Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Time To Shine: What I Love Most About Me

My girl Akilah over at EXECUMAMA challenged me to write a letter to myself, listing all the reasons why I love me. My letter is almost a week in the making. It did not come easy to me. See, I was always the nerdy one—the girl who buried her head in books and got lost in music and daydreamed behind closed doors. Because I couldn’t find the words. Because I was uncomfortable looking others in the eye. Because I’d been taught that children were supposed to see and not be seen, and it never, ever quite wore off.

I owned the quiet—peace, be still. Head down, nose to the grind.

It took me a long time to look up—to face myself in the mirror and appreciate what I saw. It was a guy friend of mine (a buddy, not a love interest) who literally held a mirror to my face. “Look at you,” he demanded. My face was so close to the glass I could see a cloud of my breath steam on my reflection. “You are beautiful, Denene. I can see it; why can’t you?”

I was all right, I guess. Never been one to brag.

But today, I will. Because Akilah asked me to. And because she’s right: Sometimes, you gotta remind yourself exactly what it is that you love about you. Here goes:

I love my eyes and my lips and my smile, and especially my chocolate skin. Understand that this is relatively new. Growing up, I avoided the sun like the plague—it makes you black, you know. Where I come from, being anything darker than a paper bag put you smack dab in the friend zone—and even further down the boyfriend chain if your hair was short and kinky. Which explains, in part, why I didn’t get my first kiss until damn near college. Fools. These days, I’m all, “the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice,” and I really couldn’t care less if you don’t appreciate it. It looks great with a smoky eye and a subtle red Bobbi Brown lip gloss, but I like it best bare—clean, simple, flawless.

I love my butt. This is big. Not my ass, but the fact that I truly love it—finally. Like my dark skin, my butt was a sin ‘round my way. If you couldn’t fit it in some Jordache or some Lees, it was too big for most of the guys I grew up with in Long Island, New York. (Mind you, had I grown up around some black boys in, say, Brooklyn, I’d have been knocked up by age 14.) For years, I tried my best to camouflage it—I tied sweaters around my waist and wore baggy pants and long, bulky sweaters, a desperate attempt to shrink it any way I could. Of course, it never worked. There’s no hiding this thing. But these days, it’s all about the booty (with nods to J-Lo, Beyonce), and there are companies that actually sell pants and skirts and dresses with stretchy fabric and accurate waist-to-booty ratios that make sense for women with hourglass figures (Banana Republic, Anthropologie, PZI, AppleBottom jeans). All of a sudden, my booty is in vogue and in properly sized clothing. What’s not to love?!

I love my sense of humor. I got jokes. I don’t know where this comes from. It’s that sarcastic, dry, witty thing. It is what it is. And it makes people laugh. I love to make people laugh. It's good for their souls. It's good for mine.

I love that I'm generous. I don't have a lot, but what I do have, I give freely. Because it's the right thing to do. Understand, I'm not talking about cash (though if I have it and you need it, you got it); I'm talking about my time and sweat. I'm a pretty good listener—a pretty good comforter. And I'm usually always ready to dig in. I get that from my parents, I think. I watched my mom go above and beyond in church and with her friends, who were equally generous. My Dad is the same way. I can't tell you how many times I saw him fix a stray kid's bike, or replace the neighbor's heater, or change a stranger's tire. I love that about him, and anyone who knows me knows my Dad is my hero. I love his helpfulness, and so I help, too. Ask and you will receive.

I love my ambition and drive. It got me a scholarship to college, when my parents couldn’t afford tuition. It got me a great gig right out of college, in one of the largest news gathering organizations in the world. It got me to a high-paying position as a political reporter at one of the then-largest newspapers in the country, at the tender age of 23. It got me a column at Parenting magazine, and 18 book deals, including a No. 1 New York Times best seller. What’s most special about my ambition and drive, though, is that I don’t use mine like weapons; I don’t feel like I have to stomp all over someone else to succeed. Quite the contrary, even as I’m doing what I can to be better at what I do, I’m constantly looking for ways to help others get in the game. I am blessed, no doubt, because of this. I’m sure of it.

