As a young girl, I often wondered what the standard of beauty was. Growing up in a black Nigerian household, it was hard not to wonder that. And this is my tale of self-acceptance in the face of unrealistic beauty standards.
Relatives occasionally made it a point to let me know I was darker than the average black person. They said it in a way that made me question my entire existence, made me hate myself in the mirror, made me hate the black skin that wouldn’t come off no matter how hard I scrubbed in the bath. This was also while complimenting my lighter cousin on her skin colour, how she should take care of it and avoid becoming dark like me.
Like being dark was a crime.
I made it a habit at 10 to begin requesting for long trousers and jeans, long tops, anything that would cover me up. Prevent drawing attention to my unnatural black skin. Everyone was surprised at the seemingly modest young lady I was growing up to become. The meek one that wouldn’t want to talk in crowd because then it drew the attention to everyone to how dark I was. This was during my primary years of education.
I got to secondary school( popularly called High School) and my already low self esteem sank even deeper into the ocean floor. Here, not only was I dark, I was short. The two combination that made some of the ugliest people in the world. So I tried to hide, tried not to talk, didn’t even want to blend with the crowd. I wanted to vanish into it instead.
But instead, my seemingly smart brain just brought the attention of my teachers and indirectly my mates to me. Who is that short girl that never talks yet always tops the class? Why have we never noticed her? This might to someone who has never experienced negative attractive be a good thing. But it was the opposite for me.
I attracted the attention of those who hated me.
They were appalled by my guts, I dared to top the class when I was the shortest. They made it out to be a crime punishable by the rules of the school, punishments that would and could only be meted out by them.
Then came in my ‘Bullied’ era.
They tried to break my spirit, spoke violent, disgusting and degrading words to me. Fabricated tales of me being a witch( a capital offense here in Nigeria), made others in the class avoid me.
The tight rope that held my patience one day then snapped. And I got into a physical brawl with 2 of them at once.
2 big teens, 1 small tween.
I held my ground, we fought, got caught by someone in authority and got reported to the committee.
We were punished for breaking the school rule.
My bullies obviously weren’t happy about how things turned out, but I was.
They realized they lost their power over me, fighting me was crazy because I would fight back, irrespective of my size. And so they left me alone to myself.
Then started my lonely years.
Throughout high school, I was alone.
With my hate of my too dark complexion, ridiculously short height and the mirror that reflected all these to me.
This was till I got to college, the first experience in college that stuck with me was in my first week. I was staying with a family friend, preparing for early morning class, girls in their usual fashion were glancing at the mirror to ensure that they looked good.
Someone in the room then mentioned the fact that I never looked in the mirror, no matter what. I was at a loss on what to reply, how do I explain to a roomful of strangers that I hated the reflection I saw in the mirror. But I was saved by someone else, and this was the exact statement.
“She knows that no matter what she does, she looks good, So she doesn’t bother, unlike the rest of us.”
Needless to say, I was shocked beyond reply. I assumed she was mocking me, but her expression seemed genuine and I looked round the room, looking for the expression of laughter but everyone seemed to agree with her.
I thought about that moment for the rest of the week.
Since then, I’ve gotten compliments that stayed with me till date. The girl that saw me struggling for attendance in an overcrowded class and just came to me, telling me I had a perfect face structure, how my lips complimented my face and made me look beautiful. The guy that stopped me on the staircase leading to my lab just to tell me my skin was beautiful. The girl that told me I was really beautiful because I caught her staring at me.
I have slowly learned to love my color, love my skin, even take pride in my height. All the backhanded comments from the past remain forgotten.
About the Creator
I believe in storytelling that entertains, enlightens, and, most importantly, makes you think. Whether it's a ghost story that sends shivers down your spine or an article that speaks to your inner self, I've got something for everyone.