Introductory Excerpt

- Too Fat... Too Thin... Why do I hate the Skin I am In -
Why me? Why this topic? Why now?

I am not famous. I cannot lay claim to having interviewed presidents or celebrities as others—who have written on confidence and self-esteem before me. I simply do not have that kind of access. I do not consider rich and famous women to be more confident and self-assured than we, the unrepresented, are. In fact, I submit to you that they often suffer more by having to live their lives under the harsh, relentless, judgmental glare of the spotlight that is oftentimes disproportionately trained on women.

They are more affluent, sure. But they have to be so much more guarded. What is behind the unctuous smiles of the people who suddenly want to befriend them? Are they genuine? One can understand how being put in a similar situation would make anyone get paranoid. The rich do have an edge, though. They have a platform that most women do not and will never have. I hear you. I see you, my sisters of every hue, ethnicity, and nationality. But it’s not enough to hear the silent screams of the unrepresented. Together, this time, we will make them listen.

So why me? Why did I elect to write this book? Well, I am just a woman with a passion to facilitate a discourse—and this dialogue is written from the perspective of everywoman. I am you, unfiltered.

And why now? For some unfathomable reason, it never seems to be the right time for us to hold space for our trauma. It is as if we are waiting for permission. Not anymore, we are not. If not now, when? The time is now to bring our stories to the forefront.

During my thirty-plus years as an educator, I witnessed many issues in the young ladies I taught, caused by a lack of confidence. The pervasiveness of the problem always showed up in those schools where the student ratio was weighted toward girls. There were many opportunities for me to observe these young ladies during their best and worst moments. Self-consciousness and a lack of confidence made them very susceptible to insecurities.

Being a life coach and a chaplain has afforded me many opportunities to work with women and girls in dire need of the edification, clarity, and support found among these pages. I made it my mission to write a book on this topic to create more opportunity to reach more women and girls, so I can help them see that confidence is a muscle that must be exercised for it to get bigger. These pages will also allow us to revisit an old issue from new and different perspectives. We need all hands on deck so we can make a difference.

Writing this book is also a way to immortalize my ministry of presence for decades to come. Chaplaincy is a ministry of presence, and that means I have to be present and accessible to those whom I am determined to help. My intent is for this guide to become a vital resource for many.

The companion journal to this work, Confidence Chronicles, guides women to reflect as they go through eleven life-changing steps to become the self-assured women that we all have the potential to become.

If I can help prevent insecure girls from becoming insecure women, together we can change the trajectory of this confidence crisis and turn the corner on low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. It is not an overnight fix, as subsequent discussions in other chapters will show.

I’ve witnessed the uncertain looks in the eyes of my female students, quickly shuttered to escape scrutiny—but not so quickly that I missed seeing the confusion and the brokenness caused by low self-esteem and self-doubt, toxic influences that cause positive ones to scatter like bleached bones in a desert. My soul demanded that I bring this book to fruition to help others transform themselves.

One manifestation of transformation is the willingness to engage more with others and the world around us. Engagement is necessary to elevate and broaden the discussion so that centuries of societal toxicity toward women will stop, and the reversal of the erosion of their confidence and self-esteem will begin to take place in all the right spaces around the world.

The title of this book, Too Fat, Too Thin—Why Do I Hate the Skin I’m In? can easily be taken at face value, but it is so much more. Skin should not only be taken literally, but also be understood as a metaphor for every untenable situation in which women have unwittingly found themselves embroiled for centuries because of patriarchal interference in their lives. It is the willingness to explore these issues and apply strategies to mitigate them which will provide the needed catharsis; but first, there has to be a reckoning, both in ourselves and in the world as a whole. We must confront our own pasts and work together to change the future.

I have always been quick to apologize. I say, “I’m sorry” when someone accidentally rams me with a shopping cart in the food aisle—“Excuse me, sorry!” I don’t want to offend even when I am not at fault. I walk away berating myself for being an idiot. I used to say yes when I really wanted to say no to requests. Again, I did not want to offend.

How many times have you said sorry when you knew for certain the situation did not warrant an apology? Do you have the confidence to just smile an acknowledgement of a cart incident, rather than embark on an unwarranted, unsolicited apology tour?

This tendency to shy away from any possibility of offending others speaks to our need to always be accepted—because we are mired in insecurity and low self-esteem. Let us explore this very illuminating study and ad campaign launched by Dove in 2016 to see if it corroborates this theory. The study found that half the women surveyed displayed low levels of self-esteem. You might find this statistic alarming, or you might wonder nonchalantly, It’s only fifty percent! What’s the big deal?

