How Conforming to The Eurocentric Beauty Standards Affects Our Confidence
Growing up, I always felt that my beauty was never truly celebrated, instead, I was always told how I could be more beautiful if I changed something about myself to conform more and more to the Eurocentric standard. If you’re a woman of color, chances are you’ve lived through a tale similar to the one I’m about to tell. Depending on your background, your experience shapeshifts into so many different forms. The ugly truth is how widely accepted this is, not only in the West but all over the world, and having the tough conversations about it might be the perfect first step.
Longing to Fit In
I was born in Egypt but lived in Canada my entire life, and through this, I ended up going to a mostly white middle and high school. The overall experience wasn’t bad, I actually had a lot of fun in the midst of the teary-eyed math homework and the drama which was only seemingly the end of the world at the time. When I would hang out with my friends, I found that they had seemingly perfect, tame, straight hair. The boys always expressed how much they loved it and when they were interested in my friends, they would play with it, and try braiding in an effort to flirt. Their noses had almost no bumps, and nine out of ten times they were symmetrical and perfect in my sight. They didn’t have the same dark pigmentation around their eyes that I had constantly concealed to hide my insecurity. I’ll be honest, I’m far more secure now, but in high school, I couldn’t put a finger on why I felt that I needed to spend countless hours straightening my hair, waking up every morning to put heavy concealer under my eyes, and why I wanted to push down on the bump on my nose until it went away. I was always the “bro” to boys, I did not feel like they saw me as an option. I would always hear the widely accepted phrase from boys, the infamous “I only like white girls”. Now, I see how problematic that “preference” is… but I didn’t think too much of it at the time, I just carried on, longing to change every feature that made me stand out, feeling like I was not as beautiful as the other girls.
University came along, and I began to spend more time with other Middle Eastern people. Slowly but surely, I became more aware of the beauty in my Middle Eastern features. The way I grew out of the heavy self-consciousness adolescents to undergo was through owning the fact that I look like a beautiful, Egyptian girl, and that in itself is enough. My big, prominent nose is just the right size and shape. My curly hair is gorgeous (side note: A lot of us Egyptian girls straighten our hair pretty frequently...it’s just easier to style, okay? But, I still think my curls are beautiful). The dark circles around my eyes because of my skin’s pigmentation are absolutely normal. My skin is just the right shade. I have been blessed with thick eyebrows and long thick black eyelashes. If I received what I wished for all of high school, would those tweaks really make me the same girl I am today? In the end, I realized... allowing those high school kids to affect me by how they compared my features to European features was so wrong.
This is a global problem
In Egypt, a widespread belief is the idea that girls are far more beautiful when they are fairer. Now, I love Egypt - but it’s just a flaw in our culture I can’t deny. Girls are considered more beautiful back in Egypt if they are lighter in complexion. This belief is so prominent to the point that young girls are told to use “Fair and Lovely” to bleach their skin and to always stay out of the sun as they’re told they wouldn’t be as beautiful if they had darker skin. I think that is so wrong. I was happy to see people in Egypt and here in Canada recently addressing colorism when the Black Lives Matter movement gained more traction again and people began having the difficult conversations (which I highly recommend we continue to do). We are not immune. Colorism exists in our culture and it affects our young girls and their perception of themselves and it’s important to address this issue now in order to do better for the generations to come.
Keep This In Mind
If you’re a Middle Eastern girl or really any person of color that can relate to anything I said, I just want you to remember where your beautiful features come from, and how amazing it is that you often find yourself looking different from the rest. Beauty is found within, and once you believe how beautiful your features are, you’ll shine like never before. Trust me on this one.
About The Author
Amy Kodsi is a 19-year-old criminology major from Cairo, Egypt who grew up in Canada having immigrated as a child. In her free time, she loves baking for her friends and journaling. Her goal through writing is to encourage others to find beauty from within.