Growing up, I was often teased about the size of my full lips. Occasionally in school, I was called Big Lips (I know, so original), and made to feel not necessarily like I was ugly, just that there was something wrong with me that needed to be fixed. I was pretty well-known and well-liked in school, but my voluptuous lips always seemed to grab the attention of kids who apparently did not approve of their size. Of course, as a child and even a teenager, I allowed their unkind words to get into my head, turning something that should have been a source of pride into an insecurity, and I actually began to despise my full lips. I still remember aggressively scrubbing off the lipstick my mother made me wear so my dad could snap a few pictures before my eighth-grade prom. No way was I going to show up to my school with my huge lips smeared with red lipstick, drawing all kinds of unwanted attention. No thanks, Mom, I’m good. No clown jokes tonight.

Another memory is that of my seventh-grade school picture that I detested and that my grandmother loved. I remember cringing inside as I watched, horrified, her proudly propping up the picture frame, putting it on display in her living room for all the world to see. She adored that picture of her “pretty, little grandbaby.” In my mind, it was the ugliest picture I had ever taken, one that needed to be burned and forgotten.

Seriously, if I wanted to, I could sit here and type a long drawn out list of my perceived flaws and a ton of stories about how they’ve negatively impacted my life. I could go on and on about what’s “wrong” with me and how I could possibly correct them. But why do that? As women, we spend entirely too much time mulling over and dissecting our flaws as if there will be an award given out for the woman who can name the highest number of things she perceives to be wrong with herself. “And the award goes to (insert name here), for being the most ashamed of the way she looks! You win the Low Self-Esteem Award!” Nope. Nope. Nope. Sorry.

Ladies, this just makes no sense. No one is perfect. NO ONE IS PERFECT. Have you not seen the videos of the flawless makeup application turning an “ordinary” woman into a bombshell? Do you not know anything about plastic surgery (nips, tucks, injections, lifts)? Have you not heard of angles and lighting and shadows and filters used to enhance pictures? The “perfection” that you see on other women is just an illusion, not some gold standard that you should use to measure yourself. Not to say that some women don’t have beautiful shapes or flawless skin or perfect teeth. However, the one or two “perfections” about that other woman that you fixate on only serve to distract you from everything that is perfect about you. Why give so much time and energy worrying about how someone else looks? Why spend time obsessing over how beautiful someone else is? Why try to change everything about yourself that makes you unique in order to fit in with a bunch of unrealistic expectations about what makes a woman beautiful and worthy of praise?

The world will have us thinking that in order to be beautiful, we must be able to check everything off on a long list of attributes, and if even one of them is missing, then we must fix it or go into hiding, too ashamed or embarrassed to show our face. We all know how it is. You give a woman a compliment and she will promptly deflect it, using her ninja moves to bat it away, quickly pointing out a reason why she doesn’t deserve that compliment. Me? Pretty? Oh, no sir. Have you seen how big my nose is? My hair is such a mess, and I need to lose another 10 pounds. Straight foolishness.

It just kills me that this normal. We would never accept children pointing out their flaws, crying and whining about what is wrong with themselves, saddened and disheartened because a mean classmate has said something negative about them. We would quickly rush in to tell them how beautiful or pretty or handsome or cute they are and point out all of the traits that we love so much about them. We would try to make them proud of who they are. So why do we not accept the same for ourselves? Why do we let what we see on TV and movie screens, magazine covers, and online to shape how we see ourselves? Why is it okay for us to tell children to be themselves when we won’t do the same? Why do we equate our value with the way we look?

We need to learn how to take a compliment and relish in it! To stand in front of the mirror and smile and tell ourselves how beautiful we truly are! Wear makeup or don’t. Strut in high heels or in Converses. Rock a long weave, some locs, an afro, or just a ponytail. Whatever you decide to do, however you look, do it all with pride. Step out into the world, bold and confident, and tell everyone that they can love you as you are or not; their opinions won’t make or break you. It’s their loss if they can’t see and value your worth.

Stop waiting for others’ acceptance before you decide to accept yourself. Flaunt the good, the bad, and the so-called ugly about yourself.  Sing your own praises. Kiss your reflection. Give yourself a high-five. Fall in love with your reflection. Ladies, it’s imperative that you accept, appreciate, and love yourself and all of your perfect imperfections, imperative that you love the unique, beautiful, one-of-a-kind you. These are just some words of wisdom from my big lips to yours (whatever size they are).

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