All throughout my childhood, my mom always reminded me that each person is made up of four components:
- physical, which is your physical body;
- emotional, your emotional state along with your feelings;
- mental, which is your mentality and what goes on in your head;
- and finally, your spirit, which is this energy that lives inside you.
She would tell me that together, they made up a person. She also said to me that if you don't take care of them or feed them positive things, that they'll be unbalanced, and thus your whole life will be as well. My mom also reminded me to respect and appreciate my Lakota heritage as that helps make the person I am.
From what I heard growing up, beauty was based solely on your appearance.
I’d seen it on television, heard it in music, and even heard it amongst peers and classmates. I started to believe that the more attention you received, the more beautiful you were. Unfortunately, I thought that I wasn't attractive because I didn't have the best shaped-body, long flowing hair, or the perfect face. Instead, I was delicate, slim and had high cheekbones.
I remember a time where I hated the way I looked and prayed every morning for the Creator to give me a new body.
I grew up in an era where social media was still in its infant stage. Still, I witnessed the growing craving for more shares and friend requests on social media, even amongst my friends. I figured I'd get more friend requests from strangers and comments complimenting my "pretty smile" if I were more attractive. I started to base my worth on how "beautiful" people thought I was.
I also had identity issues due to my unique features. With this, my self-esteem and self-confidence plummeted. I became somewhat anti-social and often kept to myself and spent my free time working at odd jobs throughout the small town where I grew up.
My life changed when I discovered modeling at the age of 16. I was "discovered" as they say and participated in a photoshoot. From there, I walked in runway shows for fashion designers who adored my body shape. I felt like I finally found something I was good at.
Modeling helped change my outlook on life. It unveiled my self-esteem, where I realized that beauty is more than skin deep. I learned to embrace my Lakota culture and the unique features that made me different. Due to my newfound confidence, I learned as much as I could about the fashion industry, and I eventually made it my profession.
I profoundly believe beauty and identity go hand-in-hand.
Identity is how you and the world see you, and beauty is a combination of qualities that provide a perceptual experience. Beauty isn't just the physical part of a person, it is also your emotions, mentality, and spirit. The more beautiful your four components are, the more attractive you are to others around you. We tend to assume that beauty is how you look. From there we search for validation from everyone in the world. In reality, we need validation from ourselves.
Remind yourself that self-esteem is just that: self. It comes from our self, not anyone else. Embrace your Native beauty and Native American culture and carry it with you like the warrior you are. Your culture is what makes you beautiful. I like to compare self-esteem and confidence to an inner fire inside us. The more you feed it positive things, the more significant this fire will get. It will rage on, inspiring you to make moves.
Only you can either feed your fire or let it go out.
Together we can build a movement that supports, encourages, and empowers Native women to discover their unique inner fire and beauty. Join as we tell stories of hope and inspiration.
Thank you to Kelly Holmes, Founder and Editor of Native Max Magazine for sharing her story.