My major body image hang ups come from the labels that people insist on putting on others.
From a young age I earned the title of being “the smart one” whenever the discussion of beauty came up; I have a gorgeous older sister and at that age I translated the label to mean that I wasn’t pretty or beautiful so therefore I had to be smart to be accepted.
This played itself out in a lot of ways, for most of my youth I over compensated with performance based activities to make up for my lack in aesthetic appeal. I perfected the art by being the witty funny girl, I always felt the need to fill the silence for fear that silence meant that I had been exposed.
The tricky part about body image is not about looking in the mirror and deciding whether or not I like what I see but it’s being around others and still liking who I am.
It took a while before I found my identity, an identity that was not rooted in the opinions or expectations of others. I still struggle with insecurities about whether or not I am pretty, light (complexion) or good “enough” as though there is a notional meter that hangs in the air and if I reach it then I am alright!
I have learnt that finding people who accept me for all my flaws is only part of the solution, I need to accept all my flaws to be the best partner/friend/sister I can be. This isn’t easy by a long shot because of the comparison game! The game where you compare myself to every pretty girl and think maybe she would be better suited for this relationship than you (scary thought but true). I have on countless occasions disqualified myself from being in relationships because I am sure he would do better with a “yellow bone” or I took a back seat in friendships because I never felt like I was “enough” as a friend (that other girl made for a better friend than I).
I remember a dear friend of mine Palesa Makopo saying sincerely: “You are a good friend” and that little phrase changed how I perceived myself and the value I believed I could add to peoples lives.
As Anonymous, yet wise, once said: “No one ever won at the game of comparison” (Sidenote: Another thing I heard from Palesa, it’s amazing the power that positively affirming people can have, try it with your friends and sisters, it may help them overcome their body image issues too).
That phrase has seen gradual progress in my thoughts and attitude, it’s a choice I make daily not to play the comparison game.
Identity is an intrinsic part of who we are, we search for it, we hide from it but no matter who you are something defines you, why not let it be the truth that defines you. I’m happy, not because life is perfect or that I am perfect but because I’m exactly where I need to be; I’m excited about where I will be but I am content with who and where I am.