I spent, actually WASTED would be a better term to use, a huge chunk of my early teenage years questioning my beauty. How I felt about myself was largely determined by the way others felt about me. Just reflecting back on that now, my much more confident self, upsets me. I was very self-conscious in middle school, mainly because of my skin tone but also because my mother couldn’t afford the latest shoes and fashion trends and back then that was EVERYTHING. Kids really wouldn’t associate with you if you didn’t have the new Jordan tennis shoes. Not only would they not associate with you, they would brutally pick on you and your lack of Baby Phat and Tommy Hilfiger. Having been surrounded by that for years I did what every other naive and absorbent teenager would do, I began to internalize it. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in high school and joined my school’s highly regarded cheerleading team that I really began to see myself as the beautiful-too-hot-to-trot young lady that I was. Joining an organization gave me the inauthentic boost of self-esteem that I thought I needed at the time to really step out of my comfort zone and begin to care less about the opinions of others and more about the bright future I had in front of me.
Today, nobody, and I do mean NOBODY could tell me that I’m not a beautiful person inside and out. And please don’t think I’m conceited, that mentality comes from a place of commemoration in remembrance of the struggle that I endured to get to where I am now–in complete appreciation for the unique woman I am. I love everything about myself, even my flaws because they’re a constant reminder that I am human despite my misguided efforts to be perfect. I realize that on some people’s scales my grading may vary based on their personal likes and dislikes but fortunately, D’Andrea will still sleep peacefully at night regardless of others opinions because she’s comfortable in her own skin. Yes, I did refer to myself in third person; I think it works well here considering the context. Do I have insecurities? Absolutely, find me a woman who doesn’t.
Although I recognize how far I’ve come now having established an deep appreciation of self, I do realize that no matter what I think or how I feel about myself, people will still pass judgments of me based on my ethnicity, gender, and any other bland classification system our society operates off of. And I’m not happy about that…AT ALL. The fact that no matter how hard I work to be independent, some will always view me as the girl who grew up on governmental assistance is a bit discouraging. It’s so unfair. Call me crazy ambitious but I believe that I can choose how my appearance affects my life, to a certain extent. I believe that my background makes me that much more relatable to students considering that more and more first-generation students are making the brave decision to go to college. When a student comes to me to vent about how crazy her life is because of a job that she has have in order to financially support herself while in school but also holds a leadership position in a student organization, I’ll be a credible and worthy listening ear; not only because I have a fancy degree in this type of stuff because she is me and I am her. I could easily refer back to one of the billion theories I’ve learned about student development thus far or I can dig deep within myself to remember how overwhelmed I felt at that time period in my life as a means to relate to my student and offer genuine guidance and support. I’ll have a mixture of both please!
“We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”- Miriam Williamson