This is a story of self acceptance and taking off the mask. For a lot of people, including myself, a familiar word is hate. I remember being twelve years old and knowing that no matter how much Cover Girl make-up powder I put on my face, I would still look like me. I remember crying at the thought. Fast forward to my senior year of high school and my body had flourished, almost aggressively. I was angry that my face didn’t seem “right”, so makeup gave me a safety that I thought I needed.
For others, make-up enhanced their features or was an art form, but for me it was a mask. I was in hiding. Every time I took that mask off, I was in pain. It hurt to always come back to her. To the girl I didn’t want to be. It’s only now that I understand what it was I was avoiding.
I didn’t want to see what others never got the chance to see. That girl. That brown girl with dark circles. That girl with dark skin in all the wrong places. So, like a photo I edit, I furiously edited my existence away. With a sweep of the brush and pat of the finger: all the hate turned into a perfect cat eye that made me feel powerful. The days I couldn’t wear the mask were the worst days. I would punish myself for never being the beautiful girl I demanded. Those days were painful.
But, slowly over the next few years as I entered my twenties, I started to learn about the world. I learned about where most beauty and fashion items come from and the pain of others involved. I learned how many people work in horrible conditions to create the cheap shirts I buy and the makeup that burned a hole in my bank account. All these things I felt I needed: they were covered in blood. All of a sudden, it wasn’t just me crying alone in my bathroom. It was a hard and revealing time. I learned so much and like a masochist, I needed to know more.
With absolutely honestly, I wish I could be a better person and say that I wouldn’t go back. Ignorance is bliss and life provides band aids when you avoid truth. There is no band aid big enough when truth breaks through.
My obsession was my demand that needed fulfillment. So, I began to take steps to destroy this mentality. I slowly and with immense growing pains began to force changes in my life. From my food, my shopping, and to the practice of kindness, I forced myself to be accountable.
When I was in front of that mirror again, I still wasn’t quite happy, yet, something changed. I slowly skipped steps in my routine until I was down to a bit of concealer under my eyes. I made my clothes work and became even funkier with presentation. I started being kinder, which gave me more genuine friends, therefore, bringing much more laughter into my life. These beautiful people that saw me, that laughed with me, they never told me I was ugly.
It was then realized that I was the one who did that. I had my mask and my rules; I assumed everyone else would hate me when I took it off. Turns out, they didn’t hate me: they told me I was pretty. They loved my crazy laugh and my silly faces, the way I moved and smelled, my long hair and the way it flies around.
I was the one who saw this brown girl and told her she was not enough. I can’t take back the years of self-hate, but I knew I had a chance to let it go. So, I let it all fall away. No more concealer. No more cat eye. No more crying when I didn’t have time for the mask. No more. I looked the same no matter what I did and I very slowly learned that it was okay. Then as time passed, just like a person on the street accepts a stranger as a friend, I became my own friend.
No mask could ever compare to the beauty of self-acceptance. To laugh and dance, because I can. To the freedom of being myself. That beautiful brown girl is loved and that’s the story of how she finally accepted it.
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