There’s a song out now about learning to love yourself as you are – accept everything about yourself. It’s got a catchy hook and you can dance to it but the words are deep. When I was about 17 or 18, I would often spend time in the mirror, looking at my face and body. I remember thinking everything was too big. My face was too round, too flat, my lips too large. My eyes were too big and my lashes too curly. My thighs were too thick, my hips were too wide, my breasts too large and my butt too round. Now, a decade later, I finally understand that all these things I thought were too whatever, are just right. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t self-conscious at times. I have always had difficulty with compliments. I suppose it’s because I’m modest. I do find myself being vain sometimes but honestly, I can’t believe the same face, eyes, breasts, hips, etc. I despised as a teenager are assets.

It wasn’t until I met someone that this really hit home. When he said I was beautiful the first time, I said “Yeah okay, thanks.” When he said it a second time, I said “Really?” When he said it a third time, I just blushed. I can be distrustful when it comes to compliments but what I read in the man’s tone and expression reinforced what he said. I believed him. I’ve heard what I believed to be insincere “yo baby yo” banter ever since I was about 16. I didn’t trust men and believed they had some kind of hidden agenda when they said nice things (half the time they did). But now it’s not just the men. Not just the brothers. I get compliments from my sisters, my brothers, my Latino people, white people young and old… on my hair.. my eyes, etc. I get compliments in the grocery store, in the mall, on the street. At first I was like, well damn, why’s everybody being so kind? Many of these people would not have spoken ordinarily if they weren’t moved to do so. I had to learn to be gracious but I’ve been caught off guard so many times that my smile and gratitude come naturally.

Go On Girl

This might sound crazy but sometimes I feel guilty for thinking I look good. Case in point. I was going to hang out in the Village and wanted to wear something… different. The weather was great and I was feeling good. I ended up buying some slim fitting pants made of slinky material. In the past I would have never even thought of buying something like this but when I put them on, and looked in the mirror, I saw this extremely curvy, shapely sister looking back. The pants hugged her like they were glad to be there. Skin warm and brown, black hair in wild twists, perfect almond-shaped eyes that flashed with amusement and intelligence, lashes to rival those sold in drugstores across the country, thick lips that have solicited more than a few X-rated emails from Internet perverts… she looked good! I mean, I looked good. I have a habit of slipping into another person when I write. Hmm… I may need to seek counseling for that.

When I got to the train station, I jumped out of my car, took a deep breath and became super diva. I stepped into my “I’m fly and I own the world” walk. It’s swagger. And I noticed something. When you walk like that, you command attention. I don’t know how many pairs of eyes I felt or sideways glances I caught out of the corner of my own eyes. Self-Doubt Monster jumped out as I rounded the corner and said… it’s because you got a big ol’ ass and these people are thinking you’ve got some nerve coming outside looking like dat. He didn’t get me though. I had to push that wig back. I kept swaggering and it wasn’t until I paused to put my wallet back in my purse that I noticed the little dude with locs staring at me. He couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18 but when I looked his way, he stood there with the glaze. I’d seen it many times before but I didn’t always know what it was. It’s a look that men (even young men I guess) get when they see someone they find attractive. I don’t even think they’re aware of it. It’s a motionless, slack-jaw, deer in the headlights type look – sometimes accompanied by a goofy little smile and occasional drool. In extreme cases, I’ve seen a jerky head shake like they aren’t sure what they’re seeing. I wish I was kidding.

Moving With Confidence

I gave myself a pep talk on the train. “You are the sexiest most beautiful woman in the world. There’ll be haters but let them hate. You da bomb girl.” It seemed to work because by the time I reached Grand Central Station, I was feeling confident. When I crossed paths with my sweetheart a few minutes later, he did a double take, like he had forgotten what I looked like. I told him how self-conscious I had been and after a quick inspection he said, “Whatcha got on? Oh see. Now I’m gonna have to fight off people in the spot.” I smiled, blushed and swaggered around Manhattan.

I guess the whole point of these musings is that sometimes you have to see yourself through someone else’s eyes to open your own. They say beauty is only skin deep and that may be true but I really believe that when you strive to be beautiful on the inside, it can’t help but seep through to the outside. When you love you, you take better care of you and it shows. It’s not always easy to accept the physical attributes God has given you but if you’re living, breathing, loving… consider yourself blessed.