a woman looking in the mirror

My Life/Teen Life

Brown Skin Girl

So there was this challenge recently trending on the Internet that I thought was really cool. Individuals wanting to participate find one current (2020) photo of themselves and one from a decade ago (2010). Once both photos are placed side by side, all there is left to do is bask in one’s growth. Obviously, with how shocked individuals are of themselves, the internet was flooded with people sharing these side by side comparisons. Unfortunately for me, there are no available photos of ten-year-old Regina, therefore; with the saddest of hearts, I cannot participate… photo-wise that is. I still, however, remember quite vividly ten-year-old Regina.

If you had told her that ten years into the future, Beyonce herself would make a song in celebration of brown girls and their skin tone, I would ask you to take me back to whatever world you came from because that reality was never going to come to fruition in the world I currently lived in. You see my ten-year-old self, just beginning puberty and figuring out her identity as a girl, looked for self-confidence, self-worth, self-esteem (all the things you have to cultivate within yourself), in the world that surrounded her. The people on the television screen didn’t look like her and the preferences of boys in her class were always the ones that she didn’t meet.

Even as a child I knew there was something wrong with the fact that I could never find a show or magazine cover presenting the beauty of someone who looked like me. I could sit here and write an entire book on the lack of representation in America’s media and the biased fine-tooth definitions of beauty that have been constructed over the years. But I need to be honest with myself. I can’t put all the blame for my early onset insecurities on society alone. I have to take responsibility for the part I played. Because when I looked at my mother or sisters I was always left breathless. Their beauty was like rain to dry land; rare yet in abundance. Their skin glowed and their smiles radiated as if they had fireballs for hearts. I always wondered what magical power they wielded to be such close personifications of perfection. Even to this day, I still seem to find myself just as breathless.

However, taking that breathlessness and applying it to myself always made me fearful. Instead of recognizing my own beauty through the similarities I shared with my mother and sisters, I focused on the differences I had with other girls my age. I considered my differences from them as an absence of beauty. I was too focused on those differences to see the similarities I shared with my family; to see my own God-given radiant glow. So, instead of overcoming my insecurities and actually saying beautiful in the mirror enough times to believe it, I took what I thought then as the easier way out. Which in fact was not the easier way out, but a long and painful road of trying to alter my God-given traits.

Project: Cocoon

I knew I could not completely change myself overnight so I decided to go one trait at a time. Like the time spent in a cocoon before a larva is transformed into a butterfly, this was my project cocoon and I was determined to transform. With that being said, I thought I’d start with something small but lovable; dimples, everyone loves dimples. I would fall asleep every night for the longest time shoving my index fingers to the outside of my cheeks. Thinking that when I woke up I would be blessed with man-made dimples. But, as you can guess, I always woke up disappointed.

When that didn’t work, I moved on to my hair. I would always request the most American looking hairstyles when getting my hair done. Small straight black braids, trying to imitate the beautiful straight blonde hair all the other girls in my class had. But when the day came that my mom forced me to wear my natural hair out and in a traditional style, I would make up every excuse in the book as to why I couldn’t go to school that day (which never worked).

This vicious cycle of self-loathing and attempts at waking up in a different body finally came to a peak when I found skin lightening cream in my mother’s room… Why was it there? I had no idea, but boy was I ever grateful. I thought this was it. I had finally found a way to be beautiful.

Skin Just Like Pearls

During the time I took to consider going through with the irreversible act of skin lightening cream, my sister and mother were speaking on the topic of skin lightening back home and in Africa as a whole. My aunt had apparently done it and it had made them both so very sad. They spoke on the beauty and history behind our skin and how disrespectful it is to a God who so intentionally made it so. Unknowingly they were talking me off the ledge and chipping away at the idea I had built up thinking this is what I needed to do.

Now, this one little conversation didn’t change my thought process completely. It took ten years of mountain peak highs, desert lows, and a boatload of Jesus to finally get to the place I am today. I allowed many people at that time to abuse or belittle me due to my lack of confidence in my appearance. But in a way, I needed them and my own over calculating mind to have the unwavering confidence I have in myself today. Although I was made in His image and likeness it took a decade past before I came to truly accept and celebrate in that.

Not one individual in this world would try and paint over the “Mona Lisa,” “The Starry Night,” or “The Last Supper.” Mainly because these masterpieces are regarded to be some of the world’s most priceless artworks. And the artist behind each of these paintings is even more respected. In the same way, we as God’s children have no right to criticize and pick apart the masterpieces God created by creating us. Each and every one of us is His unique “Mona Lisa” and “Starry Night” and “Last Supper.”

It says in Psalm 139, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” The placement of the words “fearfully and wonderfully made” are no coincidence. There are no accidents in the Word of God because it was divinely inspired, just as you were divinely made in your mother’s womb. By knowing your worth and cherishing yourself you are giving glory to God — Give praise to His creation because you are wonderful.

About the Author

Regina Wol

I was born in Aweil, South Sudan so English is my third language. I am the youngest of my mother’s seven children and wield the title of “baby of the family” with an iron fist. Growing up I wanted glasses and braces so badly because to me they were the epitome of coolness. When I get really excited I speak way too fast and way too loud. I like the idea of eating healthy but love the instant gratification of fast food. I’m shy when I first meet people. I love the kind of laughs that leave your whole body smiling and your lungs gasping for air. I’m an extrovert who needs her introverted breaks from the world. I am currently an undergraduate pre-med major by day and an aspiring Catholic motivational speaker by night. Africa is always on my mind, and God is forever in my heart. Mother Mary and my patron saint, Josephine Bakhita, are my wing women. Right now, I’m probably having a stress-relieving dance party with my mirror, on the second leg of my world tour in the shower, or practicing my audition for the part of Mama Odie in Princess and the Frog. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @awoke_wol.

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