One of those topics that just keeps coming up nowadays is beauty standards. The negative effects of unattainable beauty standard on the self-esteem, psychological and physical health are undeniable and many efforts to change these standards have not been successful. Even in non-western countries such as Nigeria, beauty standards are changing but not for the better. I could list all the one million reasons why this is a problem, but that is not the topic today.
I believe change begins with the individual, I’m pretty comfortable with the person I am but I have my own insecurities too, while most days I’m satisfied with the way my body looks, other days I don’t feel so good. It is important that while we are trying to make changes to the status quo, we start from within.
Its hard to stay unaffected by the various images around us and unless you live in a blank white room and never come out, you will be affected one way or the other. I don’t watch TV but I go out, at the grocery store check out line I see the glossy magazines etc, its hard to escape all these reminders that we are “sub par”.
I remember when I first cut of all my hair when I went natural, even though I had been thinking about it for a long time, when I finally cut my hair I was excited but I didn’t feel beautiful. The first few days I wore a wig, and then when I left the wig go, I wore lots of make-up. When I look at the pictures now it’s funny. For some people though thats everyday reality.
So here is how I started to work on challenging notions of beauty bearing down on me
1) Knowledge : I began to read about the history of different beauty practices, about the evolution of body images, models and whatever I could lay my hands on to understand the processes behind them.
2) Discussion: I began to discuss with friends, family and myself. Challenging all of us on the things we find attractive and why and what could be problematic.
3) Affirmations: I have some things about myself posted in different places in my apartment, telling me i’m beautiful and smart and worthy, it may seem silly, but on those down days they really help.
4) Inspiration: In addition to the above, I needed something more, a place where I could go to see people who looked like me, beautiful images of women with darker skin tones and natural hair, with different body types, who were fashionable, smart and more. So I created a tumblr sabirah.tumblr.com as a place to store all of this. It is working very well.
All of this may seem like a lot of work, but i’m heavily invested in it, it is a women’s issue and women’s issues are everybody’s issues! If you didn’t know already my life’s purpose is to empower young women, starting with myself. As a young feminist, I continue to gain knowledge, encourage discussion and fight the good fight!
Till next time,