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Mothers, be kinder to yourselves.

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Printed Date: Feb 27 2020 at 8:53pm

Topic: Mothers, be kinder to yourselves.
Posted By: tatee
Subject: Mothers, be kinder to yourselves.
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 8:27am

Daughters Learn about Beauty (and their Insecurities) From Their Mothers

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  • 14-04-2014" rel="nofollow"> Daughters Learn about Beauty (and their Insecurities) From Their Mothers

Kate Nkansa-Dwamena

According to one study undertaken by Dove, 72% of daughters learn about beauty from their mothers.

I keep a picture of my mother as an 18-year-old natural haired beauty. My mum’s skin was flawless, and she looked confident in this picture. This picture was taken during her first year in teacher’s training college in Agogo Teachers training College in the Ashanti Region.

I could see distress over my mother’s face each time I broached the subject of cutting all my chemically treated hair off and growing my hair natural. ‘It won’t be pretty’ she would say. People will not respect you was another comment. When I eventually cut my hair, I didn’t tell her for a long time. One day we met for lunch at the mall. I had arrived with my new mini afro. She tried to be enthusiastic, but deep down I knew she didn’t approve. 

Deep down she believed that this was just a phase. I would soon return to my weave-wearing, chemically treated hair days, she thought. I explained to her that it would never happen. She would laugh with the “I know you more than you do” laugh mothers often have.

 18 months later, I still have my natural hair, which has grown considerably and allows me to try versatile hairstyles.

I grew up with my brother and father. Because of this, I have never really had any hang ups about my self-image. They have never commented on my weight or looks unless it was to compliment me...I have never had a negative body image.

I have moved in with my mother temporarily to help care for my grandmother who is undergoing medical treatment. These past few weeks have helped me understand my mother better. At 54, she is very beautiful and her spirit and generosity leave me in awe.

On Saturday morning, she asked me to remove her weave and wash her hair for her. After towel drying her hair, we lay on the bed together facing the mirror. Whilst staring at the mirror we began a very poignant conversation about self-image.  

I have never considered myself to be too dark or too light skinned as a black woman. My mother has told me before that I have become too dark, and at times she has commented in twi that  ‘me colour na ba’ (my colour has returned) when my natural skin tone returns. 

Another comment I usually get from my mother when she thinks I have lost too much weight, which she will say in twi, is “Maame didi didi” (Maame eat, eat), and when I have gained enough weight to her satisfaction, she will remark that my hips have returned. When I lived in South Africa, a friend had recently returned from her visit to Ghana. She shared with us the latest beauty trends. One story that shocked me was how young girls were taking veterinary pills used to fatten pigs so that they could put on extra weight.

Body image and the ideas of beauty in Africa are very different to western notions of beauty. As a woman, you are expected to be voluptuous, light skinned, tall and have beautiful sprawling Brazilian weave to command any respect in our society. 

I am thin; I have chocolate coloured skin, and wear my hair natural. People have referred to me as ‘small girl’ and ‘p3nii akola’ (half adult half child) in Ghana. My lighter skinned more voluptuous friends have been called ‘Madam’ and are treated with more respect than me when we are together. I never really understood these dynamics until I connected my mother’s remarks to my experiences with other Ghanaians.

On Saturday however, she finally understood why I decided to return to natural hair, why I choose to be thin and why I use so many natural products for my body and hair.

My mother’s hair has been damaged from the glue and sewing, which is required to complete the weave. What I noticed was severe balding around the edges of her hair. My grandmother at 82 years old wears her hair natural. She still has all her hair. Though it is grey, her hair is still beautiful.

My mother’s severe balding is known as traction alopecia which, according to Wikipedia, is a gradual hair loss caused primarily by a pulling force being applied to the hair. Naomi Campbell is a celebrity super model who also suffers from traction alopecia.

My mother also has dark blemishes on her cheeks due to the use of creams that ‘tone’ (according to the label) the skin. She had been using these creams for the past four years because her colleagues kept telling her that she had become dark.

 I had advised her about the dangers of these creams, which contain harsh chemicals, but she didn’t believe that they were bleaching creams. Four years later, the hot Ghanaian sun has burned dark blemishes on her cheeks as it interacts with these harsh creams she used on her skin.

After staring at each other in the mirror, I asked her if she understood why I chose to go natural. She affirmed with a nod. I suggested that she stop wearing the weave for some time, to allow her hair to recover from the traction alopecia. I helped her search online for new hairstyles that would be less harmful to her hairline. It was difficult for her to agree to a hairstyle that didn’t include the Brazilian type tresses she has been wearing for the past 10 years. “I can never reveal my real hair”, she said. “How can I attend my business meetings with my natural hair? I will be ugly. Who will take me seriously?” 

How did we as a society go from the 18 year old natural haired blemish free skinned women to the 54-year-old woman who can no longer accept her natural look?

In a short documentary titled ‘Selfie,’ sponsored by Dove, one of the young girls said in the interview:  “It’s really difficult for me to see my mom uncomfortable about herself – because I think she is my biggest role model and the most beautiful person I know and it’s just such a compliment when people tell me I look like her. For her to criticize herself – it’s almost indirectly criticizing me because I came from her.”

My mother’s intense discomfort with her natural look disturbed me. I hope that in time she is able to embrace her real self just like I have done. I use calamine lotion as a natural way to remove blemishes and dark spots on my skin. It is also a good sunscreen. Calamine lotion also serves as a primer for foundation before you apply your make up. I use lime each evening to wash off my makeup on my face after returning home from work. Lime tones my skin naturally, reduces the dark rings under my eyes and contributes to a glowing skin complexion. I spend $1 a month to maintain my skin. 

