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To hide from sight or knowledge. To lay or spread something over. To conceal something illicit, blameworthy, or embarrassing from notice.

About 95% of my time in high school was covered in makeup. Funny enough it had nothing to do with the ongoing trend we see on social media today. My hands were completely unskilled when it came to applying foundation. This often led to embarrassing mishaps such as having a “cake face.” Like most girls I battled with low self-esteem & wanted to be pretty. In my mind it wasn’t something that came from within. For years I believed it was centered on everything concerning appearance; i.e hair, clothes & looks. This belief didn’t happen overnight in fact it took place way before high school.

Growing up I lived on the same block as some of my cousins. Sometimes it felt like a blessing and a curse. We could go from playing to fighting at any given moment: especially if something was said or done that majority of us didn’t like. Unfortunately I often found myself at the receiving end of their backlash. I remember an incident that took place in my backyard and without hesitation I ran into the house to tell my father. My cousins all got in trouble and there was hell to pay for it. That following week, I was ignored, teased and mocked with the infamous “cry baby” song. It wasn’t the first time & sure wouldn’t be my last. Our summers involved some of these same instances & when adults weren’t around it was much worse. One day in particular I was locked on the back porch until my aunt was due home. My cousins beat on the doors and flickered the lights while chanting “she’s going to get you.” The she they spoke of was Ms. Mary, the woman many of our ghost stories centered around. Needless to say I had trouble sleeping with the lights off for years on end!

Along with being called a crybaby I was teased for being "fat" as well. Events like these began to form something in me that others recognized as shyness, I now know that is was low self esteem which eventually led to me staying inside until I was forced out to play. When my mother’s aunt and her family moved into our basement it felt like an escape. I’d spend all of my days with her eldest daughter to avoid the antics of my younger cousins. In my mind I thought it made me more mature as well but it wasn’t long before she questioned why I didn’t play with the others my age. After telling her about the name calling she understood and allowed me to continue hanging with her.

By age 11 my family moved & I was now the oldest of 3 which meant I could have my own room. That type of thing seemed so unrealistic before but nevertheless I quickly adapted to my new space. We moved during summer which gave me a chance to befriend the girl next door, prior to school. Befriending the other kids didn’t come so easy. The first fight I had was with a girl I began hanging out with. A few of the girls in our class alleged that she had spread rumors about me. Although she denied it, peer pressure got in the way and a few days later we fought in the locker room. I instantly became a part of the “in crowd” and continued to bend at the will of my peers hoping to be further accepted.

Prior to transferring I had never been in a school fight, in fact I was a scholar student. My new teacher quickly took notice in my performance and suggested that I be placed in gifted classes. She’d have me sit with her during lunch and gave me books to read that were more advanced than those we read in class. Within the next few weeks the name calling began, everything from teacher’s pet, kiss up & lame was thrown at me. The teacher witnessed it and although she came to my defense it only made matters worse. What should have been a moment of pride was turned into one of shame. Needless to say my lunch dates with her came to an end & I began distancing myself from her day by day. When she called on me to read I no longer obeyed. I was now defiant like the other students. My overall attitude began to change & I was no longer my shy and obedient self. In my mind the former was what kept me from being liked all those years.

Being an outcast wasn’t new to me but having a crowd come together just to mock me for learning was a new experience. Later it would be for the way I walked & how I wore my glasses. Each morning I’d pass my “fan club” in the hallways and not once did I ever get away without hearing this one girl say “hey ugly.” Her name was Yvette & for whatever reason it was her mission to make my life a living hell. It didn’t matter the time or place, once our paths crossed that was it. It had gotten so bad that I began going home during lunch just to escape. Instead of eating I’d spend my break scrubbing my face and redoing my hair hoping to look better than I did when I left. Sometimes I’d just break down crying not wanting to go back at all. It wasn't until the 8th grade that I had enough courage to finally ask why she’d been harassing me & what I’d done to deserve it. To my surprise I was met with a look of confusion and her saying “you haven’t done anything at all.” Her response came as a shock but I didn’t press it any further. As far as I was concerned she was just another person who saw me as being weak.

