Pathway to Self-Security

Samah Atta


This story reflects a common experience of young black women who feel insecure about the fact that they do not resemble the young women in the media whom society deems as the standard of beauty. According to Samah, everyone is beautiful, and women need to stop looking elsewhere for validation. After all, beauty comes from within!


They say youth symbolizes innocence, but I think youth shapes you into the person you become. I know…The same old tale. Black girl in a different society. We’ve all heard about the experiences millions of times. That’s the thing, though. We’ve heard them too many times. Our stories have been dismissed from when we were younger. From teachers telling me, “It’s okay honey, they’re kids, they’re just joking” to friends telling me, “You’re too sensitive, not everything is that deep.”

I grew up in the Middle East. The schools over there are all private, with separate buildings for boys and girls. During our breaks, the boys and girls would be mixed together at the lunch area. So, naturally, that would be our chance to spot our crushes and pretend to go and use the bins by them. My friends were beautiful. They were all slim with long straight hair or even longer curly hair. They had long eyelashes, thin noses and fairer complexions. They were so pretty. They received so much attention.

I always felt like something was wrong with me. Was it my curly hair? My dark tone? My bigger lips or my nose shape? You see, my features didn’t seem very embraced at the time. Nothing about me seemed to catch anyone’s attention. And that made me insecure. I didn’t feel like I was as special as the people around me. So, I decided to change myself to look more like the other girls. I straightened my hair every morning and started searching for ways to brighten my tone a few shades lighter. I began to use make-up. Altering my features every morning before school just to feel a little bit better about myself. And if no one noticed, then it didn’t count because it seemed like their validation meant more to me than my own.

Before the next school year, my mother and I went shopping for shoes. We had a uniform for our school, but the shoes were our own choice as long as they were black and had closed toes. Just when we had looked through almost every store with our feet sore from all the walking, and we were so close to giving up and calling it a day, I saw the most beautiful pair of black flats. They were shiny and smooth. Closed-toe with a butterfly string to tighten the flats. They looked so classy, and I loved them.

That night before school, I kept my flats under my bed. I was so excited for the upcoming day when I could wear them. Upon my arrival at school, my friend Sarah stopped me to tell me that she loved my shoes and asked me where I got them from. Later in class, two more of my classmates told me that they loved my flats. During lunch, another girl told me that they were cute. By the end of the day, even the bus driver told me that my shoes were nice. 

I felt good about myself. Something about me had finally been noticed. But I noticed it first. You see, I had already liked those flats, and I was excited to wear them. All of those compliments came after I had made the initial observation that I liked them. I already felt good about them, I wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t get the compliments. So, what if I just felt that way about myself? What if I began to think all these positive and beautiful remarks about myself instead of looking for it in the people around me? My flats were definitely beautiful, but the most beautiful thing about them is that they mirrored how I really had to view myself.

Now in her early twenties, Samah grew up in the Middle East. She attends the University of Windsor where she enjoys participating in debates on human rights issues. She hopes to work for the United Nations one day and be a voice for individuals who are unable to be a voice for themselves.

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