Quantcast

How My Mother Affirmed My Beauty As A Black Woman

A Tale Of Two Thighs

Her Voice

My thighs and I used to need couple's therapy.


My early high school days in South Korea (military brat) were spent looking woefully at my thighs reflected in the glass doors of the metro, comparing them to thin, milky legs to my right and left. Not to mention when I actually sat down and the fat spread out, filling in the negative space between. I used to wish my legs twirled around each other like the girls whose legs crossed easily and unsweatily at the knees (bonus points went to the girl whose ankle also wrapped around her calf).

My mom changed my perspective one day with a weird joke. While she was sorting through laundry on her bedroom floor, I gazed at my reflection in her floor length mirrors. Choosing to invite some relief into the disapproving thoughts swirling behind my eyes, I reached out for her sure affirmation. "Mom, do I look fat?" I asked. Without looking at me long, she said, "Yes, you look like a hippopotamus."

Shaken, my head whipped toward her so fast that my deprecating thoughts were abandoned altogether. My eyes were so wide and laid on her face in shock. Before I could gather my gaze into an appropriate scowl, the mischievous glint in her eye coupled with her sharp sense of humor shredded my moody disposition into ribbons of laughter until I was a pile of joyful tears on the floor. My mom took my episode as permission to send her own laughter scraping through her nose in a prolonged snort, joining me in tears. Any last attempts to bait any remorse from her were aborted, as I simply couldn't stop laughing. That day, my silly mom introduced a wonderful alternative to descending down a spiral of body hate:

Choosing to be happy.

I'll never forget the moment my mom's goofy, off-hand joke threw me from the center of my orbiting thoughts long enough to imagine what I looked like from her perspective. I tried to grasp how a 14-year-old who hadn't fully developed yet, who put on a cheerleading uniform every Friday night, looked to a woman who carried and pushed out five healthy children over the span of fifteen years. Not only did she bring us into the world, but she guided us safely to the other side of childhood. She was up with me in the early hours of the morning working on far-too-elaborate projects; she made me every meal that I ever turned my nose up to and pushed away; and she drove my five siblings to each of our after-school activities.

In the passenger's seat, it's really easy to find the time to ponder a healthy pair of thighs — or any body part — to death. Watching my mother, I first realized that perhaps bodies weren't meant to be pondered, compared, or forced into discriminatory denim, but rather, to function. To run, to swim, to perch a toddler on my hip. The time I spent obsessing over me, my mom spent thinking of others. She is beautiful, but the value she has added to herself over the years has more to do with how she has applied herself to life in a way that has multiplied grace, patience, courage, and so many other virtues.

Her outward beauty is so much more meaningful because it shines through the prism of those attributes.

I've since come to think that my body is beautiful, especially the way my legs are shaped. That probably has a lot to do with the way going to a predominantly Black school has renewed my standards of beauty, but that's another story. Even now that I admire the way I look, I still try to limit the extent to which I think of myself in a purely superficial context. Not that it's wrong, but body perception can flatten so easily when it's forced to carry the weight of a multifaceted person's self-worth. Self-esteem can't sustain itself on such a small part of our being.

This is not to say that I never put my body down, but my convictions hold me to a different standard. Since my mom laughed at my self-image angst, effectively telling me to lighten up, every time I've reduced myself to the sum of my cellulite, I've known that I was falling short of the joyful person I want to be. In the scheme of things that threaten my happiness, choosing to be kind to myself seems like such low hanging fruit.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Featured image by Getty Images.

Over the years, Kelly Rowland has been open about her insecurities and lack of self-confidence in her skin, but now she’s sharing how affirmations helped her overcome self-doubt. The “Motivation” singer spoke with Hello Beautiful about the many challenges women face when looking in the mirror. “My biggest insecurity would probably be, one of the many, I usually challenge how smart I am,” she said.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

I don't know who needs to hear this, but sis, it's time for you to start having better sex. And not for the obvious reasons. Yes, we all know that sex is great for boosting the immune system, improving your sleep, clearing your skin, and is a form of preventative medicine. But did you also know that sex is a great inclusion to your manifestation practices? When exercised properly, your orgasms can be the gateway to getting the things you ultimately want in life. This can be achieved through a little-known practice called "sex magic."

Keep reading... Show less

Not to toot my horn or anything but I have a natural six-pack. Whether I exercise or not, it’s right there — showin’ out and off. Here’s the challenge, though — as I’ve gotten older, it’s been easier and easier for a layer or two of fat to cover it, so I’ve had to get real with myself about the fact that drinking IZZEs all day and eating ice cream late at night are not the way to go if I still want my natural six-pack to make an appearance.

Keep reading... Show less

For the leading fellas of Freeform’s college comedy-drama, grown-ish, graduation season is quickly approaching, forcing Aaron (Trevor Jackson), Doug (Diggy Simmons), Vivek (Jordan Buhat), and Luca (Luka Sabbat) to come to grips with what life after Cal-U will have in store. As the beaus find themselves crossed between self-induced drama and campus tea, the forthcoming season will bring the cohort of lads closer to the reality of the end of one chapter and the start of something new.

Keep reading... Show less

Lori Harvey’s foray into modeling might not be what you think. While she models sexy fits on Instagram, she isn’t what you would call an Instagram model. If you look at her resume, you will see that she has walked runways for luxury brands such as Dolce and Gabbana and has been featured in campaigns for Chanel and most recently Burberry. At 5’3'' with a curvy frame, Lori isn’t your traditional model, and she dealt with body insecurities when she first entered the fashion industry.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts