I currently participate in a women's development initiative called SheSpeaks. At the initiative, once in a month, about 20 women gather and there is a guest speaker who discusses a chosen topic with us. Last week we talked about body esteem and image and we were asked to discuss the following questions with a partner:
Where on yourself do you think is loved the most and by who?
Have you ever been told that something was wrong with your body or have you thought about it and where did that idea come from?
How has this thought about yourself impacted your relationship with others?
For the first question my response to my partner was that I don't love any part of myself the most but if I had to choose, I'll say my intelligence. In addition, I have not been conscious enough to know if other people love a part of me the most.
For the second question, my response included my struggle with acne (it keeps coming back whenever and however it feels like it). I told my partner about how angry, sad, and sometimes ugly it made me feel when someone tells me to use make-up because they don't find my bare face appealing to them. I further explained my contrasting admiration of make-up on other people's faces other than myself. The most I have done with make up is lipstick, mascara, and filling my eyebrows. I rarely have the appetite to go further than that. I told her how I think that sometimes, applying make-up to me means bravery because it calls for attention automatically.
Her response was that on the contrary she thinks "it is bravery to go about with ones bare-face." Rather than the misconceptions that it is an 'uncaring attitude' it shows acceptance of a person's body and physical features which is sometimes, a hard thing to do.
For the last question about how it has affected our relationships with others, my response was simple: I avoid conversations with people that cannot see me past my face. It is just not worth it. If I could yell at someone who decides to discuss my face to me when there are a million other things we could talk about, it would be something along these lines:
"Don't you think I see the scars too? Don't you think I am burdened enough by having acne on my face and don't you think that I am burdened more by knowing that I have it and it just doesn't go away by one fix? Do you think I have not tried enough for my own self? The only healing I know is forgetting about it, and not treating myself or thinking of myself as if that is all I am: 'that girl with acne'... please help me to forget too and stop ringing the alarms to remind me of my own pain!"
But I never spill. Out of courtesy and respect, I tell the adults especially, "thank you" or I nod and agree with whatever remedies they insist I use. Later on, I vent my anger during therapy or to other close folks that understand my feelings.
Especially for women, I think that the standards set for beauty is very unfair and the reason that has been put for many of us to be beautiful is selfish. For most part of it, it is that men can find us attractive. The moment you decide not to use make-up you get slapped with names like SU, Tomboy, etc.
By the end of the workshop, there were pictures of famous women displayed on the floor and we were asked to pick the ones that we could relate to. I picked Maya Angelou. She is a phenomenal woman, a woman of honor and prestige. While alive, she portrayed unlimited kindness to everyone regardless of their differences. She was a leader and at every opportunity uplifted the people around her. This is what makes her most beautiful to me and it takes a lot courage to be that way.