I understand that gaining true confidence is a process and I am willing to put the work in. I know that I am beautiful and valuable regardless of my appearance.
Although it is commonly believed that true confidence is a result of needing no form of external validation and relying solely on yourself to achieve true self-belief, I think that is untrue. We are validated in implicit ways through factors such as television, magazines and relationships. The lack of representation in the media for women of colour often means ethnic girls must wait until they learn terms such as colonialism and eurocentrism to realise, they are in fact attractive. Hostile family relationships are also a considerable factor in low self-esteem.
I have experienced bullying, however not more that the average character-building form we all experience at school. I believe my poor body perception was the result of a lack of any positive validation. Growing up, it was never made clear that I was beautiful, important or worthy so I would just assume I was not. I also felt that many of my efforts were either not recognised or undermined which fed my low self-esteem. Disliking my appearance and not being confident in anything began in early childhood and became a part of who I was. I always had a thing with my face and I just thought I was ugly. Also, having acne since early teens worsened by negative perception of my face. I believed I was generally unattractive and unlovable. These beliefs were ingrained in my way of thinking and I never challenged them as abnormal until my mid-teens.
During my teenage years I became aware of my body. I have always been on the slim side and I was fine with it for a while, especially as I was a big fashion fan, so I often saw slimmer girls being showcased as beautiful. However deeper into my teenage years when the trends changed to curvy Instagram models, I became hyper aware of my body type. The change in trend affected many people around me, and I would hear comments about being to skinny and looking as if I did not eat. Additionally, black women are often validated in black communities for having curvy figures, so I felt I lacked an important claim to beauty for black women. I also encountered many nasty comments online about women with slimmer bodies.
I believe the main reason for negative body perception was poor mental health. I think a core low self-esteem and depression meant I lacked confidence in all areas of my life. I first took steps to improve my mental health when I was fourteen. Many of the toxic beliefs I held about myself were exposed and I was able to work towards changing them. Body size was an issue I was able to resolve when I became conscious of society’s role in dictating beauty standards. Perceiving myself as pretty has taken much longer and when I have acne, I do become insecure about my face. However, I am still in a much better place.
Now, as a woman in my early twenties, I still grapple with problematic body perception. However, all that I have learned about the role of toxic thoughts in poor mental health has allowed me to know that these are just thoughts and I do not have to believe them. Even though I may think malicious things about myself, I know that they are lies. My relationship with God has helped me to find the ultimate validation, which is knowing how God feels about me. I understand that gaining true confidence is a process and I am willing to put the work in. I know I am beautiful and valuable regardless of my appearance.
If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post, please see our resources page for support.