Align Your Inner Self With Your Outer Self: 9 Steps To Healing Childhood Wounds Regarding Beauty And Self-Image

Photo Credit: Kunle Ayodeji

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:

1. Journaling

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.


Abi Ishola
Abi Ishola


Abi Ishola is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Beyond Classically Beautiful, the acclaimed photo series turned multimedia platform. On any given day, you can find her tucked away in a perfectly lit Brooklyn coffee shop working for several hours. Then she dashes off to pick up her daughter from daycare. Abi is also a TV Producer, a proud FIT Alum, Nigerian-American, and a soul searcher.

  1. Hello Abi.

    I think this article is truly amazing and incredibly helpful. Thank you for writing it and sharing it, as I will do the same! I also absolutely love the name of this website and it’s intention to expand what we, as females, are commonly told is “beautiful.”

    I have had self-image issues since I was young. I was skinny and scrawny throughout high school when the boy’s attention went to all the developing & curvy ladies. One night however, I fell asleep at a friend’s house while her parents were away, and I was intimately touched, for the first time, while I was sleeping, without permission, by a male classmate. My freshman year of college, I silently and painfully surrendered my virginity to a man that would later become my first boyfriend for the next 7 years. During that time, I was intoxicated one night and asked to try anal sex, it quickly became too painful and uncomfortable and asked him to stop, but he didn’t. I have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness, as suicidal thinking and self-harm behaviors started after college.

    All of my relationships have been deeply affected, especially the one with myself and my body and I am now questioning my sexual orientation, as all this trauma incurred by the opposite sex has left my body & mind deeply wounded, along with the media’s heavy influence on what it means to be beautiful, inextricably linked to sexy.

    After another failed relationship with a man, I recently cut off all my hair and have found it more comfortable to dress for function rather than fashion. High heels are no longer something I feel comfortable in, or underwire bras, or wearing makeup for that matter. I just want to feel both beautiful and comfortable and prepared for all the elements, as I have found nature healing. It is a struggle to understand and feel beautiful through this process, by most feminine standards, so I am truly and uniquely trying to understand what it means to be beautiful beyond classical standards…

    Thank you for reading what I have written. I appreciate your time and energy. I would also like to share with you, that I am white. Realistically, slightly more olive-toned from my Italian heritage, but certainly described & labeled as ‘a white girl.’ In my humble opinion, this label is both inaccurate and one that I have never been comfortable with, nor ‘black’ for that matter…it’s all so limiting.

    Since I was very young, I have always admired and appreciated darker, richer skin tones and hues, honestly wishing my skin was darker and my roots more intricately connected to African and native cultures. Some of us white girls are not proud or happy with our skin color…hence the obsession with getting tan, at any cost. Some of us white girls have really low confidence and an incredibly poor self image. I think color is after all, literally, only skin deep and we all share the same parts and emotions underneath. So many of the issues affecting young women, as well as, and maybe especially, older women run much much deeper.

    I certainly do not expect or hope you change anything about your website or articles or photos, as they are so important, but perhaps it may help expand your understanding and perspective, as this article has done for me.

    Thank you 🙂

    Much love & respect,


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