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November 15, 2020

A Soul-Stirring Poem for those who Struggle to See their Beauty.

@tiamiscihkMy momma ❤️ #mom #indigenous #browneyes #fyp #powwow #motherwnddaughter #nativeamerican♬ original sound – Christi Steyn

Growing up, I always looked different.

My brown skin, curly hair, and dark eyes stood out against the pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes of most of the other kids at school.

And when there were little boys and girls of color in my class, their skin was usually darker and more rich, their hair full of texture.

I was the little mixed girl with a face that confused people.

Even in my family, I was the darkest of my siblings. I often wondered what it would be like to not stand out.

Luckily, though, I was raised to see myself as beautiful.

I was raised by a mother who took pride in how she looked, who took pride in her culture and all the beauty that came from it.

She taught me to love my out-of-control curls by making me learn how to fix my hair as a little girl. She wouldn’t let me hide my face behind makeup or pluck my full, dark eyebrows until high school, and even then there were limits. She allowed me to express myself through my clothes and my style, even when that meant stripes with polka dots, mismatched colors, and skin-tight pants.

She reminded me that my bumpy, slightly crooked nose is the same as my grandmother’s, who, even until the day she died, was the most naturally beautiful woman I’ve ever seen up close. She reminded me that my pinky toe, which curves in at a weird angle, is just like my grandfather’s. She reminded me, when I started getting grey hair at age nine, that both she and my grandfather went through the same thing, and one day I’d be glad to walk through life with a head of silver.

I went through the usual pre-teen and teenage angst of nitpicking all the ways I wished I looked different—some days that list was long, and other days it felt like I was only judging myself as a way to fit in with my friends. But the one thing I always believed, even on the worst days, was that my eyes were my most beautiful trait.

They are big and wide and deep-set. They are so brown they can often look black. They stand out, even when I do nothing to accentuate them. They are what people see first when I approach, and they are how I see the world.

When I saw this TikTok video, all those feelings came bubbling up again.

“So yes her eyes are blue

And yes your eyes are brown

But your eyes hold the riches

That are buried in the ground

Her eyes carry storms

And rage like the sea

Your eyes carry earthquakes

That bring mountains to their knees”

The poem, written by Nadia McGhee and read by Christi Steyn, is called “Brown Eyes” and on a quiet Sunday morning, as I lay under the covers, it served as a soul-stirring reminder of what it means to truly see ourselves and our beauty—to own the very things that allow us to stand out.

Check out Steyn’s original reading, the mother/daughter version, and one more rendition of this beautiful poem:

 

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Image: @tiamiscihk/TikTok

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