In The Lie Of The Beholder: My Battle With A Negative Self Image

January 10, 2013  |  

Source: Pinterest

By Jai Stone

A few days ago, my friend posted a photo of this Mocha Model on her Facebook page with the following statement:

“I LOVE this photo for a ton of reasons, but what do you think? Tell the truth… Beautiful? Confident? Bold? Work of art? Or Crazy? Tell me!!!”

My gut reaction was to cringe. I was like “oh sh**…here we go!! As I looked at the picture, the first thing I saw were the imperfections.  I heard myself making mental notes about “belly fat” and “thighs rubbing together,” but I was sure my thoughts would be mild compared to what others were going to say.  As I slowly scrolled down to read over the 90+ the comments, I tensed up prepared to read statements that reflected all the usual ugliness that people have made ME feel over the years.  In my mind I thought, “let the fat-bashing begin.”

I put on my emotional armor and prepared for the hurtful, crude, and derogatory commentary that I have so often faced in social media. I was prepared for anything… except what I actually read.  The overwhelming majority of the commentators thought the image was a beautiful!  They stated the picture was a “work of art” or “very real,” and of course there was the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” sentiment.  In fact there was not one comment of the “bashing” variety at all.

The first thought that entered my cluttered little brain was “OMG, look at all these politically correct sons of sap suckers right here…. They know they’re lying!!”  I found my irritation growing over what I considered “white lies.”  Every day we are bombarded with images of models and celebrities that we deem “beautiful.”  Images and messages that reflect that ideal beauty is quite the opposite from our Mocha Model pictured above.  Nothing about her body type, complexion, hair color or eye color is what society tells us is beautiful. At least some of those folks had to be lying. But what if these folks weren’t lying, wouldn’t that be a kick in the head??

That’s when it hit me…it didn’t matter if the comments had been lies or acts of kindness, what mattered most was what I had seen with my own eyes.  As I made all those critical observations, I totally overlooked her smooth and creamy skin and nicely rounded hips.  I missed the fact that her face did not have a hint of shame and her posture had absolutely no reflection of unworthiness. The fact that Miss Mocha had the confidence to allow the world to see her totally unshielded had totally been lost on me. How had I seen so little and missed so much?

It’s simple. My own warped self-image had clouded my vision.  The critical observations that I had made about the Mocha Madame were much like the ones that I had assigned to myself many years ago.  It took me decades to look in the mirror and not pick myself apart and once I reached that point I thought I had “arrived.”  Now I had the chance to experience a different kind of mirror…the human kind.  Not only did I see Mocha in the picture, I saw myself as well.  And while I love what I see in the mirror today, I have yet to embrace my own reflection in others. So maybe I was the one telling the lie, I just didn’t realize it.  Sometimes God creates new ways for us to conquer old challenges….He’s kind of awesome that way.

Lesson 1: Many times the problem we see with others reflects what we need to repair within ourselves.

Lesson 2: Life gives us the same challenge many different ways until we conquer it without fail.

Jai Stone is a Socialpreneur and founder of several successful online properties including Emotional Nudity – a lifestyle brand focused on personal development for women. She is also a highly syndicated blogger that writes about love, life and the pursuit of authentic joy. Follow her on Twitter @JaiStone or visit her blog.

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  • Here is the thing @bbb8256482821c541251aae187d80ab7:disqus because there are many negativities associated with Mammy, we feel that she is not beautiful. But the truth is, many things about her are. While I think Kerry and Megan are quite lovely, that doesn’t mean that Amber and Gabourey are less valuable, and perhaps even lovely to some.

    Mammy is the one that fed, clothed and cared for us figures like her tend to still bring comfort to us. The point here is you look with untainted eyes, you can find beauty in the most amazing ways.

  • acquanda@lactationjourney

    Your reflection and honesty is so amazing in this article. What a lesson towards true healing.

    • Ohhh, thanks so much @LactationJourney:disqus!! It means a great deal to me when others can see the journey up close.

  • WaterBaby

    The first thing I noticed is her skin. I also believe people notice on other people what they have issues with themselves. I’ve struggled with skin issues since middle school and I’m 31 now. Her skin looks so clear and smooth. Gorgeous!

