Tag Archives: Self-Esteem

Black Beauty

Hope was home for the recent holiday, and while she was here, she decided to cut her hair. Hope had decided some time ago that she regretted relaxing her hair and wanted to “go natural” again. After about 7 months of growing it out, we snipped off the relaxed ends and basked in the glory that is now her little Afro.

Ok, so maybe I basked; Hope seemed beside herself with shock, anxiety and the ever present teen worries about how others would see her.

When Hope came to home nearly 5 years ago, she had a lot of hair that I lovingly nurtured right on down to her shoulders. It was not chemically treated. I twisted it, coiled it, braided it, did all kinds of things with it. Hope was really proud of her hair; she got a lot of compliments. She learned to really embrace how her naturally curly, coily hair looked.

Hope has thick hair. It’s not just that each strand is thick; there are also a lot of strands. I swear when I first started doing her hair, I thought I was wrestling a carpet!

As she got older, and I shifted more of the burden of doing her hair to her, things got…difficult. My daughter’s care-taking abilities didn’t produce the same results, and eventually she decided that she wanted to relax it.

I hated the idea. I wanted her to love her hair and to learn to properly care for it. It had been years since I’d given up relaxing my own hair, and there was a part of me that took it really personally that my daughter wanted to relax her hair.

I had failed to promote the beauty of our hair.

I had failed to foster a sense of pride in our hair in its natural state.

I had failed to cultivate a sense of beauty that didn’t adhere to Euro-centric beauty norms.

I had failed to get her to love herself.

In spite of these failures, I also support one’s ability to wear their hair however they please. So, I asked her hair dresser to relax her hair.

Oh there was lots of hair swinging. There were smiles. There was hair flipping. Hope’s hair grew and then…all the things that happened before the relaxer happened. Poor maintenance; lazy care, heat damage, split ends and breakage. There were a couple of heavy “trims” that took inches off.

And I was spending a small fortune getting her hair done.

We ended up in the same place as before, which made me feel as though my prior failures had been confirmed in this hair relaxing exercise.

Then one night I was watching hair videos on YouTube when Hope said she regretted relaxing her hair. She thought it would be easier, but it wasn’t.

I still have teeth marks on my tongue from where I nearly bit it off so as not to say, “I told you so!”

So she begin the journey to grow her hair out with the first major development happening during her fall break.

I’m delighted that she grew her hair out and that she wants to embrace the fullness and textures of her natural hair. That said, I know that rocking a teeny weeny Afro (TWA) is a shock at first. You see all your other features and you can feel weird about them.

Is my forehead really that big?

Were my ears so noticeable when my hair was longer?

I swear my acne was not this noticeable with bangs.

My nose is big.

My skin is so dark.

My teeth are big.

I need earrings to distract from this.

I don’t like the way I look.

People will make fun of me.

I’m never going to look like Becky (No, you’re right and you’re not supposed to.)

It’s all so loaded. Helping her reframe her thoughts about beauty is hard. Helping her think about the fact that six months from now she will have a lot more hair is hard. Helping her believe that she doesn’t need to “fix” anything is hard.

Self-acceptance is hard at almost any age; it’s especially hard at 17.

I think she’s stunning. Her chocolate skin is dark and creamy. Her almond shaped eyes sparkle. With the hair away from her face, her acne quickly faded. I finally was able to coax a pair of small, classy earrings on her. With her militaristic posture and figure I’d kill for, I think she’s an 18 out of 10.

But to hear her tell it, I’m mom so none that counts.

Understanding how oppression shapes even the way we see our beauty is exhausting; really, it is. Teaching that…it’s not only exhausting but also infuriating. I silently rage thinking about the fact that my daughter questions her beauty because kinky coily hair isn’t universally seen as gorgeous. I cut my eyes at the folks at her school who looked perplexed like they weren’t sure to compliment Hope when she returned rocking her afro. I nearly cried when she cast her eyes down when she saw folks see her hair for the first time.

Hope is gloriously gorgeous. She already doesn’t know how lovely she is; the short hair is a radical change that makes her glow. She doesn’t believe that though.

That’s not my fault even though I feel like I failed in instilling that.

It’s all of our faults. That nearly exclusive white standard of beauty is so embedded in our psyche that our brown and black kids hardly know and appreciate African diasporic beauty when they see it. And that makes me sad and mad, really mad.

I look forward to the day when my daughter looks in the mirror, smiles at her reflection and turns on her heels to go knowingly, purposefully slay us all.

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I Need Some Self-Care

I have really been struggling lately. My anxiety is at an all-time high. I’m overwhelmed and often feel like I’m on the verge of tears even though I don’t think I am.

