Getting Comfortable with Myself

IMG_1396

Aude-Marie is a junior and the editor-in-chief of The Mirror.

When I was a child, like most young girls, I played with Barbie dolls. My Barbies had a wide range of jobs varying from astronaut to doctor. Yet all my Barbie dolls were Caucasian or mixed. I had no black dolls because they didn’t sell any in my home town in Ivory Coast.

Having no toys that match my complexion might seem minor, but it had big repercussions on how I viewed myself. It was no surprise when, at age eight, I asked my mother if I could use hair relaxers so I could straighten my hair. My pre-teen role models, including Beyoncé, my grandmother, and my mother, all had straight hair, just like Barbie’s. The popular girls at school also had straight hair. I felt like an anomaly with my natural hair.

No one told me those people were wearing weaves or using relaxers. Once I learned the secret, I begged and cried to be able to use these products, but my mother didn’t let me. The relaxers had damaged her hair and nearly burned her scalp, so she wasn’t going to let her daughter make the same mistakes.

Today it seems crazy to me the extent to which black women go to in order to resemble the (almost always white) women they see in magazines and on their screens. This affected my self image as a child, because something that was normal for women of my race suddenly seemed abnormal. I felt alone with my frizzy corn rows while everyone else had shiny straight black hair.

Today, there are campaigns about self-acceptance, there are more black dolls made, there is a “nappy movement” (a natural hair movement for black women), and each of these helps raise the self-esteem of young black girls.

For me, the past still affects how I view myself. When I left Ivory Coast for Canada in 2011, I used hair relaxers, but I soon realized I had no idea how to take care of my hair. My insecurities went beyond my hair, and extended to my skin color. No one told me that most of the light skinned women I knew used bleaching creams. I hated my complexion and believed I “wasn’t born as blessed as them.”

Being surrounded by white people when I arrived in Canada didn’t help my self-esteem either. People made — and still make — comments when they see me in the dark: My friends laugh and joke around because at night, all they “can see” are my eyes and teeth.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my melanin and I’ve made peace with who I am. I love myself enough that I even joke about myself, but I only laugh about the inner things I know I’m okay with. However, my friends, and the people surrounding me, don’t know about my insecurities so I often laugh it off and act like I’m not hurt, even when it stings.

Now that I’ve grown up, and learned how to take care of my skin, hair, and appearance, there are things I regret and would like to tell my younger self. I can’t change the past, but I can change the future, so if I ever have a daughter, I will tell her these things regarding her body image:

  • You are who you are. There is no point in spending too much money trying to change  your appearance.
  • Your hair is afro, it is supposed to be and it always will be. Learn to love it.
  • Cocoa butter will always be your best friend.
  • Next time a white person makes fun of your skin, tell them that at least you don’t get sunburnt.
  • And the most important one: You are beautiful.

Aude-Marie is a junior from Cocody, Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. She is the editor-in-chief of The Mirror.

Advertisements

Sections

Story Archive

The Mirror was established in 1927
© 2015-2018 by the Staff of The Mirror
The Mirror's Policy Manual and Style Guide.
The Mirror is funded by gifts to the Northwood Fund. Thank you.

%d bloggers like this: