• Gladys Olivia Murray

Pretty Girl Problems: Overcoming Insecurities & Living Your Truth


Hi, I'm Liv. I'm a 23-year-old African American female. 5’5”, brown eyes, and I fluctuate between dress size 6 and 8 depending on the designer (or what my diet has been like lately). I’m about 147 lbs and, unfortunately, I carry some of that weight in my mid-section. Nevertheless, according to what I’ve been told, I'm fairly easy on the eyes.

As a child, I grew up in a family that was very affirming. "You're so pretty" is a phrase I heard on a consistent basis. And beyond my family members, I heard it from friends, peers, guys, and the girls I met in serendipitous trips to public restrooms (often sharing a beat-face bestie moment while complimenting each other's brows). Today, I'm often stopped when I'm out and about by strangers who want no more than to let me know how pretty they think I am. And honestly, I probably hear it more from girls than guys (shoutout to the women who don't mind praising other women). "Hi, I just wanted to tell you that you're so pretty." How sweet is that?? Or one of my personal favorites, overhearing, "Oh, my gosh, she's so pretty," being whispered to a companion as I walk past a couple of strangers. Moving to social media, the heart eye emojis are always pouring in. My Instagram selfies average between 400 & 600 likes, not to mention, with all of my clothes on (He's a keeper, ain't He). So, I'm not hurting for affirmation, attention, or adoration; but for some reason, to this day, when, "you're so pretty" falls on my ears, it still moves me. I’m humbled and validated at the same time. And despite the number of times it has been said, it's still something I have needed to hear. When it comes to physical appearance, I'm a firm believer that no one is "ugly". I debate my friends about this all the time. Of course, beauty is subjective, but there's not much the right hairstyle, outfit, and dental work can't enhance. Throw in a beat face for the ladies/facial hair for the men and we're on to something. Consequently, I've never believed that I was "ugly", because I don't believe anyone is. But I have had my fair share of moments where I didn't feel "as pretty"; not as pretty as everyone said I was, and not as pretty as some of the women around me. And I'm not simply referring to my face, I'm talking about the total package.

No matter how many likes a girl gets on her pictures, how many followers she has, or how many guys express interest in her, pretty girls still have problems. And a beat face, nice hair style, and fly outfit can only go so far. To expound on this, I'm going to have a moment of transparency and highlight some of my insecurities. I hope it gives you the courage to acknowledge your own and free you from the mind games that plague your self-esteem. There are things I love about my body, and things I don't love about my body. I love my lips, I love my smile, I love the shape of my eyes, I love my hands, I love my hair, and as weird as this may sound, I love my collarbone lol. But even as a "pretty girl”, I don't have it ALL together. Now, there are some things I never perceived to be an issue until people around me commented on them. I never thought I had fat feet, a big forehead, or a big nose until someone told me I did. I never thought having a sideburns was something to be self-conscious about until I got teased about it. But there are things I didn’t need any help to notice. And if no one ever spoke about it, it would still be a private insecurity.

I Got 99 Problems, & Hyper-pigmentation is 1

The color of my neck goes from dark to light to dark, appearing as a ring of discoloration. Growing up, the hardest part about dealing with this was scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing and realizing it wasn't that I didn't use enough elbow grease when I bathed, it was simply the color of my skin. I vividly remember looking for pictures of myself as a child to try to pinpoint when it became a problem. Once I found a photo of a young bright-eyed Liv in '97, I realized it had been there for years, and was likely something I wouldn't get away from. Just as much as I noticed it, I knew other people did, too. They were just polite enough not to comment on it or inquire about it. Well, until one day a guy I had been talking to mentioned it as if he had never noticed before. "Is that from wearing chokers?" he asked, referencing the lighter center of my neck (as if I was wearing chokers 24/7 in the sunlight and had developed a tan line). Up until that point, it was my insecurity, my observation, and the thing that only I spoke about in silent conversations with my reflection in the mirror. And in this instance, not only did I have to accept the reality that the guy I liked noticed it, but he posed this question in the company of other people. So if there was any hope that it didn't stand out to them before, it definitely did in that moment. I was embarrassed at first, and then the embarrassment turned to hurt. My silent insecurity was being verbalized by someone other than myself; a person I subconsciously hoped it didn’t stand out to, and if it did, I hope he liked me enough not to care.

Beyond the discoloration on my neck, my skin has never been my favorite thing to look at on my body. Not the color, I love being brown #powertothepeople. But growing up, I always struggled with ingrown hair bumps on my legs (I know I'm getting VERY personal but this is gone free somebody 😂). And no matter how it went away, whether the follicle eventually protruded on its own or I picked the bump, it always left a scar behind—similar to how acne scars even after the pimple has come and gone. As a result, I felt like I couldn't win. Shaving, moisturizing and exfoliating consistently wasn't enough. It was a recurring issue and for the life of me I could NOT understand why God plagued ME with this. I would look at other girls and envy how smooth and blemish-free their skin was...how care-free they were prancing around in shorts and skirts. And living in Florida, no matter how self-conscious you are about your body, some things simply have to give when it's the middle of July and 100 degrees outside. And every time my legs were exposed around other people, I was haunted by my own insecurity, constantly thinking "Do they notice?" If they noticed, it made it real; the thing I often cried about, but never said aloud to anyone else. And if it was real, then maybe I wasn't that pretty. Maybe I was only pretty because they didn't know the truth about my skin problems. And if thinking I was pretty wasn't based on the truth, maybe it was based on a lie. And maybe I wasn't that pretty after all.

Some of my lowest moments have been stepping out of the shower and looking at my bare body in the mirror. I stare at truth and truth stares at me, and neither of us get to run. And despite how painful it is, I have to feel it and face it; because she is me and I am her, and one can't exist without the other: me and my truth.

