I am a woman with many obsessions.
Of these obsessions, my love for fashion is the most prominent. The designers, the influencers, the Anna Wintour’s; even the models who, in the past, have looked nothing like me. When my love affair with fashion began when I was a preteen.
I ogled over the textures, colors, silhouettes and the fair-skinned bodies of that they adorned.
I am a black woman who, until recent years, endlessly compared herself to these bodies that graced the covers and pages of fashion magazines. I wanted to be one of those fair-skinned bodies. To have piercing, yet doe-like, light eyes. Silky, voluminous hair. A slender physique.
I wanted to be beautiful.
In my parent’s house, the most unflattering middle school photo you can imagine used to hang in the hallway. It was me with flat, frizzy hair; braces and a sad smile topped off with a purple argyle top I must have thought was cute at the time but, in hindsight, was a horrible sartorial decision.
After hanging and mocking me there for ten years, despite my relentless begging for it to be taken down, it finally was. It wasn’t just the fact that it was a bad picture, it was what it represented: I felt like it was me in my most unattractive form.
Like many other girls my age, when the 2012 Olympics rolled around I tuned in to the closing ceremony to see One Direction perform. However, I was in for a treat because part of the closing ceremony would end up catering specifically to my fashion obsession. One segment of the ceremony featured a group of models wearing exclusively British designers as they strutted across the stage.
Of course, they had Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, even Georgia May Jagger; but they also had Jourdan Dunn.
It wasn’t like I had never seen a black model before, but watching Jourdan made me feel something: familiarity.
There she was, resembling an actual goddess on television in her gold and white gown and gold headdress, and I felt like I knew her.
I did my research, followed her on everything I could, and even found her cooking series on Jay-Z’s Life and Times YouTube channel. She was smart, ambitious, funny, charismatic and I could see myself in her; this beautiful figure existing in a world that I could only peer into.
She dealt with panic attacks growing up and went through the same insecurities with her body and appearance like I do. I thought, “If she can get through all that and become one of the world’s top models, I can get through my struggles and be great at what I want to do.”
The first step was to figure out what I liked about myself and accept my flaws.
I liked my height and my frame, I started noticing, was a nice mixture of slender with curves. Sometimes I talk too fast, but that’s when you know I’m excited or passionate about something. Though introverted, once you get to know me, I come out of my shell and can be a pretty animated person. My eyes that I once thought were squinty and dark, actually have a nice almost almond-like shape and hazelnut coloring.
The second step was to hone my talents to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
Ever since I was a kid, I‘ve favored writing over most other art forms and consider myself to be a strong writer, especially when the topic is one of my obsessions.
But then I started thinking that I could do so much more with writing. I could make a difference in people’s lives. Make them think, change their perspectives. So, I chose to be a journalist because I want to be a voice the public can depend on and trust.
The third and last step was to become my own role model.
Finding a kindred spirit in someone you think is so out of reach is a great start, but the real emotional and mental strengthening comes from being there for yourself.
No one knows yourself better than you. No one knows your potential better than you.
When you are your own role model, you aren’t comparing yourself to anyone else. Why would you need to? You’re already who you want to be.
Once I made that change in my life, everything else fell into place. I got into my dream school and dove headfirst into my journalism major. I found my people in an amazingly supportive and loving group of friends. It felt like I was buzzing and radiating energy.
Finally, I was able to look toward the future with excitement instead of hesitation. Finally, I started living my best life.
Look in the mirror, what do you see? Now look within yourself; who do you see? The process of learning to love yourself is interesting because to do so, you have to learn different things about yourself. Each new observation and discovery is a surprise, and soon you begin to think “Hey, I’m pretty great.”
The best part is when you start to believe it.
From there the world is yours and there is no such thing as an obstacle
Picking up on all the different aspects of myself was like turning the page of a book that you can’t put down.
Learning to like yourself is an interesting experience, but learning to love yourself is an amazing experience.