A brown girl's struggle with beauty and health
January 21, 2016 at 12:30 am
My favorite emcee, Rapsody, uttered the perfect quote on her idea of the beauty and struggle with her self-image due to being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
“I would be at shows rapping and I would get the pictures back and my eyes would just be popping out. And I’m like, ‘Aww I look so ugly.’ My face structure changed a little bit. My face looked a little bit more swollen. I’m having trouble keeping my weight down. I’ve always been used to being 120/125. My metabolism is slow because I have a hyperthyroid now. I have to watch what I eat and I have to work out a lot. That’s been a struggle. It affected my self-esteem, appearance-wise. When I made my first album, The Idea of Beautiful, that had a little bit to do with it. You have to look at what makes you beautiful.” -Rapsody, Why Is Rapsody Still ‘Hard to Choose’? – Ebony Magazine (2014)
My struggle with my health and idea of being beautiful started three years ago. I had discovered something was out of alignment. My weight kept fluctuating, my spirit was broken, my emotions were unstable and I masked my insecurities. I went from leading a healthy and active lifestyle to having an unstable and shattered confidence. I was broken. I couldn’t fit my clothes. I couldn’t get out of bed most days. I couldn’t remember anything. I cried. I cried. Then I cried some more. Physician after physician dismissed my distress over weight gain, migraines, bloating, inflammation, skin issues, digestion issues…the list continues. I just refused to silence my voice.
I remember crying over pettiness. I cried over not wanting to go out in public. I cried over not fitting into my bridesmaid’s dress for my brother’s wedding and having to go up a size. I cried hysterically in my therapist’s office the entire session about my health, self-image, and incompetent/pseudo God-Like complex of endless physicians. I was being labeled “crazy” and “lazy” due to my unexplained weight gain. The entire hour that I cried, my therapist held that sacred, safe and non-judgmental space for me while helping me dig deeper to break free from the labels and invisible chains.
And I still found myself crying!
I have hypothyroid disease, which is an autoimmune disease. What is hypothyroid disease?
“Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. People are hypothyroid if they have too little thyroid hormone in the blood.” – Thyroid.com
Hypothyroidism is incurable. It affects your entire body, your mood, and emotions. Some days, I have unlimited amounts of energy which is amazing because I can workout, cook many meals, blog and indulge in things I truly love. Some days I can’t move, I’m extra hard on myself, a hot-ass mess, and want to be left alone. Those days suck the life out of me and I have to be extra mindful and present on those days. Usually, I am gentle with myself. I do nothing but rest, read, cry, meditate, pray and enjoy loving on myself and basking in the love that my husband gives me. I usually limit my conversations with people unless it is my mom, who will call the CIA and FBI and fly up here to love on me and be the mama bear that she is, despite me being 32 years young.
Throughout my 32 earth years, I can’t recall struggling with my idea of beauty because I thought that I lived by my own standard of beauty. I’ve created my own style of fashion, felt comfortable in my skin, and felt that I was unfu%^withable! Since being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I’ve struggled with looking in the mirror from time to time because I have insecurities with the puffiness of my face due to fluid retention and inflammation. I have struggles with my stomach, which I camouflage because I went from abs to semi flab (no heat, no judgment). I struggle with the dark spots and acne on my face and body, because I feel people notice them prior to noticing me. Lastly, I struggle with joint flare-ups and inflammations. There are some days that I can run/walk miles, dance, practice yoga and lift weights. Then there are days I am sitting in my robe all weekend because I feel like an 18-wheeler committed a hit-and-run on my body.
Refining the inner goddess
In life, everything is temporary. I limit my television watching and participation on social media because that protects me from body-shaming myself. Television and social media can be damaging to anyone’s confidence, self-image and self-esteem. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we compare our entire existence, our looks, standard of beauty and standard of living to these “socialites” and social media celebrities who front a lot to keep up this pseudo-glamorous lifestyle. We abuse ourselves by altering our entire existence trying to look like someone else who might have surgically enhanced/photoshopped their looks or manually enhanced them via phone filters.
There are many women who are voluntarily destroying their bodies due to lack of self-esteem, self-image and support from those who admire their natural beauty. Recently, Iyanla Vanzant featured a beautiful sistah on her show who was a model that received illegal and bootleg butt injections because she didn’t know how to value her feminine energy. This was due to being born without a uterus, and her inability to produce children. She now struggles with silicone toxicity, which causes inflammation in her legs, butt and lower extremities. Imagine if she was surrounded by a healthy and loving support system that cultivated and validated her femininity and womanhood?
I woke up the hell up when I viewed that episode because I was measuring my outer beauty, versus looking within and recognizing my inner goddess’ beauty. We have so many broken beauties that are suffering in silence due to not valuing and cultivating our self-esteem and confidence within. Yes, we can enhance our outer beauty with makeup and outer adornments but how is your heart? How is your mind, sis? How is your inner goddess being fed? You can mask your brokenness temporarily. If you have a broken spirit, you are holistically broken no matter what weave, designer label or makeup you are rocking.
Body shaming from family
I’ve been battling body shaming from some of my male family members. From cutting my hair, being too thin, too athletic, too bossy, too this and too that. Body shaming is such a taboo subject in the African and African-American cultures. Body shaming is such a toxic, soul-breaking and unhealthy behavior. People who body shame are in no position to shame anyone because they are imperfect as well. People who body shame others have a lot of internal suffering and insecurities to tend to.
I have created healthy boundaries to protect my body, my holistic FLYness and my spirit. I have had my own father body shame me to my mother and husband. My father hurt my soul when he harshly judged my weight gain. He stated that I am “getting fat and eating everything in sight.” How can someone who brought you into the world, who’s supposed to speak love and positivity in your life, harshly criticize the same thing you are struggling with? I am thankful for my mother and my husband for protecting me because I was in too much of a fragile and vulnerable state to defend myself.
I am slowly forgiving my father, but it’s a work in progress. I refuse to internalize ugliness, tasteless and uncensored comments. I have to keep my stress level to a minimum. I now understand that I don’t have to tolerate body shaming and disrespect from anyone, including family members and friends.
In conclusion, I am re-learning how to love myself. I am focusing on my journey to healing and healthiness. I have a new-found appreciation for my life and how meaningful it is. I strive to live a spiritual and full life. I understand and accept that I am flawed and imperfect. When you can achieve a level of self-acceptance for yourself, you are able to cope with your struggles in life. Self-acceptance is vital to growth and development because you have to accept YOU even when people don’t accept you.
“Make sure you shine on and be a light to the world“-Andrea C. Imafidon
Andrea C. Imafidon is the brain-child of Brown Girl From Boston, a blog for Brainy Brown Girls to unite and celebrate their FLYness (self-love and self-care) Brown Girl From Boston blog gives Brown Girls everywhere permission to live life in a fearless and unapologetic way. Brown Girl From Boston celebrates and embrace the FLYness and greatness of Brown Girls. Andrea is a social media maven, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Holistic Life Coach, blogger, speaker, and author. She is the author of ‘Manifesting Your Greatness’ a goal setting book to help others to become Goal Getters and she is the co-author of ‘Self-Care for Brown Girls’ a self-care and self-love book to help Brown Girls to live a happy, holistic, and FLY life. Andrea is the 2014 Practico Innovation Business Pitch Idea Winner for her Smart Savvy app which is coming soon to a smartphone and tablet soon. Andrea is a professional coach with a certification in personal development coaching from The CaPP Institute. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from The University of Southern Mississippi and a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Tuskegee University. Follow her on Facebook, IG and Twitter.