For years, I fantasized about the day I'd meet the man who would know my truth and love me “flaws and all”. Even if I didn't have peace with my imperfections, I was banking on the idea that one day, I would experience a love that melted all of my insecurities away. If my husband loved me and wanted my authentic self, then certainly, that would trump anyone else's opinion about my appearance. If I “got the guy” and he knew my truth, then maybe I was pretty. I wanted to still be pretty. The problem with this logic is that I was waiting for someone else to accept me before I would fully accept myself. And I couldn't wait until the day I met the person who would make me feel better about what I didn't like.

I didn't start coming to peace with my skin’s imperfections until one day, I decided that this imperfection was a part of my truth. And if I was going to live MY truth, I had to accept all of who I was; even the parts I didn't like. And if I couldn't change my appearance, I needed to change my attitude about it. Being intentional about having gratitude helped with this. My spontaneous spells of depression about how my skin looked was a straight up #firstworldproblem. There are countries experiencing riots, killings, and political unrest where citizens are just praying they make it through the day unscathed--and here I am, crying, “woe is me” because I don't have flawless skin. Not because I have a skin disease and am chronically ill. Not because I’m a recovering burn victim. Not because someone threw acid on my face. I’ve heard stories of women who’ve endured these tragic circumstances, and somehow, they still have their fight and they still have their joy. Being enlightened about situations like these helps put life in perspective. But beyond knowing that it could be worse, I also had to realize that we ALL have our crosses of insecurity to bear, and pretty girls are not exempt.

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

Whenever I joke about my inability to dance, I always say, “I couldn’t have it all.” God gave me a beautiful singing voice, and it simply wouldn’t have been fair if I could dance like Janet Jackson, too. Now, some people are afforded both of these gifts without any training; kudos to y’all! It’s just not MY testimony, lol. I apply this same perspective when I find myself comparing my features to another woman’s features. For everything you love about someone else, there is something they don’t love that they choose not to talk about. You may find yourself silently wondering why you couldn’t have hips like hers, and she silently wishes she could have hair like yours. You wish you had her booty and she wishes she had your lips. You wish you had her cheekbones and she wishes she had your skin. No matter how much you think the next girl has one-up on you, even the prettiest girl in the room has something she covets her neighbor for. And EVERY pretty girl has at least one insecurity.

Now, there’s a difference between having insecurities and being insecure, and it’s important to know that difference. Everyone has something they would change if they could. It doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself and it doesn’t mean you’re not secure in who you are. Insecurity= my mild anxiety about exposing my skin’s imperfections to the world. Insecure = overcompensating for that insecurity by seeking validation through something else. This “something” could be a relationship, position, social media, academic achievement, professional success, finances, material possessions, or simply attention from a man (even if you don’t want him for real). But keep in mind that having insecurities and being insecure are not exclusive to how we think we look. Just ‘cause you cute don’t mean you have it made. There are so many other areas that contribute to how a person feels about him or herself; inward struggles that we don’t always talk about. Side note: I always find it amusing when, a few encounters in, a new acquaintance tells me they “thought I was stuck-up” when they first met me. Mostly because I know the truth, and they have no idea that this “stuck up" girl has fluctuating self-esteem. Now, 9 times out of 10, this is the universal cover-up for, “I think you got it going on, and you probably think you do, too. So let me resolve that you’re stuck up so I have something negative to associate with you.” LOL C’mon sis, you know we can feel a little threatened when someone else’s presence demands positive attention. But we can’t be ‘round here resolving that someone is stuck up because they’re cute, intelligent, and charismatic. Das not fair. (Yes, I said “das”.)

The Grass Is Even Greener Where YOU Water It

Building your self-esteem is an inside job. The opinions of others don't determine how you feel about yourself, they reinforce how you ALREADY feel about yourself. And whatever you feel most strongly is the side that will tip the scale. I felt more strongly about what I didn't like than what I liked, and so no matter how many compliments I received, any single negative comment/opinion (whether imagined or verbalized) was going to emphasize the negative thoughts and quiet the positive ones. Today, I want you to know that how you feel about yourself is between you and God. A man can't fix it. A job can't fix it. Money can't fix it. Power can't fix it. Because when the company dissolves and you can't find a new job, when bae stops checking for you and the love loses its fervor, and when your finances aren't as fluffy as you're used to; it's just you and your truth. And you can't run from her.

No matter what your insecurity is, start looking at yourself through a lens of totality and not merely through that one area or feature you think you fall short in. My skin is not perfect, I can’t dance, I’m smart but I’m not the smartest, and I’m pretty but I’m not the prettiest—yet at the end of the day, I know that in my totality, I am a pretty bomb individual. And it’s not because of my appearance, not because of my degrees, and not because of my resume, or any material thing. It’s because of all of the combinations of characteristics, qualities and attributes that could’ve been, God chose to construct my being specifically as I am. There were no nonchalant decisions, and no careless characterizations. Who I am, as I am, is precisely what the God of all flesh thinks needs to grace this world. The formation of your being was not something for God to do. He was intentional, He was thoughtful, and the manifestation of who you are, as you are, is meeting a need that the world has. Don’t let Satan shift your perspective to a place where you think lowly of yourself. Don’t ever reduce the value of the work of God’s hand to a feature, failure, or attribute. Learn to love your whole self. When you love your whole self, your self-esteem doesn’t fluctuate based on the prominence of a single feature or circumstance. And if you’re able to achieve wholeness with yourself and with God, you will quiet the voice of every competing thought that majors in the minor things.

I love you and I am always praying for you.

Look up and,

Liv


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 GLADYSOLIVIA