It is no longer completely shocking that a woman in Jamaica has had some form of physical augmentation or plastic surgery. That was customarily expected of those still searching for meaning and fame in Hollywood and elsewhere. It is also no longer outrageous that she scrubs her complexion to the point where friends no longer recognize her; or that she covers her own crown and dons a ‘knock-off’ scalped from the heads of those presumably more beautiful in other parts of the world. However for some reason, photos of a female rapper whom I always believed to be exquisitely beautiful, who appears to have done all the stuff mentioned above, that surfaced on the Internet recently, has me really downcast for the state of consciousness and self esteem among my black sisters. The rapper is quoted as saying she never really felt beautiful, that men told her she was ugly and pointed to her ‘more beautiful’ European sisters.
Yes, white women do surgery and wear hair extensions too but they don’t share the horrid history of Black women and are not the subject of this blog. Yes men also make drastic cosmetic changes to their appearance, but that is the exception rather than the norm. My current truly heartfelt concern is the continued glaring lack of self esteem among some of our black sisters.
Yes, women in Jamaica have started to enjoy the-long-fought-for-right to do as they please; the right to work or to care for the home; to demand equal pay as men; to take on leadership roles and to extend themselves in ways not imaginable a few decades ago. There is still some way to go, but women are in fact ‘leaning in’ and are taking a seat at the proverbial table. But I fear that while we may have collectively leaned into our professional potential and pursuits, we may not have leaned in to our sense of wholeness as women. Indeed, we may not have set the foundation of wholeness as the springboard from which to pursue all others things – leadership; career; marriage; children and all the other things we desire.
And so we must start at what I call, the first beginning. We must create an environment for our young girls, in which they feel loved whether they achieve academically, creatively, physically or not. Regardless of their pursuits, they must feel the love, assurance and admiration of their parents, grandparents, guardians, aunties and uncles; while also feeling the positive nudge to discover and pursue their talent and be all they can be. They must know the love of their heavenly Father; they must know that they were wonderfully and lovingly designed for a unique purpose and taught that in finding that purpose they can experience fulfillment. We must personally believe that truth and teach it to our girls with all of hearts. That’s how we begin cultivating a sense of inner wholeness among our little princesses.
Sadly however, some of us parents and grown-ups are broken and are ourselves ‘unwhole’ and therefore unable to provide that kind of safe emotional environment for our daughters. Some of us don’t truly know God’s love and therefore have no love to give. I believe that is why God made community; so that we can hold each other up; catch either and carry each other to wholeness even as we are ourselves on the same journey. We are like pieces of a puzzle; we are broken and out of shape but put together we can be whole and make a beautiful picture. So tell a sister-friend that she is beautiful today, that her smile makes you feel happy; tell another that you appreciate her wisdom and integrity in her actions and still another that she inspires you to be more and to do more! For sure, the message about the role of the community cannot be overlooked. We must be generous in showing appreciation, honest about our shortcomings and insecurities while actively seeking to befriend and incorporate positive women in our lives to help us in areas that we fall short. We must seek to mentor and to be mentored. We must seek wholeness, even at this seemingly late stage of adulthood. How else do we positively impact our daughters, our nieces, the bright-eyed intern, our staff, our friends, the girl next door, the youth group we mentor or the promiscuous girl in our Sunday school class? We start with ourselves; that’s the second beginning.
There is so much more to unpack as it relates to connecting with ourselves and with other women, but in the end I believe that if we cultivate that search for wholeness among ourselves as black girls and black women; we would seek less to be seen and to be admired and instead seek to give and do something wonderful out of our own abundance, and in that find wholeness, meaning and create something beautiful. We would pursue our professional and personal development from an authentic, honest and happy place and from there I believe we will make healthier choices about our appearance. We may still decide to make changes, enhancements and tweaks to our physical look but certainly from a place of true peace and love.
A gender advocate, Shelly-Ann Harris sits on the board of the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre and is the Editorial Director & Founder of Family and Faith Magazine. She is also a respected Communication Specialist with robust experience in the public and private sectors in Jamaica and the region. Follow her on Twitter @harrisshellyann or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org