to write a book for women that showed the struggles and hardships that we all experience, and the positive ways in which we can unify and overcome. After years of editing, gathering, and sleepless nights, I am so proud to say that my book, The Audacity of Beauty, is finally complete. The Audacity of Beauty is a compilation of 35 life-changing stories that discuss relationships, body image, abuse, cancer, drugs, race, self-esteem, and death. The true stories in this book were carefully compiled over a total of three years and were written by women from four continents. Each story reinforces the inner strength of a woman and the fact that self-love, acceptance and healing are attainable despite one’s past or present. The Audacity of Beauty also includes a fun and interactive workbook that offers life-enhancing activities. Check it out my book here on Amazon.
What was your journey to self- love and acceptance like? I would love to hear your story, so please share below.