Unpretty

I would not classify myself as a wallflower, nor would I say that I’m an attention-getter.  If I was asked to describe myself physically, I would say that I am an attractive Black woman of medium height.  I would say that I am well shaped and my usual exercise regimen keeps my body in pretty good condition (before I came to Indonesia, where I don’t exercise, I had Michelle Obama arms…so sad they’re gone but I’ll get them back).  I would say that I have a yuppie-hippie kind of style (my sister coined that term for me) and I put myself together well, dressing to complement my body and highlight my feminine assets without being revealing or letting anything hang out.

Since I hit my late teen years, I have not been short of male attention or appreciation.  And I don’t mean just from the skeezy ones on the street who inspire you to speed walk past them.  Even though I have never depended on male feedback to feel good about myself, I’ve certainly enjoyed it.  As I have grown older I have become more confident in my femininity and I enjoy expressing it through my dress and how I carry myself.  I know that I am a beautiful Black woman and I don’t need anyone to tell me that.

In Indonesia, I do not blend into any situation in any way, shape or form.  Though I am not tall by Western standards (5’6″ is average height for a woman in the West) I am taller than most people here so I am a head above them in most situations.  Just by standing up, I stand out.  Then of course, there’s the elephant in the room…my skin colour.

My skin colour makes me an oddity in Indonesia.  I stand out here just because I am Black, and because I am Black, I am unattractive.  I have been shouted at on the street – during the latest instance I was called chocolate; in fact, there have been numerous things shouted at me that I have been blessed enough to not understand.

All of this brought me to the point of pondering my own sense of my attractiveness.  If I was still in the phase of my life where I depended on the opinion and approval of others, Indonesia would have severely crippled my self-esteem and self-worth.  I would have been left feeling…well, in the words of TLC over a decade ago…unpretty.

Unpretty.  A woman’s struggle with her own self-image and self-worth because of other people’s conceptions of beauty.  A woman feeling like she is not pretty enough to be worth anything because someone else said so.  A woman’s susceptibility to unrealistic or unfair standards of beauty set by others.  We as Western women usually fall prey to this unpretty trap because of media – magazines, TV, movies.  I’m resisting a whole country of people subtly trying to nudge me towards it.

Luckily, the confidence that I have cultivated in my most recent years has served me well in Indonesia.  There will never be a man here who expresses interest in me because I’m too Black for that.  But I stopped needing any man…any person…to validate me the day I woke up and realised that as long as God tells me that I am beautiful, it doesn’t matter if even my own mother says it (love you, mom!) because nothing any human being says can be truer than God’s own word.

know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am beautiful on the inside and the outside.  I also know that as long as I keep working with God, I’ll just keep getting prettier.  What more validation could I possibly need?

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I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.  Psalm 134:14 (ESV)

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