These feelings are all familiar. They represent my unfortunate friends, depression and anxiety. Sigh.

This is the fourth end of school year season I’ve gone through with Hope, and despite my best efforts it’s always miserable. I feel like I’m pulling a broken train down the tracks. I’m realizing that this spring/summer period of the year is when I am most vulnerable to depression and anxiety. It’s hard. I’m nagging, reminding, coaching, cheering, trying not to yell, blowing steam from my ears and baking a stress cake with absurd regularity, right through the last bit of school.

This year, it seems the odds are even higher. Other than band camp, Hope’s got several weeks where we still don’t know what the plan will be. The decision to go to summer school is coming down to the wire. The idea of Hope sitting around watching K-dramas on the couch—in my spot no less—causes me great anxiety. She needs a break, but she also needs to be busy because I fear that either there will be a butt sag in my couch and/or she will find some trouble to get into.

I am physiologically freaking the hell out, (lethargic, but disrupted sleep, up and down appetite) and I realized today it was time for an intervention, so I made an appointment for just that.

Last week Hope’s doctor and I decided to give her a bit of rope with her meds—let her go off of them for a while and see what happens.  It has barely been a week and I’m a wreck. Her ability to follow directions with more than 2 steps is non-existent.

I. Cannot. Begin.To. Deal With. This!

So I’m going to my own doctor to see if I can get some help getting my physiological responses under control.

I’m exhausted, but just racing at the same time.

I’m looking forward to just taking care of my needs, getting some quality sleep and getting my emotions under control so that I can make sure that I’m trying to meet Hope’s needs.

So, I need some self-care. I do. I also need some meds…yeah, definitely, I need some meds.

And cake, I definitely need some cake


Hope & Whole Self Love

Hope doesn’t like her hair; she says it’s too short and too nappy.

She doesn’t like her nose; she says it’s too broad. 

She doesn’t like to smile with her teeth showing; she says it makes her lips look too big and her teeth are crooked.

Hope says her cocoa brown skin is too dark; she wishes she were lighter.

Hope is enamored by lighter skinned women of color who have looser, wavy curls.  She says they are pretty.  She is not light, and her hair has tight curls, so she’s not pretty. 

She says she’s ugly several times a day.

Sure, some of the critical, self-doubt is normal for kids her age, but I fret that she hasn’t heard how beautiful she is much during her short time in this life.  Her smooth skin is such a lovely brown shade.  She has beautiful features that would look so lovely with long or short hair.  She could rock a teeny, weeny afro and look divine.  Her large almond shaped, brown eyes are so gorgeous.   Her full lips give her such a beautiful countenance. 

She doesn’t need to be light, and she shouldn’t want to be either.  

One of my goals during this visit is to make sure she sees the variety of women of color in the DC area.  I point out beautiful afros and dark skin and say, “Wow look at how pretty she is; she reminds me of you.”  I encourage her to moisturize her lovely skin (she seriously will allow herself to develop scales) so that it glistens and shines like a cocoa bean.

There’s something particularly painful to me to hear her say she doesn’t like the features that are most associated with people of color.  Such features often are a part of our core racial identity.  I had parents who told me all the time how pretty I was.  My dad still does.  He liked my hair relaxed, and he likes it natural.  Honestly I don’t know if he really likes either of them, but he has always, always told me that I was pretty.   He has always said my brown skin was beautiful.   I might’ve had lots of problems with self-esteem over the years, but loving my brown skin, African American features, and various hair stages has never been a part of my low self-esteem story.

When I got to college I met girls who really struggled with developing into young women of color.  They did all kinds of things to appear lighter (whiter) in every way—skin, hair, some plastic surgery.  It was so….extra.  The self-hate was so real, and it was deeper than just this awkward discomfort of adolescence.  Hating the skin you’re in is bad, so bad.  It’s bad on a good day.  I don’t want to imagine what it’s like to be an awkward tween, who’s been bustled around foster homes, who’s experienced all kinds of crazy ish, and to hate your brown skin and kinky hair on top of everything else.  It makes me sad.

So, I will continue wearing my hair natural; I may even cut it low for her.  I will try to take care of my skin.  I will point out other naturalistas.  I will show her all the colors, all the textures, all the diversity that the African diaspora has to offer.   I will tell her she’s beautiful.  I will get her cute brown girl T-shirts.  I will take her to events that affirm her existence as she is.  I will hold her hand as I lead Hope to a healing place on this issue and many others.  I will promote whole self-love as much as I can.  For me, this is a real part of the ABM journey. 


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