When I look at these photos of myself, I see so many memories of the stories behind the pictures. I remember why they were taken, who they were taken for, or where they were taken. I love photography and taking pictures of special moments, because I know that there are things that I might not remember. So, I try to capture those moments so that I can look back on them. I have a bad memory, so it is important to me that I try to capture moments that I can keep. Whether that be me keeping a note that my friend wrote me in high school, or me taking candid photos of my friends or places, I love capturing the moment.
In these photos of me, I see moments of happiness, acceptance, and love. Looking in the mirror wasn’t always a pleasant experience for me. Society would always make me feel like I wasn’t thin enough, I wasn’t light enough, I wasn’t pretty enough. I vividly remember being 16years old and the mirror was something I acutely despised. The mirror was more an object of torment than an object of reflection. My relationship with the mirror was very unhealthy. I would use it to compare myself to others and pick out my flaws and insecurities. Looking in the mirror made me feel insecure, it made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough.
I was a dancer in high school. I would see the other girls and be envious of how they
looked. I thought to myself too many times, ‘that is what a ballerina is supposed to look like. I don’t look like that.’ The other girls were slender, beautiful, elegant, and graceful. It didn’t help that in the dance studio, the walls were just mirrors. I was forced to analyze myself daily next to the girls that I wanted so badly to resemble, but I felt like I didn’t. Looking back, I realize that I was simply insecure and maybe a little depressed. I don’t see that same sad little girl. Now, I see a strong woman.
I have grown to love myself over the years. After going to college, the freedom allowed me to start over and find what I loved to do. I met people that uplifted me and made me feel proud to be me. This made me realize that I was just doing what society expected of me. I was so used to seeing a certain image of “who I was supposed to be” for so many years, that I lost myself in other people. Leaving that place helped me find myself. These images reflect the new me, the true me.
Compared to the younger me, I would say that I am free from this idea of what a woman should look like, what a guy wants to see in a woman, and what I should change about myself to be who other people want me to be. I can remember people telling me, “Nobody is going to like you if you are too tall,” “stretch marks are gross,” “your forehead is huge,” and people would make various comments about how my skin tone would make it hard for someone to like me. I used to believe these comments. I believed these comments, and I never tried to talk to anyone about them. I just allowed them to alter the way that I viewed myself, until I realized that those people were completely wrong.
I do not accept these as it applies to me, but I do believe that society holds these perceptions. What allowed me to reject these assertions was when I was finally able to reject the notion that my value is tied to how other people view me. I don’t mind my stretch marks, I love my skin, and my height has never stopped anyone from liking me. Surrounding myself with uplifting people helped me see past societal norms. I found my style, I found my smile, and I walk with confidence and verve.
Without the harmful views of society, I doubt I would have never viewed myself in such a negative light. However, without positive people surrounding me, I would have never been able to see myself. I am beautiful, black, stylish, fun, and happy.
Hannah B is an artist and a student based in North Carolina. "Confidence and Verve" first appeared on the Sunday Style column as part of the "Selfie-Conscious" exhibit, by KIRUNIVERSE COLLECTIVE.
Sunday Style is a New York City based digital publication on personal style.