original post date - july 13, 2018 #StopSwervin - Stay In Your Own Lane

I've never been an "It Girl". I am not the girl with 5,000 followers on Instagram or Twitter. I'm not the girl who gets 100 likes on a picture in 10 minutes. I don't have the body of an Instagram model, perfectly white teeth, or a face as smooth as melted chocolate. I am a dark-skinned young woman with stretch marks (that I'm not sure if I like or not), dark spots on my face, scars, breakout-prone skin, a gap in my teeth, and a body I'm not fully comfortable with. I'm a real person. A real person with a real body and real insecurities. On a daily basis, social media gives me a bunch of things that remind me of these insecurities. It tells me what's in and what's not, what to look like, what my #BodyGoals should be, how to dress, and what type of things I need to do to be relevant in a society that cares more about what I look like than the type of person I am. Some days it’s a struggle to not want to be “that girl”. The girl that other girls wanna be and guys wanna be with. The girl that commands everyone’s attention whether she's walking in a room or walking down the sidewalk. The girl that likes, comments, retweets, and hashtags were made for. The girl that never seems to have an off day. It's easy for me to fall into the trap of comparing myself to the people I see and feeling like I’m not up to par when I scroll through my timeline, whether I know the people personally or not. When I add to that the fact that I see some of these people on a daily basis with no filters and no photoshop and they are still beautiful, it can sometimes make it that much harder. I know, I know, Comparison is the thief of joy. Social media isn’t the full story. You're fearfully and wonderfully made. Someone else's beauty doesn't diminish your own. You're more than your looks. You have other things going great for you. You're perfect how you are. Again, I know this and I do my best to continually remind myself of this, but it doesn’t always feel like that's true. I feel like everyone has aspects of themselves where their confidence wavers from time to time, whether we like to admit it to ourselves or not. My biggest area is my physical appearance. I’m almost 21 years old and I still have times where it's difficult for me to take a compliment as something that's genuine because there are still times where I don’t feel like the nice things people say about me are true. To be completely transparent, I was always insecure about how dark my skin was and how I looked until I got to college. My mom had always told me how beautiful my skin was, but if you've ever seen my mom, then you might understand why it was hard for me to believe that coming from her. She's mixed, so her skin is way lighter than mine is. I even remember being elementary school and other kids telling me that I was adopted because I was so dark and my mom was so light, even though I would always tell them my donor (i.e. my biological father) was dark. My parents were never together and they never saw him, so they didn't believe me. Even though I knew it wasn't true, as a kid I recognized that lighter skin was in. The Beyoncés always got more love than the Kellys. I'm gonna skip through middle school because I feel like middle school was a fairly awkward time for most people. So boom. Ninth grade. My skinsecurity followed me right to high school. I was in marching band at a predominantly white high school, so the whites and other people lighter than me loved to joke about how they were almost as dark as me from June-September and how they couldn't see me when the lights were off. Every year. For four years. It never got old to them. They would make the same jokes to all the dark people, but it was funny every single time. I don’t know how the other extra-melanated people felt about it, but they really had me out here feeling like I looked like Dr. Carver from "The Proud Family Movie", and y'all know which part I'm talking about. Anyways… I digress. My skinsecurity evolved into full-blown body insecurity during this same time. I was always tall and lanky, and that didn’t magically change when I got to high school. I was still all head and all legs. Guys, including my guy friends, would always joke about how my butt wasn't as big as the other black girls, even going as far to joke that the 25% white I had in me (I told y'all my mama is mixed) was actually more because it didn't make sense for me to be black and not have any booty whatsoever. Straight bone. Plenty of nicknames came out of it, and even though it stung, it didn't feel like a huge problem to me. I just figured boys were being boys. Any other time when I wasn't the topic of conversation, I was fine. But when I was, I didn't feel like there was anything I could do. Not only was my skin a punchline, but so was my body. I felt like it would be easier and not affect me as much if I joined in and made the jokes before other people could, but I was way wrong. So wrong that clowning myself became the norm and just worsened an already fragile self-esteem. I’ll be the first to say, self-depreciating comments are definitely NOT the wave, but once it started, it was hard thing to stop (and still is). I was having enough "coming of age" stress as is, but I then developed the issue of not seeing myself as "womanly" unless I tried super hard. This was something that continued all the way through high school and into college, with a series of bad decisions along the way. Fast forward to college. If you don't go to school with me or know where I go to school, I am a leal and loyal daughter of THE Claflin University. Claflin is an HBCU, and someone experienced some major culture shock upon arrival. I am someone. Someone is me. I knew Claflin was an HBCU when I applied, but I didn't really think it would be drastically different from being around the whites. I mean it was just college. I was all the way wrong. I'd never been around so many Black people in my life. Like ever. College was the first place where I began seeing appreciation for the entire spectrum of melanin and