Moving to Denmark during the beginning of my puberty, was one of the hardest things about coping in a new country. Having all these heavy and complicated emotions, added to the fog of figuring out life in this foreign setting, figuring out my purpose, identity and body.
Weirdly but obviously ,back then, I was more obsessive rather than analytical about the entire situation and I had few positive emotional tools to deploy. So instead, I blindly followed all these feelings and discouraging rages wherever they took me. Landing into a roller-coaster of depression, confusion, low self-esteem, hate and despair. When I started school, I was the only black girl in the room, the only ‘other´ among them all and fitting in was to try and conceal who I naturally was as much as possible.
Once everyone in class started shooting for the stars with their height, my little body stayed right where it was vertically but decided to make up for it horizontally. To say the least, my new body was as alien to me as the feelings I had about myself. I hated every curve, I hated how my thighs touched and how I basically had no kneecaps, it was all just one huge flesh of meat that I walked on. Remembering all this now makes me sad, because I feel awful for the girl I was, to have to carry so much hate inside of her everyday.
The saddest part was thinking I could torture my body into becoming one that looked like ‘Katrine, Ingrid, Lena‘ and all the other Danish girls, whose bodies had now grown tall, slim and elegant. I, still short, clumsy, dark and chubby became even more of an ‘other‘.
Fast forward 13 years later, and I am in Uganda. I am walking on the streets of Kampala and I see all the other ‘others’ and they are so different but there are also many like me; the petite, curvy and dark girls. In my homeland, the features I grew up hating are very much appreciated and desired and this makes me feel a sort of way. To know that there had never really been anything wrong with me, but rather, that it was my setting, mentally and physically which had convinced me otherwise. Of course my self-love journey had started before my departure to Uganda, but it definitely redefined my own beauty in a whole different way. I promised before I came back to NEVER forget that feeling of belonging, beauty and pride and to burry them deep into my soul and skin.
Today, I think of all the other girls who happen to grow up in mostly Caucasian populated places or even here in Denmark. I wonder if they are also struggling to belong while in their bodies, to find jeans that fit a ratio of small waists and plum bums . If they struggle to appreciate their beauty though all the magazines they own are of white girls, all the television shows they see are of white girls? I am highly grateful for the internet, for places like youtube where I first saw ‘Awkward Black Girl’ or where I learned about movies such as; Waiting to Exhale, Poetic Justice, The Color Purple, Stella Gets Her Groove Back. It was also where I found Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and so many others who inspired me to write and document my space because it mattered. It was online where I learnt about my natural hair and how to take care of it. Where I saw Youtubers who were far but here on this planet living an existence of ‘other’ somewhere else. I think that would be the greatest advice I could give younger me; You are not Katrine, Ingrid nor Lena and that is perfectly great, but you need to spend more time seeing ‘you’ and your reflection than theirs, so your vision does not distort your being.
I used to collect fashion magazines and listen to a lot of European music, I also used to express myself artistically through the drawing of white people and Eurocentric themes and aesthetics, so to say. Once I started to be conscious of the effects this had on me, I threw away all my magazines and stopped unconsciously consuming purely Eurocentric media. This made a huge difference in my life and how I saw my African being, identity and body. It was and is work to learn to love oneself, but it is work that keeps on giving and enriching your soul.
So, Dear young African girl, there is nothing wrong with how your body chose to grow on you, nor your color, nor your hair. You are no more stranger than a flamingo amongst swans. But you will only feel hurt and despair if you hate yourself for being something that was never a mistake to begin with. So get to know your ‘flamingo self’, explore where you come from, rediscover pride in your being and seek all the positive ‘others’ you can find, so that you might never forget how normal and beautiful your ‘otherness’ truly is.
(Just another reflection of you somewhere else on this planet)