Updated: Sep 10
Being a woman we've been conditioned that beauty standards are defined by others; and being a black woman it's typically based on Euro-centric standards. Basically, meaning, that the world has looked at what white people have deemed beautiful for themselves and now it's beautiful for us all. It's been recently stated by Detroit Today, that as of 2019 there has been some changes in regards to beauty standards. In two 2019 Sports Illustrated issues, they've featured Tyra Banks and Halima Aden who definitely defied the societal beauty standards that wouldn't have made it on a cover of Sports Illustrated twenty years ago; or even three years ago for that matter.
You can clearly see that Tyra isn't the slimmed down status quo model like when she graced the cover years ago but she still looks good, "ya hear meh". She looks thicker, voluptuous and relatable for a woman of her age and how long she's been in the business; because truthfully black women don't all walk around wearing a size 3 and 4. Then if you look at model Halima Aden, you see that her modesty gives a different perspective of being considered beautiful and attractive. She isn't wearing a sexy swimsuit but rather her hijab that is a clear representation of her culture and religion.
So with that being said I can definitely say there are some changes but it's still a lot of hang ups that we face as black women. Although, I can't fully credit that to the white standards that has been place upon us, but I can say that it has derived from a place where we learned how to self hate. Since slavery we've learned that light is right and our skin complexion being compared to a paper bag, to see if we were acceptable in society, if it was the same color or lighter. We came to a place where we're self conscious about how nappy our hair is or dark our complexion is based on feeling that our natural born complexion and skin isn't beautiful.
To hear my black sisters and brother speak about how "going natural" isn't for everybody; and it honestly baffles me. How is something that comes from you and designed for you "not for you"? Maybe because we hold an expectation for something that is apart of us, to look like someone else... that isn't apart of us. We create expectations on our image based on what we've been conditioned to believe is beautiful and/or ugly.
I've been natural since 2005 because I wanted to have dreadlocks but I still had a relaxer. So I decided to go for the big chop and cut all of the processed hair from my head. In doing so, that left me with a mini fro or as the natural hair community calls it.."TWA" (Teenie weenie afro), and to hear my own people speak about my hair as if I made a horrible mistake was appalling. Thankfully enough, I was confident in myself that I pushed through but I even fell in the hype by calling it the "ugly stage"; but in a sense I still learned how to love my natural hair be it "ugly" or not.
No my hair isn't the 3a b, c, or 4a, b, c hair type and I learned to love it. This is who I am; a kinky, nappy, dread head who still sees herself as beautiful despite the featurism that we place on ourselves. Listen, I don't think it's anything wrong with having that type of hair but to coin it as 'good' and deem my type of hair as bad hair isn't a theory I will subscribe to. However, when it comes to black women it doesn't just stop with our complexion and our hair type but now we're stepping into the rim of altering our bodies due to looking like Instagram models.
I recently did a photo shoot for this exact purpose; to love myself and celebrate me and for businesses purposes too. When I looked at my pictures to pick the ones I wanted edited I started to nick pick on every flaw I saw. "My boobs look saggy." "I have rolls in my back" "My butt isn't huge." I was saying all these things and I had to snap out of it. I told myself, "When you initially look at these pictures what do you see"? So what did I see? I saw a beautiful mid 30 black mother of three. I saw someone who eyes said a lot without moving her mouth. I saw someone who's had a journey of self love and growth and was joyous on how far she came. At that moment the flaws became more and more insignificant to me and actually it became rather unrealistic of me to think it's something wrong with having those flaws that are honestly as average and relatable as it comes.
I'm no IG model nor runway model and I have to focus more on what I loved seeing versus what I think others will critique me on based on the standards of what black women should look like today. I mean we're literally comparing our natural born bodies to women who went and paid to get abnormally huge asses and breasts. Women who went and paid to get that roll in their back sucked out and stomachs flattened. I have to be able to look at my natural born body; and I'm one for if you're not satisfied with something by all means do something about it. However, make sure it's on your own merit and not to please and satisfy anyone else. It's not about living up to anyone else standards but living up to your own.
Make Your Own Beauty Standards
So now the question may pose to say how do you make your own beauty standards? To that I say first and foremost you have to be real and honest with yourself. Ask yourself when you look in the mirror do you like what your see? If the answer is no, than ask yourself why? If it's your weight then you know you can do something about that by loosing or gaining weight; or if it's anything that YOU can change or do something about it. If it's something like your complexion, hair type, or body type then you might realize that is less you can do about that. And it might be a moment where you need to be honest with yourself enough to say you might need to work on loving what you have first before making other changes. I mean, lets be real, we live in a time where you can ultimately change anything but at least love on yourself based on where you're at first before changing and still not feeling that self gratification and love.
Adopt the notion that beauty is diverse and their isn't one standard of beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and allow yourself to be the one who holds YOUR beauty. I don't hide my stretch marks because it's apart of my journey as a mother. I don't retwist my locs because it's apart of my journey on how I initiated loving myself how I come. I don't hide my rolls or pudge in my stomach because it's apart of my journey of physical health and it reminds me that I'm not done so I can't stop. I practice this perspective because it helps me to get out of my way and start defying the standards that has been unwarranted and placed on me. I adopt my own standards by loving the flaws and magnifying the beauty I possess.
I treat myself the way I want my daughter and other little girls to treat themselves. I hold no judgement on me because I know I'm not perfect. This makes me less inclined to project my judgment I may have about myself on to others; which makes you less concerned with how others perceive you and more focused on how you perceive yourself. This is something that I have to practice on a daily. Being confident about your beauty isn't something that comes with a snap of the finger and it definitely takes practice because we've been conditioned that way. What are some beauty standards you've got caught up in? Baby hair? Complexion? Body augmentation?