COLUMN: Discover your hidden treasures

Angela Oliver

There’s a traditional idea of beauty in our world. But by now, we should all know that it’s good to break from traditions that hinder us.

Though the hip-hop music I love is littered with lyrics about a widespread standard of beauty – light skin, long hair, a sizable derierre – there are gems within the genre that examine beauty on more than a surface level and profess otherwise.

Wale often discusses beauty on his lesser known songs, from “Ambitious Girl,” on which he doesn’t mention a single physical trait of the woman he’s in love with, but states that her drive, dedication to her studies and acknowledgement of her flaws captured his attraction. And on “Shades,” Wale reflects on his childhood self-esteem struggles that stemmed from his kinky hair, dark skin and being teased for having parents who were African immigrants.

On the chorus, before listing hues that range from pecan to licorice, Chrisette Michelle sings, “All my light-skinned girls, to my dark-skinned brothers, shade doesn’t matter – heart makes the lover.”

It blows my mind that these concepts of shade, which surfaced in the U.S. during the enslavement era when house and field workers were usually distinguished and thus treated a certain way by their skin tone, are still issues in the modern world.

Beyond pigment, though, these songs made me think about beauty on all levels. And when you really think of all the peculiar things that make each of us shine, the thoughts can be overwhelming.

My best friend Khadija is a knockout. But her ability to completely lose her inhibitions and transform into an absolute goofball to make everyone laugh really makes her beautiful because it spreads happiness. My sorority sister, Rae, has a gorgeous smile and sought-after proportions. But her heart – her sincere empathy for others and generosity – make her more beautiful than all of her outward attributes combined. And my uncle Al is a handsome guy. But his greatest beauty comes from his outgoing nature and desire to reach out to anyone he meets.

My point is, though we all have physical things that make us stand out, our personalities and actions will determine our legacies. We should all view beauty not only as what is pleasing to the eye, but also as how one’s actions affect us positively. After all, beauty comes from confidence. If your inner beauty makes you act in ways that inspire or give joy to others, the feeling of confidence becomes contagious.

So stop dwelling on what someone else says is beautiful. Define your own perfection. Sure, I have insecurities as we all do, but I love my dimples, the way my top lip curls up and the shape of my legs. Mostly because I know none of those things look exactly like anyone else. I’ve accepted my imperfections so much so that I have a tattoo to remind me that my flaws are permanent, but as beautiful as the roses that surround the word “Imperfect.”

Do whatever it takes to bring your beauty to the surface. Make a date with a mirror to discover your hidden treasures. Dance around your room and appreciate how your body moves. Find your flaws, accept them and start a new tradition of self-love.