A couple of weekends ago I finally watched Nappily Ever After, & boy did it strike a nerve! It is amazing how a movie can put so many things into perspective that you thought you had dealt with or had forgotten about.
I have been extremely hard on myself lately, especially when it comes to my physical appearance. What’s funny is that I thought I had outgrown this phase—I was sure that I had reached a place where I was confident in the way I look. Now, do not get me wrong, I have been feeling rather “pretty” lately. I have been wearing less makeup, pulling my hair back more, taking the time to dress myself up, etc…but at the core, there are still insecurities there that have been buried under the surface.
So, if you have not seen Nappily Ever After, you should. I will not spend this post telling you about the story line, but I can say that I related to the main character in a plethora ways—mainly her desire to maintain this “ideal” aesthetic.
I went through the phase with my hair where I wanted nothing but “sleek” looks. If my hair was not flat-ironed or roller-set, I did not feel pretty. Wearing my natural hair just did not “do it” for me, and deep down I knew I had to make a change. I believe I cracked the surface of this issue by deciding to go natural my junior year of high school, but the real work of loving my natural hair has been done over the last few years. I feel a sense of pride knowing that I have taken care of my hair well enough to not only restore it to a healthy state, but to also maintain it’s health in the midst of color changes and various styles over the years. I now have an appreciation for the hair that has grown out of my own scalp, hair that has taught me patience and perseverance. I chose to transition as opposed to doing a big chop, because I wanted to “force” myself to appreciate the present and to learn how to deal with things as they are. I decided a big chop/cutting all of my hair off was not necessary for me to love myself. There are so many beautiful women who have been taking this step lately, and I commend them for it; however, I choose to stay true to myself and do what works for me.
Like the main character in Nappily, it actually causes me stress and anxiety when I wear my hair roller-set or flat-ironed. I find myself constantly checking the weather—especially to figure out the humidity levels for the day and week. Wearing my hair natural allows me to be free from worry. It could rain, snow, or be hot and sunny—my hair would be just fine. That is the type of freedom that I long for.
I also went through this phase with my weight. I talk about my weight journey in a previous post—you can read it here. As I have gotten older, (especially within the last year or two) I have realized the importance of being physically strong over trying to look a certain way. Fun fact: I have minimal upper body strength. This lack of strength has contributed to terrible posture in my shoulders and tons of knots, which cause me to feel tense ninety percent of the time. To combat this constant state of uncomfortableness I get massages at least monthly and previously saw a physical therapist. She was the one who informed me that the knots would go away the more I build up the strength in those muscles. So, I recently hired a personal trainer to help me build the strength my body so desperately needs. In the end, I would rather have a body that is strong than look a certain way and not be healthy.
After watching the movie, I felt this immense desire of wanting to feel beautiful. So, I did the only thing I could think of—I took off all my clothes, took my hair down and brushed it out. I sat myself down in front of my bedroom mirror until I felt like I had appreciated myself enough, and once I was done I danced all around that bedroom and even in my bathroom mirror. In those moments, I felt more free and beautiful than I had with any particular hair style and any outfit.
It was such a vulnerable thing to do, even if the only person that could see me was me. My instant reaction was to pick apart my appearance and list all of my imperfections, but I forced myself to shift my perspective and bring an end to the negative self-talk. I decided to pick things that I love about my appearance. For example, I love how plump my lips are, and how they sit on my face. I love my tattoos and the story they tell about the things I have experienced in my life. I love the stretch marks I have and how they remind me of how remarkable growth can be. I love the dimples in my back and the length of my legs. In that moment, I just love(d) me.
I have come to the realization that loving yourself is a lifelong process. As you mature and grow in age, so does your appreciation for everything that God created you to be. My perception of beauty constantly evolves as I adapt to this thing called life, and I know that the greatest feat of all is to love myself wholly and fully. As I continue to grow older and as my body changes, I pray that I am always able to recognize how beautiful I truly am.
What does the word “beautiful” mean to you? I pray that you see yourself as the beautiful creation that you are. Try the same thing I did–get undressed and sit in front of yourself in the mirror. Tell your reflection at least three things that you like about yourself. Love on yourself until you feel confident and can fully appreciate the magnificence of your body. As India Arie says, have a private party!
“I’m gonna take off all my clothes, look at myself in the mirror. We’re gonna have a conversation, we’re gonna heal the disconnection. I don’t remember where it started, but this is where it’s gonna end. My body is beautiful and sacred, and I’m gonna celebrate it.” x India.Arie