A few years later and we were entering high school as freshmen. The experience itself was exciting and nerve wrecking. There were new cliques, boys & feelings. It’s so trivial to me now but being “popular” at the time was a different story. Every hallway had guys from all grade groups. Some of them would post up on lockers waiting for girls to walk by especially the popular ones. The attention we received was always a twofold. On a girl’s best day she’d want to be seen and on her worst you'd have to post a wanted ad. Being a teenager was already hard but add that on top of puberty, bad hair days & in my case skin it was a recipe for disaster.

The first time I ever had a pimple was from an allergic reaction in middle school. The metal rim of my glasses caused a break out across my face. Without understanding the effects it would have, I scratched the prickly little bumps and was left with a slew of blemishes. The sight of them made me cringe but even then, it didn’t stop me from pinching and squeezing anything that remotely resembled a pimple. By my freshmen year I was already experimenting with ways to cover them. A little powder here, bronzer there and a smudge of lipstick is how it began. By sophomore year I had graduated to full coverage thanks to Revlon’s Colorstay in cappuccino. It felt like a godsend at the time but as I mentioned earlier I had no idea what I was doing. Every hug I gave left the recipient with stained collars but that was nothing compared to the embarrassment that came from a group photo taken at homecoming. There I was smack dab in the middle looking like Casper the friendly ghost. The SPF from my makeup had caused a flashback from the camera and left me with a ghost face. I had already received commentary for my made up appearance but that picture set the tone for the 2 years that followed. Instead of ugly I was now being called "makeup." The attention I was getting became centered on something I tried so hard to cover.

When I arose to see myself in the mirror I didn’t like what I'd see. Some days I wouldn’t even wash my face hoping to escape the reality of what it had become; a breeding ground for self-hate. I thought if I were “prettier” maybe even lighter all of my problems would go away. I tried every product under the sun for acne at that time but it only made it worse. In all honesty I don’t think my skin looked as bad as I thought it did at the time but it didn’t matter. Years of being told how fat I was as a kid and how ugly I was as a teen had collided & my self-esteem was shot. Whatever it was that people didn’t like about me became my mission to hide!

A few years later and I was a freshman in college. This time I was surrounded by people who cared less about how I looked and more about how I'd act. Attending a HBCU was the highlight of my educational & social experience. It was also the first time that I had ever been esteemed for something other than my appearance. Pieces of my personality were finally able to manifest and my voice was heard. Little by little the makeup began to come off but I still wasn't ready to show off a bare face. Instead of allowing myself to transition I found myself opting for a new cover instead. My hair had become a new focal point and for the next 5 years I wore weaves down my back with the attitude to match. My confidence had grown but for all the wrong reasons.

Just as my personality was starting to bloom I suffocated it with my new persona. The display of my character had become extremely fluid. I could go from being the hoodest chick off the block to being the most charismatic intellectual you ever met. My fabric was knit by all of my experiences with people and what I found they liked the most. Even when my real was fake I could make the people around me want more of it. My image literally became my god and it was the one thing I finally had power to control. The little substance I did have was made up of compliments & having guys pursue me. My cover had grown but the internal damage had as well. The loneliness I felt at that time was also surreal. There were so many moments where I just wanted to tell someone what I was going through but I’d lock myself away in my campus apartment and cry myself to sleep instead. Thoughts of suicide would cross my mind every now and then and the relationships I was involved in didn’t help one bit. Up until my mid-twenties I had allowed people to determine my worth, especially men. The more attractive they thought I was the better but once I got involved with them it didn’t matter. I wanted love and for them I was asking for too much and in all honesty I was. Asking anyone to give us something we refuse to give ourselves will always be too much.