I wasn't made fun of for how dark I was. This was also around the time where I noticed darker-skinned women finally start getting love in mainstream media and on my socials. Granted, most of the time they were oiled up, glammed up, as thick as cold grits, or some combination of the three, but I was just happy to finally be seeing some love shown to the Kellys of the world. It gave me some hope for myself that one day I'd feel beautiful and womanly and comfortable with myself. If you've been paying attention, you probably noticed that I never pointed out insecurities outside of how I looked. I was one of those kids that was always one of the "smart kids". I was always in the advanced classes and stuff, so my intellect wasn't an insecurity for me. Especially after I realized that my intelligence and work ethic were going to pay off for me as I got older. Thankfully, that was something I caught on to at a young age. It was one of my not-so-great ways of coping with the fact that I just didn't like my physical appearance most of the time. I overcompensated for my weak areas by being super critical of myself with the things I was good at in hopes of washing the weaknesses away in my mind. This way of thinking has stuck with me into young adulthood. I know where it stems from, but it's evolved in some ways so that now it's not all bad. A few months ago I discovered that I don't give myself enough credit. I knew (and still know) that I always busted my butt and worked hard on the daily for the things I have, want, and want to accomplish, but part of me felt like I should be doing better. For the longest, I wouldn’t give myself credit because I would feel like I wasn’t doing enough, even though those close to me would gladly tell me I was doing too much. Now that I'm actually thinking about it, I realize me not giving myself enough credit stemmed from insecurities and me comparing myself to other people. I wasn’t just comparing based off of looks. I thought they were prettier, they had the close friend groups, they had their special somebodies (in some cases), they seemed happier, and they actually had substance. They seemed like they had it all together, and no matter what I did, I felt like I couldn't get all the way there. I wasn't just comparing my looks. I was trying to compare my life to someone else's based off of a social media feed. This caused me to have the same "twice as good to get half as much or be considered equal" mentality that a lot of Black people (myself included) have adopted to have our worth recognized in mainstream AmeriKKKa, except I had it when it came to something as simple as just living my own life. I was super critical of myself, held myself to crazy high standards, and just wasn’t fully enjoying living. I was just existing, trying to push myself to this place that I thought I had to be in order to fully be happy, confident, and deserving of the credit I wasn't giving myself. I'm still a work in progress, but the important part is that I'm working on it. Let's fast forward again to now. I recently decided to recommit to my self-love. It was always something I wanted and thought would come eventually, but I didn't want to do all of the work to get there and parts of me were just scared to be real with myself and face some of the things I needed to face. It definitely hasn't been easy, but recommitting to myself has completely changed my outlook on my life. The first thing I had to work on was letting go of other people’s ideas of who they thought I was. It was exhausting trying to always seem to have it together all the time just because other people thought I did, even when I would willingly admit that I didn’t. *whew chile, the pressure* That being said, I continue hold myself to high standards, but I’m learning to not be as critical of myself when things aren’t as close to perfect as I’d like them to be. After all, MY standards are MY standards, so it's okay for them to be high. I haven't completely stopped comparing myself to other people yet, but I've been doing it less and that's progress that I'm learning to celebrate. I still have my insecurities, but I've been doing the necessary work to become more comfortable with my looks and I've finally become my own #BodyGoals instead of trying to make my body look like someone else's. Now I focus more of my energy on working on my weaknesses and insecurities than I do on wallowing in them because I have the power to change them, or at least change how I see them. It took a very long time, but I've FINALLY become more deliberate about loving myself where I am and making myself my first priority. Since making the decision, I'm a lot happier, more at peace with myself, more open to opportunities to grow (even though growing pains SUCK), and genuinely working toward living my best life while enjoying my process. That was a lot. Shoutout to you if you made it this far. I told y'all this was gonna be a long read. I said all of that to say this. Please begin to make yourself your first priority. Some people may be upset about it or say that you switched up, but that's not your problem, it’s theirs. Something that may feel like a switch-up to some may be the switch ON that you need to become the best version of yourself, so do you, boo! Don't dim your light so other people can feel like theirs is brighter. Don't apologize or feel guilty for kicking ass. Stay in your lane & FLOURISH. Stop swerving and comparing your bloopers to someone else's highlight reel. Give yourself the credit you're due. Celebrate the small things. Protect your peace. Know that a moment (or several moments) of weakness don't discredit your greatness or where you are right now. Take the time to heal, readjust, and get back on track when you need to. Pick yourself up and come back better than ever. Trust me, it's hard work. I STILL have to consciously remind myself of all of these things every day, sometimes multiple times a day. You can do it and you’re not alone. I'm rooting for you and I want to see you win. Live life. Be great. Flourish.

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