An Unsettling Reflection

I’m of the belief that children should be smothered with love and affirmation so as develop an emotionally sound individual. An individual with a solid self esteem is less likely to become depressed or suffer from another psychological disorder. Yes, I’m not a qualified professional. Neither do I have mountains of research to back up my claims. The only thing I have is experience and the power of observation.

This past week I was responsible for babysitting my cousin. She looks like a well crafted doll; pitch black hair and chocolate skin. She is an outspoken eight year old, who loves to learn. I look at her, and I see myself in her. Her ambition to do great things, her discipline, and unfortunately her poor self image.

I watched her watching herself in the mirror. I listen as she calls herself ugly while she tugs at her curls. She tells me how she wants super straight hair like mommy, and how she hates it when people call her black. I attempt to reassure her of her beauty, but explaining the idea of being biracial is not an easy task. At times I find myself simply hugging her, as words fail to tackle all her insecurities.

I’m glad I can be there for her, but it can’t help me wonder if things would have been different had I had someone to comfort me in my times of uncertainty. Watching her takes me back to my childhood. I remember the time when I first began to withdraw from people. That day my friends decided to determine which of the four of us had the flattest stomach, the boys of the neighborhood were the judges. We lined up against the wall and exposed our stomachs. I tried my best to pull my stomach in, but that didn’t stop the laughter. I remember being called fat and unpretty, while my friends were deemed beautiful.

From that day I walked with my head down, hoping the world wouldn’t notice me.  That day the outside world confirmed what my family had been saying for years: I’m ugly, and will always be second best. Instead of pulling me out of my dark whole, my family shoved me further down the path of self hate. I was reminded how I was indeed fat and awkward with people, and how society now believed it too. I remember how I began smiling less, and locked myself in the bathroom as I had my crying sessions. I remember playing around with the thought of running away or dying, any escape from my reality. I stopped talking to my friends and stopped going outside to play. I hid away from the world, preferring to be in the darkness that became my world.

Today I still find myself hiding in the shadows of my mind. Afraid of what contact with the world may mean for me.