Facing What Needs Embracing by Abi Mejia
"What is it that you've been made to feel ashamed of, that is, in fact, your sacred power?"
Oddly enough, my sacred power is my face! Yes, my cute, poofy, asian round face.
For years, I had been conditioned by the media and my predominantly white community to find ONLY elongated faces pretty, and that any other shape, like, again, my cute asian round face, is undesirable.
Outrageous, if you ask me. This racist bullshit started to bubble up to the surface for me around high school when I had wanted to give up my middle school bob. As I did my research, looking up "hairstyles for round faces," most results I got told me to grow my hair out super long - to "elongate" my face and "cover up" my cheeks.
The length was quite a burden to maintain and not my favorite look, but hey, if everyone else said it looked great, then I guess it did. Didn't think much of it then, but looking back, that is some european beauty standard POO POO. What made my internalized racism far worse, though, was second-year college - the year I lived with my emotionally abusive (*cough* cis white female) "friend" and roommate.
She was BRUTAL. Constantly making my looks a punchline of her jokes, making it VERY clear that she thought I was fucking ugly.
She told our friends she could pull off my looks better than I ever could, that I have "nothing interesting to look at." She even stooped low enough to judge HOW I TUCKED MY SHIRTS IN. Oof. I took every punch until I started to believe her. In those 8 months living with her, the only time I felt pretty was when I dressed like her--femme, florals, frizzy hair.
Underneath it all, I was ashamed of how different I felt.
You can even see in that photo how I didn't take myself seriously that I couldn't smile normally in photos. My face became my sacred power once I got out of that situation, stepped back, and realized what crap I was made to believe. I realized how shitty society was to make me believe that something I was BORN with shouldn't exist. Like...what the fuck.
What was the point in being born a certain way, if its only purpose was to be hidden?
So a few months into the next college year, I just said "fuck it" and cut it all off. My self-confidence rose dramatically once I took beauty into my own hands. My round cheeks poofed out with no long bangs to hide them, but I didn't give a shit anymore!
They're MY cheeks, dammit! The biggest lesson I had learned from this experience was not to make myself fit around how I look, but to make how I look fit around ME.
I took that second photo because that was the first time I truly felt amazing, beautiful, and most importantly, myself.
Shortly after I took that photo, I came out as non-binary.
And from that day on, I never felt more powerful.
Abi is a video editor, graphic designer, and artist who recently received their B.S. in Cinema & Photography. For more of their content, follow them on Instagram (@enoynnuf).
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