Every time I listen to a motivational speech about beauty and body image optimism, I am filled with rising anxiety. Somewhere in the speech is the call to simply believe that you are beautiful – irrespective of what you’re seeing in the mirror. Right there in the midst of plenty words about being what you think you are, is the vacancy of ‘the how.’
How do I magically transform from this person who has lived with all my flaws staring back at me, into someone who is just perfect? This advice is one of those things that is easier said than done.
With every pep talk about how I need to rise beyond the superficial, and seek the inner beauty, my soul rebels. As much as I understand that motivational speakers are selling the Feel Good juice, bottled up and nicely packaged, it doesn’t come with a user manual.
We like to brush it off as vanity, but the truth is that every woman wants to be told they’re beautiful. Every man wants to feel like women get weak at the knees when he passes by. It is that feeling of having someone do a double-take when you pass by. Nothing stings deeper than being the one nobody approaches amongst a group of friends. There’s a trio of friends sitting at the bar and you just know that the two men coming with confident strides and bright eyes are heading for your two besties. Just turn around and order a shot for one because they will look through you.
One reason why I ended up being incredibly reticent and self-conscious was because I was always overlooked. It was as if I didn’t exist. In a group of three girl friends, I was the one who sat quietly and provided introspect every time my friends had love-stories to swap. I was the smart one, never the one with stories of heartbreak. Nobody even wanted my teenage heart to play with at all. It didn’t get broken, still it hurt.
So I grew up and decided to hone my other skills. I became content with being a ‘good friend’ to guys. I was the one who was good with words, so I’d help my guy friends construct letters for the objects of their interest. I was the girlfriend who “didn’t get” what it was to be in love so I was a safe repository of hours and hours of men woes. The silent, never judging, listening ear. The honorary wing woman.
It is for this reason, that I jumped into my first wrong relationship. Gratitude. Hallelujah… someone noticed me enough to want to talk to me like that? Many years later, I realised that smartness takes a back seat when you just want to be told you’re pretty. The knowledge of what was happening in Baghdad wasn’t going to get me kisses and leave me doe-eyed. It was all about looks and I needed someone to pick me off the shelf.
Dating the first man who didn’t look at me like a Maltex bottle on legs crushed me further when he left me for another friend. My self esteem went to shreds. I had a list of all the things I wanted to be: Light skinned. Tall. Slim. It was not enough to know current affairs and big words.
Growing up in a Nigerian household, there was no mention of self affirmation with regards looks. There is very little emphasis on helping you build your self-confidence. Read your books. Pass in school. Know how to cook. Be able to provide for a woman (for men). It is only when you get out there – to the real world – that you realise that beauty (packaging) is what gets you sold. How is anybody going to know you’re such an amazing person when you feel like you’re Frodo Baggins?
Do you know what it feels like to NEVER be told you’re hot? By anybody? Let’s drop the veil of Feel Good for a minute and be real here. It SUCKS! For many years, all I wanted was to be told I was ‘beautiful’ not the consolatory ‘you’re cute sha.’ I wanted someone to look at me and say, “Dang, you’re hot!” I wanted to be pretty like my friends. I didn’t want to be the friend who knew how to navigate Oshodi to Ladipo to Mile 12 to Ketu. I wanted to be told I was pretty and dainty.
Because, the truth is, there are so many perks to being pretty. Let’s list a few:
1. People treat you better at first instance
2. Some people dismiss your bad attitude and discourteousness
3.You’re likely to have the door held for you – literally and figuratively
Humanity, by its very nature is filled with frailties and inadequacies. We need validation – no matter the dose and from whatever corner we can find it. Perfection is finding the right balance of where self assurance starts and the crave for attention stops.
I know that the motivational speakers tell you to feel the inner beauty. Well, it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t until I started to see certain pretty parts of me, and then my friends started saying, “O ma fine, ke” that I started to feel that glow. Some people are late bloomers (Ugly Duckling | Beautiful Swan) and certain bad people take advantage of this feeling of inadequacy. Can you imagine the pain in the heart of a man whose wife tells him, “You were not the finest man who approached me. If you met me when I was younger, I won’t have looked at you twice.” Tsk Tsk Tsk!
Telling someone who already feels they’re ugly that you’re sure they ‘have a good heart’ isn’t making it better, either. Please give someone a genuine compliment today, I’m sure it will go a long way in helping them. We all want to feel pretty. We all want to be told we’re beautiful.
If you’re a parent, please please tell your children that they’re diamonds. Tell them all the time, so they don’t gratefully hand their hearts over to the first person who lies to them.
Have a great week ahead, and try to make the people around you feel the positive glow of your presence.
Peace, love & cupcakes.
Oh, before I go, the hangout for writers is happening this month! Yay!
Sunday 25th October. 6PM (Greenwich Mean Time)
Gotomeeting.com. You might have to download the app if you don’t have it. If you wanna be a part of this 30- minute chat about writing, reading and other fun tidbits, please send me an email. (Details in bio)
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Sam74100