You just like me, looked at yourself in the mirror today. Just like mine, maybe, that’s your daily routine first thing in the morning. “Hmm, I look a little tan today, tanner than usual. (read: that’s apparently not ok in our twisted, brainwashed minds) Urghh, really?! Spots? I thought I have washed my face like a million times in a day. Arghh! My waist? Did I gain a few more pounds? It must have been that burger last night at 12!” *sigh and more sigh*
The sad truth is that’s not only time that we sigh in a day thinking and ruminating about our looks. We sigh silently and enviously when we meet our friends, when we meet the friends of our friends. When we watch TV, when we see billboards and when we scroll down our Instagram feeds that is annoyingly filled with selfies of girls with flawless fair (read: white) skin, strange contouring technique (to actually achieve natural looks *smh*) posing with full pretension as if “Hey, I didn’t know I’m gonna look this good, I was just giving my normal poker face -.-)
We have become obsessed with looks. Someone’s worth before your eyes are instantaneously judged and filtered by what they offer to you visually. Our first reaction to meeting someone, “OmG, she’s so pretty! MashaAllah, she’s really beautiful.” And you haven’t even talked to them and seen their personalities. Look, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong in appreciating God’s gifts to someone by praising them, but I feel that our “natural” reaction to beauty is not that natural after all. It’s been influenced by our surrounding and environment which dictates what is the accepted standard of beauty. And that standard of judgement, hate to break it to you, is not very accommodating and inclusive of every type apparently, my friends!
Well, first of all, let’s take this whole weird where-does-it-come-from obsession with white and fair skin, in Asia and Africa, places where pigmentation is a product of evolution inherited from our ancestors in order for us to survive. This phenomenon baffles me that I had even written an assignment on it. Why do we yearn for fair and white skin when the majority of the population are naturally tan or dark in complexion? Why are Bollywood celebrities busy at work promoting, the latest whitening products, even for guys? Why are all, yes all, Korean make up stores sell BB creams and products that help you to achieve a lighter and a whiter skin tone? Why is skin bleaching products, one of the number one bestselling cosmetic products in Africa? Why does Malaysian TV is annoyingly filled with skin whitening ads mocking darker complexion and patting yourself at the back if you are pale as ghosts? Why? Have you ever asked why? I’ve been asking why since I was a little girl. Then, I learned that it’s a product of colonisation, coupled with the mentality that white is right, white is pure, white is heavenly, white is good behaviour, white is high status and wealth and white is the ultimate rare form of beauty told by our ancestors and advanced by the modern means of advertisement.
As little girls, we were admonished for playing under the sun. Because, hey you don’t wanna get darker, do you? Our natural ancestral remedies are full of beauty secrets for a healthy, white and fair skin. From turmeric, lemon juice to apple cider vinegar. And who’s never heard of Fair & Lovely. A product with many of its clones today that tells you that being fair will land you your dream job and your dream man. And as older girls, you would face the offence of not possessing the right complexion when shopping for foundations or compact powder. Nothing comes close to your skin complexion. Sometimes the punishing complexion palette does make you feel as if you belong in the wrong continent. You see, how they play with our minds and hearts?
Look. Just because I’m preaching to you all this does not mean that I’m immune from feeling bad about my looks either. I, too, most of the times are sucked into this tight bubble of what is beautiful created by the society when I gaze at myself in the mirror. And it does not matter whether you live in the West or the East, no one is forgiving about the way you look, the way God has intended to create you.
And for whenever I am down just overthinking about my look, this verse from the Holy Quran, empowers me:
“We have certainly created man in the best of stature;” (95:4)
God tells us that we are beautiful the way we are because He created us. And nothing is wrong with God’s creations. Any flaws or blemishes are deemed as such because of our blindness to see beyond the apparent.
You are beautiful because you were designed by the Divine. Every single one of you; dark, tan, fair and many other in-betweens are masterpieces of the Divine. Your complexion is unique and ultimately beautiful because they were selected from a Divine palette. What’s a MAC’s foundation palette compared to His palette?
The truth is, we are all seeking some form of validation. Some of us seek validation in our works, some of us in our relationships and some of us in our looks. Seeking the validation and approval of others chain and enslave us. As we draw closer to almost 6 decades of independence, let us start with unchaining ourselves from our enslavement to the conception of beauty.
And God knows best….