My smile is like the sun, warm and bright. My eyes, a deep brown, as brown as the color of the earth after torrential rains. My skin, as rich and swarthy as the earth’s soil. Freckles, scattered in the most random places; on my back, arms, and nose. My little imperfections. My curly black hair, as dark as the night sky. My lips, pink and plump. Soft and soothing when they touch. A dimple, my little dent of delight living on the left cheek of my face. My hands, warm, I can warm even the coldest of oceans with just one touch. My body; big, curvy, perfectly imperfect. My mind, a powerful machine in which my wisest thoughts soar; peaceful.
Love: A word that once held no meaning to me. Cold, hollow, emptiness in my soul; I would scream the word over and over, but nothing came to mind; a blank empty canvas, nothing was love to me, not even myself.
Being born into a household where my mother was a low-class immigrant and my father, aloof and uncaring, my mental health issues arose at a very young age. I was the shy girl growing up, having unvoiced responses to questions, and a fear of opening myself up to those around me. I would criticize myself endlessly for being contemptible in my father’s eyes, his detachment becoming more prevalent in my early middle school years; evident when he had ordered my mother, brother, and me out of his home in New Jersey, us then seeking solace in my aunt’s residence in Pennsylvania. The hate toward myself had augmented with age, with my junior year of high school being the peak of my inability to handle my self-proclaimed negativity. My bright smile was unattractive to me; my eyes and skin, I thought, the color of dirt and unworthy of attention; my body, swollen and crinkled; me, as a whole, a creature only my mother could love. But why exactly was I so resentful of myself? Was it truly due to my father’s brutal actions and words? Or was it simply just all in my head, a mere cover up for the fear of showing who I truly was behind closed doors: a girl, loud and boisterous, full of knowledge, bright and ambitious.
To be honest, I am not exactly sure of the moment in which I began to unmask the true beauty of who I am, the point at which I commenced the journey to loving myself. It could have been the day in which I forgave my father for tainting me, the time in which I looked at myself in a mirror and saw uniqueness rather than abnormality, or possibly the instance in which I was inducted into the National Honor Society, and saw my mother’s proud face as I walked across the stage. Each possibility could have been the answer I had been looking for in my early years of life, helpful in shaping the way I view myself today: beautiful, special, ethereal. Loving myself once seemed like an unattainable flickering flame, but as cliche as it may be, the minute I began to take pride in my flaws, my faults, my unalluring past, is when I finally saw the glamour within my body. The love I have for myself awakens my soul and gives my heart songs to sing. It is what motivates me to continue, and to thrive for any goal or dream I have set. After years of dealing with an external locus of identity, I realized that the love I was looking for was actually within myself.
Today, I stand proud as the child of an immigrant mother and an absent father, a student whose knowledge outshined her lack of voice in her classes, and a girl, whose eyes, smile, and soul radiates happiness to those around her, and most importantly, to herself.
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