So, like many, many, many people, I've had today's world on my mind. And, even with occasional happy moments, it's easy to feel consumed and lose perspective on the beauty within yourself if you can't see it in the world around you.
Truth of the matter is, there can be rays of positive that (if you aren't careful) are easy to overlook. For me, it's keeping my head up another day, being appreciative for every moment and the rediscovery of myself and new hobbies that have literally transformed the way I see life and myself. For a while, I felt hypercritical about myself, which came through every single time I looked in the mirror. I'd wonder, Why that face, that hair, that body? Why couldn't I instead have [FILL IN BLANK], [FILL IN BLANK], [FILL IN BLANK]? But, over the last year or so, with the end of a huge part of my life and the decision to choose myself, I started to remember what loving myself meant and appreciating my own individual beauty. So, I started trying new things on my own and throwing myself into a more positive, self-preserving lifestyle, finding more confidence and pride along the way. While I experienced some physical positives, that wasn't the intention. It was the emotional uplift that I noticed most. I felt beautiful and like a better version of me, and that felt WONDERFUL.
So, it was the conversation with a very wise friend yesterday who made a random comment that triggered a thought in me: a poem I'd written many years ago, in college, while frustrated with the world and feeling down on myself. It was meant to uplift and empower myself, as a Black Latina woman, when I questioned my own self-identity. At that time, I performed it at a Latino student showcase and received so much love and support from people across cultures who understood how I felt. That's when I realized the words in it are universal for anyone, especially any woman, who may have questioned her own individual beauty at one point or another.
I was so fired up, I went and dug it up. And the words I wrote nearly 15 years ago couldn't be more relevant at this moment in time. I'll admit even I needed the reminder. So, in honor of spreading positive energy and encouraging every being to find the beauty within themselves, despite what the world tells you, I'm publishing a poem I considered and currently consider a mantra about self-love and self-appreciation. I really hope you enjoy.
Colors of You (Looking in the Mirror)
I looked in the mirror intrigued by my reflection, staring me in the face.
There it was looking back at me, and I was trying to understand…
What society has done; in its perceptions of beauty it has taken over
What I saw myself to be…
What I was supposed to look like was being dictated for me…
Why can’t my brown skin, dark eyes, full lips, wide eyes, and thick hair be a symbol of my culture?
Why can’t my features stand for the beauty I came from: my history, my legacy, or my family?
Why can’t my skin be a marker of my Central American roots, my languages, my Indian and African blood, and my ancestors?
Instead it is compared to being light, fair, or some other European ideal --- Which I’m not.
Why isn’t my skin a marker of my connection to all that I know as beautiful but instead society chooses to mar it with negativity and oppression?
It’s because they fail to see that todos colores,
All colors, the cultures and races of our diaspora, span all shades…
They stretch across all sizes, shapes, voices, ethnicities, languages and ideologies…
Pero nuestra gente ("Our people") unite in their pride
And in celebration of a history that has defined whoever they have become.
Nuestra gente unite in love for their culture, their language, and themselves.
They unite in struggle, in trying to maintain an identity that is hard to hold on to because of what AMERICA thinks to be beautiful.
But what society doesn’t understand is there’s beauty in nuestros colores, our colors,
And especially deep within each one of us.
In looking at myself, I saw generations past, shining through my eyes.
I saw my history staring right back at me in my reflection. En el espejo lo veo todo. ("In the mirror I see it all")
I looked at the shape of my body,
Every single curve and marking serve as a symbol of what I come from,
All a part of the history that I AM, right down to my heart and soul.
I open my mouth to speak, to say to myself, “These are the colors of ME.”
Mis colores ("My colors"), the elements of my being…
So, what is beauty, anyway?
It’s the colors within that are only understood when you understand all of you.
When you love you.
When you love what you see, and who you are --- When you love it all.
I understand and love who I am.
Dismiss whoever CAN’T see that.
Because the truth is, mi gente, we come from a beauty that cannot be reproduced or replaced… Nuestra cultura, y nuestros colores son nuestra belleza. ("Our culture and our colors are our beauty")
Mi gente, mira el espejo ("My people, look in the mirror"). Marvel at your reflection. And love the colors of you.