It’s no secret that childhood wounds stemming from self-image and beauty linger well into adulthood.
Little black girls growing up in the western world are constantly fed messages through the media that they are less beautiful and valuable than white girls. Thankfully we live in a time when many black women are recognizing bogus beauty standards for what they are. As we grow we begin to realize we possess unique power and beauty. We work on daily routines to celebrate and adorn our outer selves: we get dressed up, drink mimosas at brunch with our girlfriends, and beat our faces to the nines. But often times the real process of healing from within is our Achilles heel. Especially considering the fact that those same bogus standards that got our insides all messed up in the first place continue to remain a pervasive part of our society. But there’s a reason healing from within doesn’t happen easily. Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sonia Banks, says the trauma caused by those early messages regarding beauty adversely creates the identity we believe is ours.
“Almost when we come out of our mother’s wound we’re memorizing faces, and we’re learning from [people’s] expressions back to us what’s valued by a smile or by a frown,” said Dr. Banks. “So as we grow up and we see our image in our mother’s face, we see how people respond to us, like, “Oh what a cute little girl,” or not, it starts to have us encode our own sense of identity. So what we see is you living out and fulfilling your alignment with that message straight through until you get into your coffin and go home.”
For children of color this is even more of an issue. Research shows that by age three black and Latino children begin to recognize the identity difference between them and their white counterparts, which is much earlier than most children, said Dr. Banks. By the time adulthood comes, many find ways to push back against that narrative, but often times in unhealthy ways. Are you the woman at work who’s talented but shrinks when it’s time to speak up or go out for a promotion? Or maybe you’ve figured out how to put on an act of confidence, yet inside you still feel like the little girl who was never celebrated. According to Dr. Banks, neglecting the healing process from within could prove to be more detrimental than we realize.
“The mixed message of the inside life and the outside life ends up becoming overtime, too much to bear,” she said. So at some point in the life of that individual there will be a confrontation of what I call the silent agreement: the agreement that you make with yourself, the assumption you make about yourself: ‘this is as good as it’s going to be. I’ll look as good as I can on the outside because I can’t change the inside.’ And you hold that silent agreement forever, until you bump into someone else who confronts the story you’re telling yourself. The assumption you’re making, the belief you’re holding and they can challenge that in many ways. They can challenge it if they fall in love with you.”
Dr. Banks says there are a number of ways you can begin working towards healing your inner self. Some of these methods you might have heard of, many of them you might already be implementing. Here’s the round up:
Try to begin by writing at least three pages every morning or evening. Research shows that journaling helps to reduce stress. You
2. Tell someone else how you’re truly feeling.
Everyone should have a therapist and a spiritual director according to Dr. Banks. Sister circles are also great, but ensure that a licensed clinician is your anchor in case your feelings stem from dark incidents, such as molestation or physical abuse.
3. Exercise, exercise, exercise.
Research shows that exercise not only reduces stress, it also cures depression as it helps your body release endorphins, which interact with receptors in your brain that trigger positive feelings in the body.
4. Try prayer and meditation.
“For the 10-20 to 60 minutes you give yourself each day towards your inner beauty, you’ll not only look less stressed on the outside, but we know now neurologically you can repair the damage from your childhood,” says Dr. Banks. “Of course prayer for people who are spiritual the power of prayer is amazing. It’s not just that you’re praying to a higher being if that’s your system, it’s because the act of being still and letting go psychologically of what you’re holding and giving it over, that act is like having a great deep tissue massage.”
5. Steer clear of weekend retreats that promise to turn you into a brand new person overnight.
“It’s too much, too fast,” says Dr. Banks.
6. Drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep.
7. Be prepared to grow into your true self.
“I say upfront, look if you want to grow up, because that’s really what we’re talking about, grow up, get your inside together then show me the outside that reflects the inside. The other way around is not interesting anymore. It’s so out of style. To be ugly on the inside and be broken and come in here looking like Chanel. You’re really offering mis-marketed packages.”
8. Own your beauty.
Move away from the only definition of beauty the marketplace gives in major magazines and on television, Begin to cultivate your own meaning. “You’ll find the authentic beauty that you own and you’ll captivate with that in the most amazing ways,” says Banks.
9. Be prepared to sacrifice.
Like most good things, there’s a price you’ll pay for working towards gaining your inner beauty. The act of truly coming into you own requires that you devote a lot of time and effort. But in the end, once you’ve fully learned to embrace the real you, it’ll be time well spent.