Death to Insecurities

 My first experience with color complexities and bullying was with my own race, Black people - my family, peers, and classmates. My thick, red, and coarse hair was a target for bullying. Others laughed at the expense of my freckles, and my lighter complexion was the result of being a "mixed breed" that my darker-complected peers seemed to loathe. I grew up thinking I wasn't "black enough." I had an identity crisis by the time I was in the 4th grade. "Who am I?" "What am I?" Were questions I innocently asked my Caucasian mother when a standardized test at school demanded I mark and choose only one race. "I can't choose just one. I'm not just one." I thought to myself. But Mom told me to choose "Black." "Just mark Black," Mom instructed me to do. I did. And from that point forward, I identified more with my Black paternal side of the family. I looked more like him anyway, so I figured I might as well.

 As I grew older, the teasing regarding my physical appearance shifted and I began to experience what I didn't know then, but I know now, was jealousy. Back then I didn't know what it was. I was too naive to know. I also didn't have the self-esteem to know. My self-esteem had been beaten down by my abusive, alcoholic father, my cousins on my dad's side who constantly picked a fight with me anytime we were around, and the bullies at school who repeatedly reminded me that I wasn't "black enough." Those callous remarks became so engrained and embedded into me that I believed them. I believed when my dad told me I "wasn't nothing." I believed my peers when they said my hair was ugly and needed a perm as they pulled it and that I was the byproduct of "jungle fever" – that I belonged nowhere. I believed them. Therefore, it was a challenge to believe the boys at school who became interested in me, and gave several compliments on my looks. I wasn't even cognizant of my looks. All I could see was the negative remarks I received over the years. That's all I saw. I didn't see this pretty girl with long red hair that the boys saw. Consequently, the girls didn't like the attention I received from the boys and made sure to let me know. "You think you're all that, don't you?!"  "You're a stuck up b****." "You're not even all that anyway." These and much more were some of the derogatory commentaries I constantly heard from female peers, and even those who I thought were friends at the time. I was perplexed. These very girls who teased, belittled, and berated me, were the same girls I thought were pretty and smart too! I didn't understand why they hated me so intensely. I now suspect this is the aftermath of generations upon generations of a culture being taught to hate themselves... {I won't go too deep into the historical context on where that hate originated from. I will more than likely address that in another piece.} Now I can probably say it was for similar reasons I had learned to hate myself. Maybe they received the same ridicule I had, and in turn, they perpetuated their pain on to me. Due to not having healthy self-esteem, I accepted it. I took all of their pain as my own. I embraced it like a gift, not realizing it was a curse. Their pain became my pain - the pain of low self-esteem, low confidence, and self-hatred. In turn, I became overly critical and hard on my own self.

 I continued to receive backlash from other women pertaining to my looks, attributes, lifestyle, or for just merely existing. I still couldn't understand. I didn't see the big deal in how one's physical appearance, how they lived their lives or their qualities could cause another person to become so enraged. It was mind baffling. I was accused of trying to get all of the boy's attention when out. Yet, I never saw it that way. I only saw them uninvitingly approach and attempt to hit on me. I wasn't asking for it. It just happened. I could not understand for the life of me why I was being questioned, talked-about, and made fun of. I tried to do things to appease others. I permed my hair when I was in Junior high because I got tired of being teased about my coarse, thick hair. I didn't change the color because I was fearful my dad would beat the crap out of me once he saw it. As I got older and began to discover fashion, I created a style for myself. I was constantly asked why was I "dressing up" to go to certain places. It was like I wasn't allowed to look a certain way with them being present. Or if I talked about my dreams or goals, it seemed to be wrong. I just didn't understand what I was doing wrong? I found myself "playing small" to be accepted by others. I searched for validation in other people, rather than validating my own self. These insecurities also surfaced in my romantic relationships when I felt that other women were a threat to my relationship. Or, when I was cheated on by ex-boyfriends, I compared myself to the other woman in an inferior manner. I found, what I thought at the time were, flaws with myself to justify why I was cheated on. “Maybe I wasn’t pretty enough, my butt wasn’t big enough, etc.” I was known as "damaged goods." 

 It took years of self-development work, research on my culture's history and compassion and love toward my own self to finally arrive at this point where I am currently in. The point of being a naturally red headed woman who is fearless, confident, and unapologetic about who she is. It took years of counseling, journaling, praying, and tears to heal from my past and build up my self-esteem and confidence from within. I worked too hard to give my power away to another broken soul. So I've made it my life's mission to build other women up so that we can destroy low self-esteem; put an end to this spewing of hatred toward one another, and to end this vicious cycle of hurt people hurting other people once and for all. Imagine how the world would be if we all addressed our own respective insecurities, healed from past wounds, and learned to accept and love ourselves for who we truly are? Imagine how it would be if we all had healthy self-esteem and confidence within ourselves? Or instead of tearing one another down, we lifted and built each other up! We are all Queens who have been wonderfully created, regardless of our color, size, or unique characteristics. We all have our own unique beauty, gifts, and talents that we ought to embrace. 

Below are 5 ways to address insecurities and low self-esteem, and build your confidence from within:

1)  First and foremost, you have to be AWARE that the darn insecurities exist in the first place. I mean, you truly can't address something that you are not even aware is present. Introspection is key here.

2) You must ADMIT to yourself that you have these insecurities! Denial is the prelude to the demise of your healthy self-esteem. You must be honest with yourself. Trying to convince yourself that you do not have insecurities is not going to cause them to magically disappear. They will still be there and they will manifest in your life in some way, shape, form or fashion. Get to the root of those insecurities. How did they start? Who told you a story that you believed to be true about yourself? It's time to dispel that lie!

"The truth is bitter." -African Proverb

3) FORGIVE yourself and others for not seeing your own beauty and worth. Forgiveness is the pathway to freedom. Once you forgive, you create a clean slate within yourself to build upon. Hopefully, you will use this as an opportunity to build up your confidence and self-esteem from within.

4) BUILD your confidence and self-esteem by reaffirming your worth and beauty using affirmations. I challenge you to go to the mirror, look yourself in the eyes, and tell yourself you are beautiful. Even if you do not believe it yet, continue to do this because eventually, you will! Also, recognize your own gifts and talents. Embrace them. They are yours and belong to you!

5) LIFT up and ENCOURAGE other women! This shows that you are not afraid to give a compliment, but it will also increase your confidence. Some people are timid and shy, so this may seem counterintuitive. Do it anyway! You will feel empowered each time you tell another person they are pretty, or look nice. It won't kill you to do that. In fact, it will increase your self-esteem too!

No more playing small or tearing others down! It's time to be confident in who you are!

I've come to the conclusion that how others see me does not matter. What matters most is how I view myself. I've worked too hard to finally accept and love myself and all of the awesomeness God created within me. How unfair is it to my own self that I allow others to project their insecurities onto me? How unfair is it to you to not see and value your own beauty and worth?!

If anything was said that resonated with you, or you experienced something similar on either end of the spectrum, please share in the comments below!

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”  -Maya Angelou