There’s a lot of traits that I’ve inherited from my family culture. One of them is that most of us don’t take ourselves too seriously. We poke fun at each other and we laugh through it all. I’m grateful for that.
As I’ve gotten older, I’m able to laugh at myself more often, even about the things that used to be crippling areas of insecurity for me. Growing up, I was often the only black child in many of my classes. Kids would make fun of my dark skin, my hair texture, my nose, and then I had to get glasses and braces which made it even WORSE. I felt hideous.
In middle school, I had gotten glasses cause ya girl could NOT see. I remember one day overhearing a boy in my class say, “I thought Shaida couldn’t get any uglier and then she got glasses.” I was absolutely crushed. I thugged it out and then when I was alone, I sobbed.
Looking back at my pictures as a kid, my heart breaks. Sure there were some awkward preteen and teen photos. But I was such a cute kid. I’m sorry I didn’t feel that way. It gives me more drive to make sure that my daughter feels secure and beautiful in her skin.
I carried those insecurities with me for years to come. When I was in my freshman year of college, I had to put on braces again (because I didn’t wear my retainer). I remember after putting them on, I cried for a whole afternoon because I felt like I was relieving elementary and middle school again. My dad had to give me a hug and remind me that I was beautiful… I didn’t believe him and kept crying.
I would avoid sitting out in the sun for years, not because I was cautious of skin cancer or sunburns (I’ve honestly never gotten a sunburn even after years of being in just about every Caribbean location and playing soccer and running track… that good ‘ol melanin). I was afraid of getting darker. While girls were out here begging for a tan, I was fuming that I’d gotten darker for being outside on a cloudy day.
I made sure once I had saved up some money I ditched the glasses, did whatever the dentist told me to do so I could get rid of the braces ASAP, I obsessed over my hair, nails, and brows. Even with that, it still didn’t take away the insecurity.
I would often walk into a room and compare myself physically to others. I almost declined going on my first date with Micah because I was CONVINCED there was NO WAY he’d be attracted to me.
I wish I could say that I stopped hoarding insecurity in my early twenties, or even mid-twenties, but to be honest, it hasn’t been until these past few years that I’ve started to feel comfortable in my own skin.
I don’t have step by step tips for you on this topic. I can only tell you that for something that had been ingrained in me as a child, it has taken the work of the Holy Spirit to help free me from insecurity...and he’s still freeing me. Here’s the ways I’ve recognized him healing me.
Through his word: Psalm 139 has always reassured me just how intentional God was when he made me.
Through my husband: All the things I didn’t like about myself, somehow, someway Micah finds those things most special. He loves my skin. He wears glasses just like me, he had braces just like me, he grew up being the only black kid too. He nerds out and we can use big words in conversation and/or switch it up really quickly and talk about nonsense using slang. I don’t have to code-switch with him. I can be 100% myself. I feel completely loved for who I am, what I look like whether I’m having a bad hair day or I’m dressed to the nines.
Through pregnancy: my body rapidly changed during pregnancy. I went up multiple sizes (which surprisingly didn’t bother me much), but I remember dreading getting melasma and/or stretch marks. I remember one time asking my husband if he was still attracted to me, he looked at me like “duh”. He said, “You’re still you. Why wouldn’t I be?” During pregnancy and after giving birth I realized that my daughter didn’t care at all what I physically looked like. She nestled into me regardless.
Through life and ministry: I’ve been seeing the Lord now for over 20 years. It’s been a roller coaster. I’ve worked in ministry for a long time and seen a lot of faithful ministers of the gospel go on to meet the Lord in heaven. Through this, I better understand Paul’s words, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Living in insecurity about my temporal physical body is a waste of precious time. Should I take care of myself and look nice? Absolutely! Should it be an idol that consumes my thoughts and keeps me from interacting with others and living out the fullness of my life? Absolutely not! When I die, I don’t care about people whether people thought I was pretty or not. Was I kind? Was I faithful to the gospel? Was I salt and light? Whose life did I impact? How did I help someone to see Jesus, grow in Him and love Him more?
The Holy Spirit can and will use what he needs to get through to us. I’m so grateful for his patience with me. I’m so grateful he’s still helping me to daily clear out the mess in my heart and head that insecurity created. In the last two years, my focus when I look in the mirror has changed. I’ve finally realized I’ve never really seen myself clearly in that thing.