This morning I woke up, and my mother had smeared my calamine lotion on her skin. The night before, she was applying lime juice on her skin like I had suggested.  She asked me which hair salon she could go to, to get a protective hairstyle so that her hair could recover from the weave damage.

I hope that when I have a daughter I remember that having a positive self-image will help my daughter accept her natural hair, skin and size. The acceptance of who we are as black women, whether big, small, light or dark skinned, chemically treated or natural hair, is significantly dependent on our relationships with our mothers and what their idea of beauty is. We build our lives on these foundations. If we hate who we see in the mirror, we cause permanent harm to our bodies in the hope of altering our natural appearance. Luckily for my mother, it’s not too late.

 Mothers, be kinder to yourselves. Your thoughts and your words shape your daughters’. Their self-image is a direct reflection on how you see yourself. A positive self-image helps to create a balanced society of young women who are healthy and fulfilled.

Posted By: blaquefoxx
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 8:40am
This is a really good article. I remember my mom (and grandma) went apesh1t when I bc'd lol. Now that it's grown out nicely she's trying to convince me to hot comb/straighten it so see how "long it is". Yea, okay lol. 
On the flipside my dad, one of my brother's and hubby didn't have an issue with my hair. 

Posted By: GoodGirlGoneGr8
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 8:52am
I like this piece...

Growing up, I'd always had an issue with being too thin. My mom would tell me to go eat before I dried up like a herringbone.

My weight fluctuates tremendously and even though my mom doesn't live nearby when my weight is lower than usual, I eat like crazy to get it back where I see fit.

In my eyes, me being slightly overweight is better than me being too thin. It's crazy how parents voices resonate in everyday life even when they're not around.

Posted By: yaya24
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 8:53am
I've always thought that my mother was the most beautiful woman I knew growing up.
Like effortlessly beautiful.
My dad's infidelity took a chunk out of her self-esteem.. but did not break her. She has been a great example to her 3 daughters.
I remember she laughed when I Big Chopped the first time LOL.. but then she was my biggest supporter during the "grow out" process.. 2nd BC she helped me do it. Said I should do whatever makes me happy.
Originally posted by yaya24 yaya24 wrote:

I grew up in a household with a light skinned mother and all lighter skinned siblings.
I was the chocolate kid.
My mom made me feel very special.


Posted By: ModelessDiva
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 9:13am

Superb article!! This is very true

Posted By: ModelessDiva
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 9:14am

this is also why I hope Lil Kim is having a boy..

Posted By: bunzaveli
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 9:16am

Posted By: JoliePoufiasse
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 9:22am
Good article. I bc'd last week because of heat damage and uneven length in the front.

My mom came over, saw me and said nothing. But I could tell she disapproved of the shortness(she just knows better than to criticize out loud now, lol).

But it's a process. When I first went natural, she hated it but then she saw all the length I gained, she marvelled and started admonishing me never to relax again, that my hair looked good. Now she's back to disapproval because I sport a twa :( It's making me a little insecure about my lack of length now but I guess I'll get over it and so will she.

Posted By: goodm3
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 9:54am
Ummm....i can't really ever remember my mother saying anything about they way I moreso my clothing, posture, and the way I spoke. Eventhough I was an overweight child she always stressed the importance of looking MY best, not what the best is for all the other kids (ie-trends). 

it definitely worked because all of those things have definitely paid off. 

Posted By: HunnyB
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 10:00am
My mom always made me look in the mirror and tell me how beautiful I was... but she always super sarcastic. Words hurt

Posted By: HunnyB
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 10:02am
My daughter was the last straw for me going natural..LOL

I didn't want to relax her hair, so I thought "hmmm, I should lead by example."

Posted By: rell85
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 12:00pm
Yea, some mothers can cause damag.

Calamine lotion huh makes sense it dries matte and protect the skin at the same time.

Posted By: MsBMW
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 12:04pm
Great Article

Posted By: JoliePoufiasse
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 12:06pm
She puts lime under her eyes, though? Wouldn't that sting like hell?

Posted By: AshBash89
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 12:07pm
My mom was terrible as her mom and so on and so forth. She did a number on my sisters but I was fortunate to have a father that constantly told me that I was the most beautiful girl in the world. My dad's words affected me much more than my mom's which is a good thing.

Posted By: Benni
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 1:14pm

Posted By: Katrenia
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 1:29pm
My mother was such a selfish hate filled person and I learned from her.
Through Christ I've found a new person within myself.

Posted By: newin2009
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 3:21pm
My mom did the best she knew how, I guess. I tell my daughter how beautiful she is and I tell my mom how beautiful she is too. I would love to help my mom's self esteem go up.

Posted By: thewonderfulwa
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 4:52pm
I was fortunate enough to have a mother that didn't express any color issues to me even though I was darker than her I always felt beautiful.

Posted By: indiecat
Date Posted: Apr 15 2014 at 5:16pm
My mom always looked young, but she liked to wear wigs a lot which I hated. i think my older sister taught me more about loving myself than my mom. She always told me how pretty my hair was and did my hair for me. I watched my sister do her own makeup and she would let me play with her stuff sometimes and I would copy her. It was back in the day when she would outline her lips with eyeliner and put a fake mole on with eyeliner.

I don't think my mom loved herself. It was more in her actions. She did a lot to destroy herself and she never let someone completely love her because she was too busy starting a fight. She was married about 4 times and she wrecked every marriage. She did teach me compassion, too much compassion. My dad says I get that from her where i would give someone the clothes off of my back and even if it interrupts my own life. I guess that's inner beauty.

I will always tell my daughter how beautiful she is. I love her hair, skin, her face...she's gonna be so gorgeous when she is older.

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