The journey to self-love and acceptance

The journey to self-love and acceptance

I had my formative years in a country that valued light skin. I used a bleaching cream called Fair and Lovely when I was 10 or 11; I can still remember the burn.

When I moved back to Canada and made friends who liked tanning and chased the sun, I was confused. Although I welcomed the desire by my white friends to be darker, I am embarrassed to admit that I secretly enjoyed losing tanning competitions. I hadn’t yet shaken off the idea that lighter skin was more desirable.

I’ve accepted that figuring out who I am and how I define myself may be a lifelong process. I certainly have a better understanding of who I am now, but as the new kid at school I just wanted to fit in. I didn’t know if it would be cool to embrace my Indian heritage and acknowledge it with pride or if it would be better to abandon it. Over the years, I ended up doing a bit of both.

I quickly learned that having an accent or smelling like curry were things that kids made fun of and I did everything in my power to smell “normal”. And I lost my accent without trying, which at that age was a huge relief.

By the time I got to high school, I was labeled “white-washed”. But I had lived in India and didn’t feel the need to prove my authenticity to anyone. Every year, I signed up to represent the South Asian community by dancing to Bollywood at our multicultural show. Not sure what I was trying to prove but I did enjoy dancing and making new friends. (Bollywood is not an accurate representation of India’s diversity or culture, but that’s a whole other story.)

Most of my friends in high school were white and although their interest, acceptance and fondness of Indian food, clothes and movies was genuine, in some ways it always reinforced that we were different. My worst nightmare was being told I smelled like my mom’s food (curry). It was meant to be a compliment but it never was.

I had a great desire at that age to share my Indian culture with my friends but I also had a great desire to be just like them. As they wished for thicker hair like mine, I wished to have less hair on my body, like them. The hate of bodily hair seems quite universal but for girls and women who have a lot of it, getting rid of it is a full-time job. Not to mention an expensive and really painful one.

And that pain is made worse by the fact that I have eczema. My scars and rashes are exacerbated from hair removal and laser hair removal has given me some permanent scars. The scars make loving my body an increasingly harder task to accomplish.

This year was the first time in my adult life I wore skirts and dresses to work without pantyhose or tights. It might sound absurd but it was a liberating summer. I normally hide my legs because of my eczema, so it was a baby step forward but I’m proud to have taken it!

In the end, I’ve decided that I will judge myself based on the work that I do, the type of person I am and what I am doing to make the world a better place not my scars, or hair or cellulite. I want the impact I have in this world to define me, not my ability to meet an absurd standard of beauty.

So, as we embark on a new year, I am promising myself that I’ll take more steps forward in the revolutionary act of self-acceptance and self-love. I hope you’ll join me!

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