I can truly look at myself in the mirror today and appreciate what I see.

Indeed, I love me some Denene.

And I’m going to work harder to love me even more.

What are you doing to love you?

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  1. YES! YES! YES! Denene, see those reasons you put down? That's why you HAD to do this. We are speaking to SO many other women when we speak to ourselves, and I LOVE how detailed you got with each "Love". That was beautiful, and I thank you for sharing it! You are indeed, blessed!

  2. gurl, i can testify to the BOOTAY thing-when i was younger, just like my boobs, they were nowhere to be found--then one day, i sat down and bounced back up!!--i was like what the heck??--turned around and there it was!--this big round thing that stuck out like {insert batman words}POW! BAM! BOOM!-didnt appreciate what i had until i hit my early 30's-now that i'm 47, gurl, its dun got bigga and i'm lovin' it even more--cuz its still round, firm and bounces er'time i walk--i've learned to love what i have and embrace the power of da'bootay!-here's my tasteful bootay shot: http://essensevibez.blogspot.com/2009/02/here-i-am-today.html --oh and the boobs? gurl, i told my mother my boobs must be hiding in my butt somewherez cuz they sure didn't come out to play-not one day!--be blessed gurl!!!!-

  3. How inspirational! You've got to LOVE that! You're such a rock star. I think I'll go start on my list now...

    Winks & Smiles,

  4. You have inspired me to write a love letter to myself. What a fantastic thing to do. Off to begin.

  5. also, i'm going to include my letter in my "book of me" mini album i'm working on--gone to share this post with friends--

  6. This is a great idea! What a wonderful way to really look inside and admire yourself. I love it.

  7. This is such a wonderful idea and I too love how detailed you were with each item that you love. I was one of those be seen but not heard type of kid so I am very quiet and shy away from things. Then when I got to high school I developed food allergies which caused my lip to swell up. I thought I was the most ugly child in the world. I eventually started to love each part of me. Starting with one part (the part that bothered me the most) I would look in the mirror and tell myself how much I loved that body part until I really loved it. It is so important that we become comfortable with ourselves and love our self and not compare our selves to these false images.

  8. During a time in my life when I'm questioning EVERYTHING about myself, this brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. It's so easy to find the flaws and neglect the positive. I truly see thru your insight the special things about me that need to be nutured and loved!
    Thank you Denene!!

  9. Ok, now, my love for Denene Millner knows no bounds! :) Seriously, you've just inspired me. Gotta go write my love letter to myself. :)

  10. Denene..I love this..there is nothing nothing better than a woman celebrating herself! No matter what anybody else thinks you love u! You betta go:)

  11. I love this! Everyone should write a letter like this and celebrate life!

  12. You inspire me, beautiful. Thank you.

  13. I hope it's okay for me to comment...I'm not Afro-American, and I don't have a brown baby. But, Denene, you ARE beautiful, and what an inspiring post! I'm glad I stopped by from SITS to say hi; I hope you'll do the same.

  14. Isn't Akilah the bomb?! I'm fully inspired to do the same. After four babies, I guess I can say I FINALLY got my birthright: a booty! ButnotheoneIwanted! Hmph! Oh well. But there's a bunch more things about myself that I'm just in love with.

    It's funny, I used to want to be darker than I am, and at one time thought that I was. But my new friends freshman year in college broke the news to me that I wasn't as dark as I thought I was after seeing all my Audre Lorde poems and black berry poems hanging up around my dorm. Kicked my out of a club I was never even a part of. LOL!

  15. I also wanted to say the words about your father were very beautiful.

  16. How do you do it? How do you manage to inspire me with every word you write? This was beautiful to read.

    I appreciate how difficult it must have been to write, because self-love is one of the things I struggle with most. Most of the time it's because I'm too busy loving on my hubby and brown baby to focus on me, but it's also because I don't really know how to stop and just admire myself. I feel self conscious and vain.

    But thanks to your words, and your courage, today I'm going to try this myself :)

  17. Looks we are all writing a love letter to ourselves...including me. Great post.


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