Not loving myself allowed me to consistently look for it in others. It also led me to endure emotional, verbal and sexual abuse by a guy for nearly three years. His approval was all that mattered to me and there was nothing I would not do for it. So often we see women in abusive relationships or bad ones in general and we consider her to be weak & dumb and I was one of them. Anytime my friend attempted to talk sense into me we'd just clash & I'd return back to him. Although she meant well I had already let him so deep within my soul that it would take a real God to remove him. Which is why I'm able to tell my story today.

Psalm 34:18 says that “The lord is close to the brokenhearted and he saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

At that time my life was more than broken. I was failing all of my classes and on the verge of losing my job and apartment. I had no more room for the ego my persona had created but I did have a growing curiosity. As I mentioned before thoughts of suicide would cross my mind when I lied in bed at night. In those moments I would contemplate all of the what-ifs until one day I did something I hadn’t done since a child. I prayed! And it went something like “God if you're real I need you to show me.” That's just a short version but it clearly was all he needed. Not even a month later I met a friend that invited me to go to church with her. I was a little hesitant at first but eventually I did and my life began to change. I accepted Christ at the age of 22 and by the age of 23 I was leading young women with the story I shared just now.

I'll be 30 this year and I still have more to learn and discover about myself and God. I have come to find that being free doesn't mean that things just disappear. Just recently I was out with a group of women who were all uniquely beautiful. Subconsciously I began comparing my beauty to theirs and before I knew it I began to have those old feelings of insecurity. Funny enough it disappeared as I examined myself in the mirror. This familiar habit of "checking" myself scared the hell out of me, literally. A prayer later and I realized that there was still a piece of me that needed to be healed. This healing could only take place by revisiting my past and identifying the root cause. Doing this meant that I also had to be willing to share so that others will know that they are not alone!

Often times women are afraid of opening up about our past and present insecurities because of what the world tells us to be. There are so many labels placed on us, flawless & black girl magic are attributes we are quick to embrace but truth be told some of us are flawed & black girls that are broken! It isn't my place to tell any woman or girl what she needs but it is my hope to expose the lie that says we have to slay all day! Our realities off screen do not come equipped with the personal make up artists and hair gurus we see online. There is so much pressure to be beautiful that we question if we even have it. Capturing the perfect selfie has become an end of the day goal and one by one we're all snapping until it gives way. This isn't to say that social media is a bad thing but it is to ask are we making it a bad thing.

I recently came across an article that talked about our "selfie generation" and how millenials make up 60% of today's cosmetic surgeries. This means that teens as young as 16 yrs old are going to have their lips and nose done with their parents consent. Women between 18 and 30 years old are rushing to do the same along with butt injections. I could go on but I digress by saying that something questionable is going on with us. The doctors from the article point the finger at social media and the influence of the Kardashians. It's easy to understand their perspective but that would alleviate the parents of those teens from assuming any responsibility. Before I get off subject and divulge in a debate I would like to play devils advocate by reporting on another article I stumbled across. This one read with the headline "10 year old girl gains confidence from social media after being bullied for having dark skin." So one could say that social media could be just as good as it is detrimental to the self worth of women and young girls. And although I am happy that this young girl has found an audience to praise her beauty I am just as sad that she had to go online to get it.

The saying goes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sadly enough many of us have yet to identify who that is. Earlier I talked about giving my life over to God. As amazing as that is, I did not appoint him as my beholder until later on. For the first few years of my walk I was still covered. I still had the shame of my past lingering over me but I had a God who was giving me grace every step of the way. Eventually I grew tired of my past holding me back and I said another prayer. This time I asked God to help me see myself the way he saw me! Later on I would come to understand that God doesn't see any of us at all and that is only because he see's his son! When Christ died for us he gave us a new life. Once we accept him into our hearts God wipes away our sins and takes us in as his own and it's the best gift we could ever receive!

Before I end I just want to say this one thing and that is that............................

You are beautiful, you're wonderful and you're special! It has nothing to do with how you look, act or dress but everything to do with the God who lives inside of you. You may not know it now but sooner or later you'll see that you were covered too!

God Bless

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