in Cross Culture10 months ago

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When I was in primary school, I got hold of one of my childhood pictures and tore it into pieces, not because it was badly taken but because I felt I was ugly in the picture. I wore a brown gown which I thought didn’t suit my skin color and I plaited a hairstyle using thread.

I had been looking at the picture with irritation for years until one day, I got hold of it and tore them into pieces. I doubt if my mother ever knew what happened to the picture till date.

Growing up as a black-skinned girl, I watched them give privileges to light-skinned girls, let me cite an example. During a Christmas carol in my primary school, my teacher picked a girl who had the same dark skin as mine and used her as the devil, while a girl with fairer skin was given the role of Jesus to play. This might be done well-intentioned, I mean, a lot of people grew up believing Jesus was light-skinned while the devil was black, so my teacher might have done that with the same assumption in mind but it didn’t change the reality that she chose a dark-skinned child to play the role of the devil.

Even as a child, I thought black was dirty and I didn’t see the beauty in being a dark-skinned girl. I grew up getting used to the name “Blackie”, “ “Omo Dudu”(A black Child in Yoruba), “ Black and Shine” e.t.c, sometimes it sounded like an appraisal, sometimes an insult. Most times I wished I was just addressed as a normal person and not given a tag because of my skin color. I gradually became insecure because of my skin color and it affected me in several ways.

My insecurities got worse when I was in University, I began comparing my skin tone with others, wishing my skin color was a little lighter and blaming my skin color for the way I am being treated. The thing is, I had people who complimented me but I never accepted the compliments rather I mistook them for flattery. I never really accepted that I was beautiful enough to be complimented.

I would shy away from pictures and group photographs. I would intentionally fail to answer questions during class and sometimes hide from others. The days I agree to take pictures, I would make sure it was taken with a phone that has a good camera quality, and ill check out for the sun before taking the pictures, I thought the sun made me shine brighter and the pictures would come out nicer but what I didn’t know was that I didn’t need the sun to make me shine, I could shine as bright as I wanted only if I wore my confidence like a cloak.
I let my insecurity get the better of me and it weighed me down a lot.

As time went by, I gradually started to accept my color, started reading articles on how to maintain dark skin, began to focus more on people with dark skin and I began embracing myself. That was the most beautiful step I took. I started taking more pictures, and group photographs and started mingling with some of my coursemates.

Along the line, phrases like “You need to see yourself before others can see you”, and “The way you carry yourself is the way others will carry you” started to make sense to me.

When I look into the mirror I no longer see just a black girl, I see a very pretty girl with dripping melanin, I see a girl whose beauty shone like a daffodil blooming under the rays of the sun. I see ME.

I realize that the moment we start accepting ourselves for who we are, what we are, and what we stand for, that changes everything around us including the way people see and relate to us. Everything becomes different once we learn to accept who we are, it doesn’t matter if you’re dark, light, short, tall, fat, or skinny, once you become confident in yourself, nothing or nobody will be able to stop or belittle you. People will learn to accept and adjust themselves to suit YOU.

Now as I look at myself in the mirror, I remember what Upile once said: “ I am dripping melanin and honey. I am black without apology”.

Nobody is ever going to take that away from me again, nobody is ever going to make me feel less of myself again.

Story by Alicia D., shared by @sirpee6.