Hello to all my Black Queens, wives and our moms
My name is Charlene aka Charl…I prefer Charl
When I was young I was such a free and unhindered spirit. My free-spirited nature didn’t last too long though. I remember the environment at home changing and I needed to change with it. I was forced to grow up quite quickly and assume more of an adult nature. I never thought of myself as being a “girly” girl because I have two brothers and so playing with lego, marbles, and action figures was my normal. I was quite a nurturing child. I was always aware of other people’s emotions and needs. I didn’t have a massive circle of friends, I kept it quite small-nothing has changed there! My parents would always choose my clothes for me and give me the best compliments but, deep down I never really felt like the clothes were a true reflection of who I was. I was always comfortable in my skin until a very pivotal moment in high school (which I address later on). From then onwards, everything changed and I started looking at myself differently and comparing myself to all the other girls at school.
I am now in a place where I have a true understanding of what being healthy means-not only in my body but, in my mind and soul as well. I am also married which, brings about its own mental battles with that inner voice because where can you hide in a marriage? Nowhere! You are literally at your most vulnerable! I’m really blessed to have such an amazing husband who has a really healthy perspective on all the issues I’ve struggled with (and some days still struggle with). What has really changed for me is how I engage with and relate with my body. New lenses baby, new lenses! Squishy tummy, oh yeah! That very tummy that planks like a boss and shows its core strength off in Pilates. Wiggly thighs? Yes, ma’am! Those same thighs that remind me how strong they actually are when I dare to forget. Arms that jiggle? For sheezy! Come on in for a hug-I give amazing ones! I cannot stress enough the importance of having a non-toxic perspective of your body. Shape does not matter, your health does! I have reconciled what is important to me, and that is: for my body and mind to be healthy and strong!
This journey I have been on has taught me one thing: It starts with you! Every single step you take to walk away from that negative voice inside, telling you that you’re not good enough, is a step you take towards living your best life! Don’t let anyone’s negativity, hate or ignorance stop you from being the best person you can be! Oh baby, life is too short! Put on those shorts and shake your booty! Get a tattoo if that’s what you want! Put on that bikini and bask in the warm rays of the sun! Feel free to take off those heels and dance to the rhythm of your heart! You want to let your hair down? Then, do it! Let it down, shake it out and enjoy the freedom that comes with it! I have lived my whole life with a warped sense of what my body ACTUALLY looks like.
Every stage of my life, I would look in the mirror and just see myself as fat. I would see stretch marks and cellulite and curse my body. I would then proceed to put on as many layers as I could to cover up the body I was so ashamed of. You know what’s funny? Every time I would go back and look at pictures of myself, I would realize what blurry lenses I was wearing! That girl in the pictures was not at all what I had thought. This journey has also taught me that this system is such a fickle one. Standards of what is beautiful or “in” are constantly changing. As a black, African woman, I’ve grown up with the understanding that “we are supposed to be curvy” and that it is good to have “child bearing hips.” Fast forward a few years to the intense growth of social media, where the standard of what black women should look like is totally different. What is being projected as beautiful and sexy is having big breasts, a super small waist, a flat stomach and a big butt. #sexy #teamthick #bodygoals #slimthick Trying to navigate through all these standards that people have set up is so exhausting. I say, find your truth and live in it to the best of your ability-that’s #goals to me
If I could send a message to the younger me I would say
Dear Charlene, there are going to be so many moments in your life, where choosing fear over fearlessness, is going to seem easier. Moments where muting your voice is going to seem more polite than just letting it roar. There are going to be moments in your life where just simply accepting someone else’s opinion of you is going to seem like less effort, as apposed to rolling up your sleeves and putting in the work to discover who you really are. There are going to be moments where you realize you have been conditioned to think that you’re a wallflower and not the girl who lets her robust laugh fill the room. There is going to be a very specific moment though, in your life that starts the cycle of negativity with regards to your relationship with your body. High school. You are in your room going through some pictures of family holidays when you were younger. You stumble on one picture in particular that, the closer you look at it, the more anxious it makes you feel. You don’t know why, it just does. The picture shows you frolicking through the waves, wearing your brightly coloured rainbow swimming costume. You look so happy and free but, again that anxiety keeps growing. You start to look at your tummy and your legs. All of a sudden, that little girl doesn’t look happy and free. She looks stupid and you’re embarrassed for her. Why isn’t she wearing shorts or a t-shirt at least to cover her round tummy? This is the moment. The moment was choosing to listen to that loud, stupid, negative voice over the positive yet, shaky voice, will change your life. You will start comparing yourself to other girls and entertaining this idea that you’re not good enough. I want to say to you: YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH! I am so sorry for all the times I have deprived you and overworked you-just to reach some stupid, meaningless goal. I now commit to appreciating you and giving you the respect that you deserve!
I would like my fellow Queens: women, wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and free spirits to know: You are not a Queen because someone approved of you, no! You’re a Queen because despite all the struggles you face, all the images that bombard your tv screen and social media, all the front covers of magazines that you walk past trying to sell you a lie about what beauty looks like. Despite all these things, you still get up every morning, put on your crown, and face the world with your head held high. Moms, PLEASE, love your daughters in such a way that frees them and builds them up. It might be tempting to try and mold them into what you would like them to be but, trust me, what they really need is for you to give them the space to find out who they are, what they like to wear, and the person they want to be in this already super judgmental world. Black women reading this: Umuhle! You are so beautiful! You are enough! Do not ever let anyone make you think anything less of yourself! There is such beauty in our differences so let’s celebrate them, not despise them. I would like to share a beautiful quote that I read: “Dipped in chocolate, bronzed in elegance, enameled with grace, toasted with beauty. My lord, she’s a black woman”
In sharing my story with you all I have learnt that there is FREEDOM on the other side of my fears! Being vulnerable is certainly not easy but, once I made the decision that I want to be a WARRIOR instead of a WORRIER, I never looked back! Yes, there are days where I look in the mirror and I am totally unkind towards my body but, I now have an awareness of my truth and with that, an ability to realize that it’s a fleeting moment and that actually, I am pretty amazing! I have also realized that the system is rigged to make you believe that you are not enough. That there is something you always need to be changing or a better body that you should be working towards in order to be accepted or even considered as beautiful. The system is structured in such a way that causes you to question and second guess yourself at every turn. The biggest lesson I have learned is through sharing my story is that you cannot fight the system by being invisible. You need to be as visible as possible!