Words by Yazzie Turner
Photos by Allison McDonald
Growing up, I always believed that beauty was determined by others.
Everyone else decided how I looked and if it was enough. Then, one day, I realized that my beauty is dependent on me and me alone. Regardless of how anyone else may see me, what matters most is how I see myself.
For a long time, I didn’t see myself. At least not the true me. I didn’t even know who she was. I only saw myself through the lens of others aAnd I let the world tell me if I was worthy enough to be loved. I had to morph myself into different versions of acceptability.
At times, I feel like an alien. Many don’t understand all the things that make me beautiful. From my hair; to the color of my skin; the way I laugh; how I love; the way I light up any room I walk into; and how I can always make the impossible possible.
Even when I started my journey of self-love, I still changed parts of myself to make those around me more comfortable. And if I dared to step outside the box, I let the reactions of others determine if I should do so again. I never really felt enough; at least not enough for the world.
My hair was always wrong. My body frame didn’t look like other body shapes around me. I dressed poorly. My personality was always too much or too little. I was damned if I did, and damned if I didn’t.
I learned that people can be fickle and that they can only accept what they understand. If I entered a room that only knew one type of woman, they’d fall to pieces once they saw someone like me. It’s hard to hide in the shadows, when everything about you stands out. It hurts when you’re in that type of room and you instantly feel othered.
I’m beautiful because I exist. Not because someone told me that I’m attractive enough. My beauty is expansive: it doesn’t begin and end in the beauty aisle.
Allow yourself to be seen by the mystic creature who stares at you in the mirror. I am a cosmic vision of all the galactic mysteries yet to be discovered. I no longer value the opinions of others because I know that most have yet to see themselves. I care more about how I see myself.
Although I’m still working on letting go of past pain due to my insecurities, I realize now that those insecurities don’t belong to me. Yes, many were given to me: the lack of inclusion in media, colorism within my own community, body shaming from all genders across the board and the ignorance from beauty aficionados. But those insecurities helped me give more power to the ones who were afraid and craved control. As long as I remained reliant on these narratives, I had no reason to tune into myself and find my true essence of beauty.
Now I’m unlearning everything I’ve been taught throughout the years. I’m redefining what it means to be beautiful by showing up fully as I am. I’m not perfect. I never will be. But I—for damn sure—will not let my light be misguided by the chaos I once knew.
I’m done being confused. I’m done being reliant. I’m done hiding away all of the beautiful things that make me…me.