My cousin, Malika*. My ex-bestie, Lorraina*. My sister’s ex-bestie Andrea*. What do all these young women have in common besides their race and the fact that their names end with an “A”? None of them could find it in their hearts to give another sista a straight-shooting compliment. Ever. If they did give out a compliment, it was either prefaced with a smug proclamation like, “I never compliment girls unless they deserve it,” or immediately followed with insults so backhanded that they might as well have kept the compliment to themselves in the first place. And sometimes if someone else is fawning over another young woman’s hair, shoes, pretty face, etc., they would offer the classic, teeth-suck and eye-roll combo followed by, “Yeah, whatever. She ain’t all that.”
None of the above women are unattractive by society’s standards. They are all sufficiently intelligent. So let me state the obvious: They are poster women for one of the most rampantly running diseases that has taken over the U.S. by leaps and bounds: Insecurity.
Now, let me preface this with my own admission. I been that girl (as Melanie Fiona would say), which is why I am qualified to poke, pry at and probe this topic. I know what insecurity looks like from an ugly, raw, up-close-and-personal view. I know what it is to see in someone else all the things I want to be but to secretly loathe them for it. I know what it is to rip apart pieces of other women’s personas and stitch them together to make a costume of what I considered beauty for myself, never realizing I was covering up the beauty in me to take on the beauty of someone else. It never quite fit. It was loose in some places and busting at the seams in others. So, in a subconscious attempt to deflect from my own awkward feelings, I would tear down others. I couldn’t give a compliment to save my own pitiful life. I wanted to find something wrong with everyone else because there was something so severely wrong inside me.
Sick, right? Welp, that’s the way it goes when you have no concept of how to love and accept yourself.
The catalyst that catapulted from that deteriorating state isn’t as complex as you might think. Although, by no means am I knocking therapy, I didn’t need to seek therapy. I didn’t have a “come-to-Jesus”/”Eureka!” moment. The catalyst was simply a series of conversations with myself on paper. I wrote out how I truly felt about anything and everything. That consistent exercise forced me to look at my insides and see all of the things I had been trying to get away from for years with no pretty filters. The funny thing is that no matter how much makeup you pile on, no matter how many fly outfits you don, no matter how many hot pictures you take – if you don’t love yourself, it will eventually show.
It started to show for me. I was snapping at people, looking for reasons to dislike even the most amazing young women. My friends and I were considered the “Mean Girls.” The crazy thing is that once I realized that people HATED me and who I had become, it hurt me so badly. But instead of deflecting and projecting, as I was SO used to doing, I started getting real with myself. That changed the game for me and ultimately thrust my ex-bestie and me apart and into two very different paths in life. I wanted to engage my higher nature. I wasn’t content to keep such a bitter outlook on life because of the bitterness I felt inside. So, I started getting to know the people I had once loathed. And just as my higher nature had first suspected, but my lower nature was quick to shun: They were beautiful souls. Some of the women who have made the biggest impact on my life were the ones I couldn’t stand and refused to say anything decent to in the beginning. Funny how life works, huh?
So, I can recognize insecurity in females when I see it, most especially in black women. We don’t have to feed into the stereotypical “Angry-Black-Woman” caricature, but too often we absolutely do. Too often, we allow ourselves to slip into the abyss of self-dissatisfaction, sometimes never to return. We will sit and talk smack about another young woman who is just going on about her business, enjoying a FREE life – a concept we can’t fathom because we’re too enslaved to our own insecurities. We’re shackled by our self-identified “flaws” when, in all honesty they could be sparkling gems of character if we would just learn how to be free in who we are. Another woman’s beauty, intelligence, raw style, sense of humor, gift of gab or overflowing purse of talent is not a THREAT to our own. We all have a lane in which no one else can cruise in as effectively and as coolly as we can. Affirming each other is not an admission of personal defeat or inferiority.
Now, if I am digging another sista’s personality, shoe game, hair or intelligence, I let her know and more often than not, we dig into each other and become great acquaintances, sometimes even close friends. Giving props where they are due never takes away shine from you, it only ever adds to your glow. Hopefully Malika, Lorraina and Andrea will learn how to get their shine on much sooner than later.
La Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. Armed with the ability to purposefully poke fun at herself and a passion for young women’s empowerment, La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change. Her blog: http://www.hersoulinc.com and her Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.