By: Jameela E. Pruitt
Contrary to the complexes that are openly discussed by many black women about not feeling beautiful, good enough, or accepted, there is a current culture of young black women who are not affected by this struggle. A generation of women who beat their face with “beauty,” put on confidence daily, and have no problem being the spotlight of surface level images. They embrace the shallow expectations exploited by men, black society, and all aspects of media. I often hear these black women passionately express their anger or irritation towards society and the tendency for white America to disregard and dismiss our beauty, competency, intelligence, accomplishments, and so on.
As a black woman, I know that we embody immeasurable qualities both inside and out. However, I see many of the same women obsessively indulge their time and energy into satisfying the “eyes” only. Keeping this in mind, directly focusing on our black community, and how these same characteristics that we desire to be identified with, are overshadowed and suffocated by superficial desires and expectations. I want to zone in specifically in the social media world, since we live in a time where beauty and self-worth are measured by the number of views, likes, “flattering” comments, and the opinionated reviews of others.
Some of the reasons why many black women have developed an “ugly” (for the sake of using the societal term) complex, are ironically due to the same features that structure us beautifully, not to mention imitated in other cultures: melanin, thick hair, full lips, wide nose, and curvy figures. We perfectly reflect a variety of seasonings and spices, giving all types of flavor.
In retrospect, black women have spent their lives being underrated and subconsciously valuing and devaluing ourselves based on the bland taste of society and stereotypical views on the way we look. Despite the antiquated depiction of black “ugliness,” today’s black girl has allowed herself to be squeezed into a simplistic box, allowing both her confidence and worth to be defined by the way the world desires her to look.
Living in Atlanta and working at a predominately black university, I see this prototype daily. Her face is “beat.” Her eyebrows and fake lashes are on “fleek.” She wears long Brazilian hair in variety of styles and colors. Her body goals consist of a tiny waist, leading to a perfectly sculptured figure, even to the extent of what has become a common idolized practice; fat grafting, also known as butt injections. All of these signs pointing to her desire to be a “bad chick,” while her treasures are openly presented as pleasure to the eyes of men and even women who yearn for the same “confidence.”
This black girl, her confidence is not stimulated by attributes that she so-call wants the world to recognize within her: educated, powerful, ambitious and impactful. This demeanor is painted on for attention, acceptance, and/or the desire for perfection, all in effort for society to see her as attractive yet, feeling good about herself may not resonate with the inner qualities that she effortlessly possess. Her conversation, media posts, and priorities all scream out “no substance,” and approaching her in this manner is considered offensive and judgmental. However, in this case, she leaves no curiosity for society to find her depth.
As human beings, our perception creates our reality. It triggers signals to our brain which causes us to subconsciously form an opinion or awareness, deriving from our senses. We all know the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” which it is true that no one knows what lies within the inside of a person until it is revealed. However, it is also a reality that many books are underrated and remain unread simply because of the cover alone.
I am specifically narrowing in on a particular culture of women who are oblivious to the fact that superficial imagery can cause the world to overlook their true value. As black women, who are already at the receiving end of negative stereotypes, how can we expect the world to see something that is not emphasized in our actions?
I often self-reflect and ask myself what defines my beauty. Is it what I see when my hair is freshly washed, bare face and no added accessories? Is it when my hair is dyed and pressed, my face is complimented with MAC products, and all accessories included? Is my desire to run to the gym and instantly attract to the leg press and squat machines because of me wanting to be firm and fit, or am I secretly wanting to fit into the mold of women who desire an acceptable body image? Do I identify my beauty with the fact that I am spiritual and in love with Jesus Christ, or that I’m passionate, ambitious, strong, loving and woman of purpose?
How do you identify your beauty?
I can remember a point in my life when I did not recognize the true potential that was birthed inside of me. Being beautiful to me was a term for being physically attractive, but I never felt completely sure of myself. Now, as I continue to grow into a perfectly designed black woman, I am learning more about who I am, my purpose, and how I identify myself to the world. I realize that those specific representations of what I considered to be the most beautiful were shallow and meaningless compared to what I know now.
Every woman, including myself, desires to be beautiful or attractive to the eyes. However, YOU decide what defines your beauty, and I can guarantee that if you search deep enough, you will see and feel your beauty radiate from the inside out. Allow your actions to resemble a woman of strength and purpose. Let your words reflect encouragement, evoking positive vibes only. Allow your heart to reveal love and compassion. Empower the next woman by supporting her cause. Learn more about your passions, gifts and talents. Continue to educate yourself and develop. Spend time meditating, reflecting and grow spiritually; energy is everything!
Whatever it is that you do, begin to identify yourself, for yourself. My hopes is for my words to trigger something within you, that will unveil a new “ugly” that comes perfectly wrapped with glitter and gold, and topped with a red ribbon bow. I want to challenge black women and girls who embody and blindly accept the label of “face and no substance,” to aim higher by pouring out who they are behind the facade.
Enlarge your territory! If fleeting beauty is the only thing that you believe you can offer the world, then your offerings are very slim. Allow your face and body to be the icing on the cake (not the cake itself), and of course we all love icing! Ensure that the intensity of perfection that you show on the outside is in addition to the inside. Most importantly, define your beauty beyond societal opinions and standards. I pose this question to you, after you truly reflect: Are you inherently beautiful, or just an “ugly” black girl in disguise?
About the Author: Jameela Pruitt is the founder of Daughters Lead,Inc.
You can follow her on twitter @daughters_lead for empowerment, coaching, and upcoming affairs!