By Salma Abdulatif
I love you.
I love you because you are me.
I love you because there will never be another you and you are amazing as you are.
I love you, each part of you.
As you find yourself outside the bra, I think you are fine, really fine. Just learn to stick a little bit more inside, hey, that was just a put-on.
“You should get yourself a stretch mark remover” they tell me.
But as I look at each stretch mark, I feel glad that that is my representation as a woman.
I am not an ugly duckling just because I am what they call: fat.
They define beauty in their own way, their own stereotypes and I, I am so rocking this 78 kg body very gracefully like a woman raised to believe in herself, to believe in her curves. They name us, plus size.
I have grown up being a lovely young woman whose confidence was shattered and who was among the 98% of people in the world who never thought that they were beautiful. I was always teased for what they referred to as my overly big assets and I could not assertively reclaim my body or my mind as I was too occupied with the negativity that flew around me.
I would always try to cower away afraid of people’s eyes and people’s words. I remember a certain time when I was young and I could not get a dress of my size and as I watched my cousins wear their fitting outfits, I lost my self-esteem. As people would see me, they would always hold my cheeks tightly, a sign of a plump cute little girl. Which at that particular time, I treated as satire or mockery of its own kind.
One of the incidences that I cannot forget, was three years ago in Kilifi County, when I had attended a family wedding. I was so excited until one of the relatives told me,” You need to check on your size; you might be obese by the time you get married.” My face dropped and all the delight and joy that I had, faded as the splendor fades from the sky, when the sun sinks to sleep.
Moral of the story, human beings are the biggest critics. I think we are the reason why other women do not embrace their bodies. We are the reason why people cannot confidently own up to their minds, beauty, and whole existence. This era has been piled with knowledge and information but we are flat in implementation. We are living in a time where so much being told of the basic things that make us humane, that make us be who we are, but are we really there yet? We are so material and so plastic that we cannot appreciate people for who they are but we are always out there to look at what is missing, what is not around. Can we smell some positive coffee? Can we learn to appreciate and not hate? Can we just look at the glass as half full and not half empty? Can we?
I know that I am not the only who went through a battle with self-esteem. I want each of you to look in the mirror today and say that I am beautiful. I am a queen. I am authentic and true. I love my curves. I love my hair. I love my shade of black. I love my cellulite. I love myself, simple.
As African women we must not embrace our perceived limitations and stop taking up styles that are not our own. Let us take an example, hair. I have big curly hair that I sometimes find quite difficult to comb. Various people have told me that my hair looks like a untamable forest. But it is MY hair and I love it as it is. We have seen so many African women forget their natural hair for something more artificial and make way for chemical treatments. These relaxers modify the way our hair looks and in time, if no proper maintenance is being observed, the hair loses its natural strength. Is it really necessary? We are so beautiful and we should not wait for somebody to tell us that. We need to stand outside, confidently. Own our bodies because we will never be Jennifer Lopez and we can never be Rihanna either. We are who we are. And that identity is the icing on the cake.
This generation, beauty has been defined from the outside-in. People see you as you look. If you wear a hijab, you are probably seen as an extremist. If you wear traditional attires, you are told that you are uncivilized. You are black, you are isolated. You are Latino, you do not belong. Who sets these boundaries? The moment we start defining beauty from inside out, a shift will occur: people will be more confident and we will all be in the same space.
My message is to work on our inside beauty. Our characters, our abilities, our personalities, and habits. We should then embrace our outside and embrace each protruding layer, our locked thighs, our pimples as they are and our hair as it is.
You are an enigma, a house of tales and imperfection because there is no perfect body and no perfect curve. Each part of you sings a different song that can never be heard anywhere else, and as I look at you, I see an elegant young woman with an ocean of diamonds that cannot be seen by the outer eye, but by those brave enough to dig inside.