As St. Valentine’s Day approaches once again I am faced with the reality that I am single and may be for awhile to come as was pointed out by someone earlier this week. As I began to notice all of the Valentine’s Day decorations that have been seen since the second week of January I started to question if people really know what true love is. As my thoughts got deeper and deeper I began to think back to the day that I finally realized that true love is really self love.
Growing up in The Caribbean there were set standards of how young women should look that would make them appealing to men as with any other place on earth. The problem with me though was that Bahamians had a set standard of beauty and Haitians had another and I didn’t meet either of them.
I was raised in a Haitian home and went to a Haitian church and socialized with the Haitian community, however, I went to school with Bahamian students, lived in Bahamian neighbourhoods and also socialized with Bahamians. In the Haitian community to be beautiful meant to be a bit heavy set, big broad hips and breasts that stood out like head lights, straight hair, full lips and high cheek bones. In the Bahamian community things were a bit different and other definitions of beauty were revealed.
I would oftentimes listen to men tell me to my face that I was too skinny, that I wasn’t shapely at all and that looking at me was like looking at a pencil, I recall vividly one man telling me that he wouldn’t even look at me because of the texture of my hair “by this time I had decided not to chemically treat my hair”, I was told that I didn’t have breasts to feed a baby much less a grown man “their words not mine”, and to make matters worse I was often compared to my younger sister and the comparisons were not nice or in my favour at all. Haitian men and women alike found no shame in smacking your hips and telling you that you needed to put on a few pounds or that no man would marry you, they would also at times raise my skinny arm to show me that I had hardly any meat on my body. The Creole word for skinny is “shesh” which literally means “dry” in other words I was just dry bones. As you can imagine it was difficult growing up in a culture where you did not fit in but I had two cultures and none was suitable for me.
I told myself that I would not allow the negative words to have any impact on me I later realized that I had very little control on the effects. I started wearing three pairs of pants under my uniform to make me appear bigger than I really was. I wore clothes that were at least a size too big so that I could hide my little assets or risk being the center of jokes. I read books and magazines on how to get a better body but just when I thought I had gotten a hold on building my body, the acne scars started to show. I had no idea what to do and who to talk, and no idea how to handle the situation. I hardly ate and when I did it was because I was forced by my mother some would call it an eating disorder, I called it life.
I suffered alone and faced my own fears and battles. When I moved to Canada things shifted again and once more there was another standard that had to be met. In Canada I was now seen as the exotic girl with the very pronounced features. When I was told how beautiful I was I didn’t know how to handle it because it was often followed by the word exotic and I wasn’t too sure if I should take it as a compliment or insult. In all those years I realized that although many had lots to say about my physical being, my body, none would ever dare to challenge my intelligence.
As I grew older I began to appreciate every aspect of my body, my features and my flaws, my perfect teeth and my acne scarred multi-toned skin, I began to count my blemishes as blessings, I began to flaunt my tightly coiled curls whether I was having a bad hair day or not, I began to see just how unique I was and realized that self love is the first love to have.
I now thank God for not allowing me to go into a relationship with any of those men who thought so little of me while I didn’t really know how much I was worth. Now that I am a woman filled with high self esteem and good pride I challenge anyone to belittle me or to make me feel any less than the beautiful and strong woman that I have become and will fight to remain. Words hurt people and as someone who have been down this path I try my best to say positive things about people especially about their appearances. With images floating of super think celebrities or singers with curves to die for, we need to remember to embrace our uniqueness and allow everyone their moment to shine in their way. I would never forget how I felt when I heard the snickers and saw the smirks of people when Susan Boyle walked onto the stage, I cringed because I knew exactly what it felt it, but she shut them up when she opened her mouth didn’t she?
As we count down the days to Valentine’s Day remember that True Love is Self Love and Self love is True Love. It is impossible to love another without first knowing how to love your self.
“The biggest struggle in life is the struggle to know, embrace, and accept ourselves, with all of our faults and imperfections”