So yesterday at the bus station, I asked a young lady whether I could borrow her phone. She lent me her phone and after my call, she asked: “Can I ask you for some advice?” and then proceeded to tell me how many people in her life – and especially at work – whisper behind her back saying she looks like a man, she is too dark, is she sure she isn’t a guy, she’s not good looking, blah, blah, blah. Mind you, I had just met her. Obviously, the issue was really bugging her! My first impression of the girl was “nice lady in braids, beautiful big eyes!” Anyway, we had a good conversation and it hit me that these are the real things we don’t talk about even though we all experience it in some form or another: feeling insignificant or not [insert word] enough.
Ladies – you cannot let people get into your head to the point of eroding your confidence and/or belief in yourself. “Beauty” is only skin deep. Sure, life might be relatively “easier” for you if you meet society’s ideas of “beauty” – which by the way, change depending on season, region, and God knows what else – but ultimately, what you project to the world doesn’t matter half as much as what’s going on inside and how you feel about yourself.
Every woman has her hiccups, trust me! Even the most beautiful woman in the world – whoever she may be – has something about herself that she is not comfortable with. You have to live in your skin, your entire life. Are you going to spend that time hating the very skin you walk in? You need to get to know yourself and get comfortable with yourself. This doesn’t mean “letting yourself go”. It’s quite the opposite actually – it means knowing the ins and outs of your system – and for us women, it is a very complex one! It’s celebrating the aspects of yourself that you deem awesome and working on the aspects that you figure need working on.You have to live in your skin, your entire life. Don't spend it hating yourself. - @jabdulai Click To Tweet
With make up -as with life – play up your strengths, work on your “shortcomings”. This lady said she likes her eyes – I said, that’s the first thing I noticed about you! Play it up! Wear eye makeup – not for anyone else, but because you like your eyes! You don’t like your arms, legs, whatever, work on it. If it’s weight gain, even something as simple as walking 30 minutes versus taking the bus can make some difference. And for the things that you cannot change, honey, it doesn’t make you anymore of a lesser woman or person. Also know that each season of life comes with changes. You will change many times and perhaps especially when you become a mother and eventually become a grandmother. Embrace whatever season you find yourself in. What you should continually strive for is to GROW wherever you find yourself. You are beautiful and one of a kind. The really crazy thing is GOD – The Creator of the universe – thought you worthy enough to be part of this thing called life. That is powerful! You are worthy, and you are enough – just as you are!
That said there are some real wet blankets in this world. Realize that while people can say whatever they want to say about you, it does not have to become you. And by that I mean you don’t have to own it. There’s a difference between someone being constructively critical of you and being negative towards you. Whenever you encounter negativity in your path, honey, neutralize it with some positivity. There has to be at least one thing you like about yourself, play it up and enjoy it. If you like your quirkiness, be quirky all day! If you like your voice, sing! If you like your eyes, make it up. Do things that make you feel good, don’t rely on compliments from other people even though those also feel good. And if you feel too down to make yourself happy, let someone offer you a hand – speak to a trusted friend, family member, or turn to inspiring books, music, TV shows. Oprah’s TV station is great for this! You have to insist on your happiness! If all else fails, seek solace in the One who made you and who knows you inside out!People can say whatever they want to say about you. It doesn't have to become you. - @jabdulai Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, the whole world could call you beautiful or the whole world could call you ugly, smart, dumb – whatever adjective you choose – but the force of their impressions will ultimately depend on what you think, feel, believe about yourself. Don’t get me wrong, there are days you will just feel like shit, allow yourself to feel it. But never be fooled into thinking you are what they say you are when you are still figuring yourself out!
Also a good exercise whenever you feel down or depressed is to ask yourself honestly, what am I really bugging about? Actually, before you do that, figure out if your mood has anything to do with your body. Are you on your period? Did you introduce something new into your diet (like soya milk) which could be influencing your hormonal balance? Sometimes it’s just your body letting you know you have an appointment for you-know-what. (Learn your body!) But after that, really ask yourself what is bugging you. Most times it’s not what we immediately say it is, but something else. For instance, I didn’t achieve my goals for the day, I really wanted to go visit my friend, I’m worried about my finances.When you encounter negativity neutralize it with positivity. - @jabdulai Click To Tweet
We are complex. All the definitions we give ourselves and the boxes we place one another into cannot capture what’s going on underneath. You need to build that up too and work on the inner you as much as the you the whole world encounters. Sometimes it all boils down to time (growing up or rather growing through life), but you can usually make small changes in the meantime. Some of the most physically appealing women can be such mean spirits with such ugliness within. It will eventually show. Why nurture the surface and leave the roots? I don’t know much about gardening, but I reckon feeding the top soil and ignoring the roots will make the plant die and the flower wouldn’t even come to bloom. Learn yourself from the inside-out and it will show without you saying a word!
Confidence is one thing that anyone – with eyes to see or otherwise – will know instinctively! Likewise, people can sense low self esteem and there are some who will take advantage of that. Build up your confidence and trust me, you won’t need all that make up anyway. Work with confidence, not cosmetics. One defines while the other merely adds on!Learn yourself from the inside-out and it will show without you saying a word. - @jabdulai Click To Tweet
As a friend pointed out after I published this on Facebook, “let’s be nice to one another … remember to be nice to those who are not so nice to us and to those who reciprocate.” I couldn’t have put it better! It’s really strange how we women can be our worst enemies and cause so much pain to one another…yet we all go through the same stuff! The fact that some girl acts like a bitch towards you, doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Maybe she doesn’t know better, you can show her better. Ultimately, keep your networks positive, but as an when you do encounter negativity – and it comes in many shapes and sizes, no code here – neutralize it with positivity. It’s hard, but you will feel so proud of yourself for not engaging in a negative way.
Remember, nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. You are beautiful, some people just can’t understand your beauty because it is not theirs to understand. Keep it moving, love yourself. You are beautiful.
P.S. If you know someone who needs to hear this, kindly share or forward on. If you don’t have any specific person in mind, share anyway. You never know who might need this. Thanks.
Jemila Abdulai is the creator of Circumspecte. Follow her insights on Twitter and Facebook.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.
Someone asked for a clarification on the difference between critical and negative. My response:
I should have written "constructively critical" – meaning they are drawing your attention to some aspect of yourself that might need work or reviewing. Sometimes people do point out stuff that we ourselves miss. Being negative is plain disrespect, disregard for your person – no basis necessary in many cases. But in the latter, it tends to be that you triggered something in the person that THEY need to figure out/work on that they didn't like and they acted out. The former might warrant some consideration at the very minimum while the former is just energy draining. Hope that helps.
Great Post Jemi. Until we learn to love ourselves, we will be shackled by other people's versions of beauty and worthiness, but they are all lies. We must learn to look at ourselves in the mirror and say: You are beautiful just the way you are to the person looking back at us…