When I was growing up, the big thing during the summer was to get a tan. The commercials started rolling in toward the end of spring to get that “Coppertone” tan. Many of us felt we had to buy that product and sit and bake in the sun. After many years I can see how ridiculous that was since I have had to deal with skin cancer due to my teenaged baking sprees.
The irony of the whole “tan thing” was I am a female with very light skin; always have been. My teen years were during times of substantial racial unrest, integration, and opposition. Yet, if I was too white without a tan, I was made fun of. This made no sense to me then, and it makes no sense to me now. I even had a man who lived nearby as I raised my children who insisted I looked sickly and needed to go to the doctor because I was too white. He was of Hispanic descent.
Are racial disputes and struggles really about skin color or lack of privilege? When I look back on my life, I don’t recall any type of privilege, but I do remember a whole lot of disapproval no matter what I did. If I had a tan, I was “trying too hard to be darker.” If I had no tan, I was “too white.”
The same has always been true of whatever body shape I had. If I lost too much weight, I was too thin. If I gained weight, comments shot at me that it was apparent I was gaining weight. If I dyed my hair lighter, I was trying to “be like Barbie.” An in-law used to call me Barbie. How disturbing is that?
Since I wore make-up, my eyelashes were too long. I’ve always had long eyelashes. I get them from my father! Those who wore no make-up had their own opinions of me, and those who did felt competition. There never was any competition on my end. I only wanted to be myself.
If I excelled in the workplace, I was snubbed by some who thought, “I must have done something with someone to get where I was.” Could I just have been ambitious and intelligent? If that was the case, isn’t that alright? When I excelled in school, I was a “teacher’s pet.” Really? In all honesty, there were very few teachers or professors I ever truly appreciated.
Sometimes at dances, I was too short and sometimes not short enough. That depended on who I was dancing with. Or maybe I wouldn’t say I liked the right music or the right clothing. As I got older, either my rear end was too big or too small. I think you get the picture. Let’s face it; we live in a world of those who make judgments according to their own lenses. We see this every day in magazines and movies. Especially women are “told” what acceptable is, and if we fall short of that, we feel unacceptable. Even worse, unaccepted. Oh, it does happen with men as well, but women more for some reason. Maybe it seems that way because I am a female, so don’t quote me on that one!
Acceptance is a genuine human need and desire. We all want that. We are the same in that respect. Here is the bottom line and advice on how to get along in a world that looks at us through its own lens. First of all, realize that everyone has their own lens because they have their own hurts, programmed standards, and prejudices. Yes, I used the “p” word, “prejudice.” Prejudging comes from what we have learned through time. We are not born with prejudicial standards. We learn them from others. We accept them out of our need to be accepted.
Secondly, we attract who we are. If we want acceptance, we need to accept ourselves with no input from anyone else. This can be hard because it means un-programming all of those things we have been pre-programmed with. Loving ourselves unconditionally helps attract unconditional love and acceptance. Loving ourselves might take some healing work because of the scars developed from rejection and prejudices.
Remember also, we all are in the same boat. We all know what it is like to be rejected by someone at some point in time. Shouldn’t this give us more compassion and not less? It all takes time and inner work. Sometimes I still think I am too fat, too white, too blonde, too intelligent, too emotional, too sensitive, too everything. The truth is I am not “too anything.” I am just me, and that should be fine with me. I hope being just you will come to be okay for yourself.
Be proud of who you are, and don’t let that go. It is alright to be confident, intelligent, sensitive, compassionate, and accepting. Above all else, be unconditionally loving to yourself and work on being that for others as well. It’s a process and one that might take patience, but we gain endurance for the ride with patience. (Or at least I have read!)
Loving you from here,
Dr. Rev. Jenine Marie Howry, Ph.D.