    • I agree, people see other through “issues” tinted glasses. I know I did. Thanks for your comments @waterbaby!

  • Absolutely amazing and inspiring.. I love and relate to this story in more ways than one, the honesty, the transparency and authenticity simply awesome. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks so much @Sista42:disqus. It was tough to write, but I think it was worth it.

  • Leelee

    …..Since when are people like Amber Riley and Gabourey Sidibe on tv the norm?

  • Oooh Jai short, sweet and powerful.

    • LOL, yes..short is sweet is my style. But I’m glad the power came through @facebook-1099833690:disqus !


    I am at my desk trying hard to fight back tears. When I first saw the picture all I noticed was her size and thought ewwww. I am so appalled with myself, Lesson 1 is a true story for me. I am always grappling with my body image, mainly my weight and my hair. This article really showed me that I need to work harder to reform myself and become a better person for myself.

    I also, think body image has a lot to do with age. I am 21 years old and have noticed a significant change in the way I have grown over the last 4 years since high school. Looking at this picture at 18 probably would have rendered a very derogatory response and I probably wouldn’t have thought otherwise. SMH

    I am always reminding myself that I am work in progress, and articles like this make the process easier….

    Thank You Madame Noire,

    • Your statement brought me to tears. I wrote this to heal myself not realizing it could help to heal others in the process.

    • Wow, again I am in awe of the honesty and positive feedback from this post. I just came across it and all I could think of the image I see is me from the complexion to the skin to the frame, she could be the sister I never had. My problem growing up is I would always get these comments, your skin is flawless,you are pretty dark-skinned girl and guys would say you are thick chocolate thing and it all felt like awkward back then. I grew up in the 80’s and light-skinned seemed to be in and so I struggled with my self image. Although I received compliments there was always those few peers who were harsh and cruel with criticism. But I had a grand-mother who would always turn those negatives into positives and eventually I grew to like myself and learned to love myself inside out. So I know what it feels like oh so well, God Bless

  • I truly appreciate your honesty…sometimes I forget that the judgements I make about others are more of a reflection on myself

  • Phyll

    Her skin color is magnificent. Yes shes overweight but so am I. although I am not as big as she is, I still dont have enough self confidence to do that. Kudos beautiful sis.

  • truthteller

    That woman in that photo does have pretty skin but look at all those rolls!! She looks like a hippopotamus. I wish people would stop with all this big is beautiful. Its gross.

    • This is precisely the kind of comments I’m accustomed to seeing and exactly the “fat bashing” I was referring to. What is gross is some is beauty to others… but no one can argue that the Mocha Model has confidence and that comes from a place where we could call draw more from.

      • truthteller

        Well its my opinion and I can voice it just like you voiced yours. Its beauty to you and some other people and its gross to me (and my friends who are here with me). As soon as we saw the pic we all the same reaction….ewwwww.

        • Real Truth

          Weight can be lost but ignorance is forever. You knew this was an article about full figured women, why come and post negative comments. Ignorance. Just sayin.

        • No one is saying you shouldn’t have an opinion. I was saying you missed the point of the post. You don’t need to find the woman (or anyone overweight) beautiful. But weight is not the only flaw people have, and we have to accept all of them in each other. Or at least that would make this a better world if we did.

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  • Denise

    My first thought was that her complexion was amazing. My second was that I wish that I could be that comfortable in my own skin. Good for her this is indeed beautiful.

    • I find the beauty in her openness and her frame…

  • lisa

    I saw the head wrap first too and thought regal beauty, flawless skin, all natural, what a irie looking dawta

    • I must say the head wrap was the last thing I noticed. See how we all find different things to focus on…very interesting “the eye of the beholder” I mean

  • DTJ

    I saw this on my news feed last night and honest to God my first thought was “damn she got beautiful skin” then i was telling my friend “i love how that teal contrasts so perfectly with her skin tone” lately i’ve been all about bold colors that play up your features. I love this picture

    • her skin is beyond amazing and flawless…ahhh silky smooth!!