Well, it is a big deal! Low self-esteem and eroded confidence have real-life implications. The same study also found that, of the 50 percent of women surveyed, 85 percent chose not to show up for major life events because of feelings of inadequacy relative to the way they believed they look. Most times, these self-perceptions are not anchored in any kind of reality. A woman might frequently opt out of going on a date with someone she really likes for the seemingly frivolous reason of not being happy with the way she looks. This rejected date could very well have been “the one,” but she didn’t allow herself the opportunity to explore that option.

Others have passed on myriad opportunities which might have had positive long-term benefits simply because they were displeased with their appearance. It might have been the chance to make a bold career move or interview for a new or better job or even to take part in a friend’s wedding. Is this mere frivolity, or is it emblematic of something deeper and more troubling? Perhaps we are afraid of the negativity we might encounter if we put ourselves out there.

As a teenager in high school, I was in great shape physically. I played netball and I participated in track and field events. But I never rose to any prominence as an athlete—I was no Usain Bolt, needless to say. I was just me, a regular teenage girl with my own insecurities. I was often complimented on my curvaceous figure, which made me very uncomfortable. I couldn’t just say thanks. In some cultures, it would be considered taboo to comment on another’s body—but it is not a big deal in the Jamaican culture for women to comment on each other’s physical features.

My dark skin was another matter. This was the brunt of their jokes from time to time. At home, I felt safe. My mom and brothers made me feel special and loved. They paid me compliments, and my late older brother, Delroy, would escort me to take the buses and taxis we used to get around. High school disrupted my notion of safety. I had never felt rejected or less than until I matriculated into my prestigious, Catholic, all-girls, mixed-race high school in Montego Bay.

A required text for eighth grade English literature class was a story about enslaved twin boys during the Great Uprising in Haiti. It was titled Marassa and Midnight, a novel by Morna Stewart. My classmates thought that, with my ebony skin, Midnight would be the perfect name for me.

Naturally, those classmates who decided to call me Midnight were of a lighter hue—or, in Jamaican parlance, high-colored or light-skinned—by comparison. I already had issues with my nose, which I thought was too wide and lacked the coveted bridge between eyes and nose. This physical shortcoming, or defect, as I saw it, made the trademark sunglasses—an essential barometer of teenage sophistication—slide off my face with annoying frequency. Not thinking beyond my nose, literally, it did not cross my mind that perhaps the glasses were just too big for my face.

Insecurity and a lack of confidence seemed to have joined forces to rewire logical thinking. I felt ostracized by my classmates, isolated even, as I navigated my feelings about the new me as seen through the lens of my peers. I felt unaccepted and stripped of my agency, my voice. I could no longer define myself. They had taken it upon themselves to represent me as just a color. How could they not see or care that it hurt me?

This experience would have scarred someone of a less ebullient nature, but I overcame it. I never forgot it, though, clearly—because here I am, decades later, talking about it, aren’t I? It must have taken a toll. But I put it aside and moved on. That’s also a coping technique masquerading as a skill in a lot of women.

I have always been good at compartmentalizing. It is a strategy I employ whenever I find myself in a stressful situation without the skill set or knowledge of how to fix it. I store things in the lower left quadrant of my brain until I think I can handle them. I find myself reverting to and pondering the unwarranted apology that women are so quick to tender. It gives rise to the following questions:

Perhaps it is a case of imposter syndrome; women feel like frauds. They find it difficult to acknowledge their accomplishments and will always brush off compliments. It was nothing. Anyone could have done it.

But “anyone” didn’t do it—you did!

It reminds me of teaching in a high school in New York City, where my principal complimented me because all my students had scored 100 percent passes on the Spanish Regents Exam for the fifth consecutive year. My response then was the same.

“Oh, that’s not a big deal. The students are really smart!”

Did you just say that, moron? My inner voice warred with me. So now, he can just fire you. Apparently, these kids are so smart they can teach themselves.

I had worked hard to get my kids to that place. All the plays and shows and writing autobiographies and books in Spanish. Why was I undermining and discrediting my own efforts? I had earned it! I just couldn’t accept the accolades comfortably. I was not practiced in claiming my own accomplishments. I was suffering—as I had in the past—issues with insecurity and self-esteem. I needed to get to a place where I knew myself and loved myself enough to claim the victories that I orchestrated.

Women often lack confidence in their abilities, their voice, their style selections, their way of speaking, their qualifications, their capacity to love and be loved, and their ability to develop and maintain relationships. If you lack confidence, do not despair and do not feel embarrassed. You are not alone. We all have these challenges. It may come as a surprise to realize how many women think that lacking confidence and self-esteem is unique to them.

Even while writing this book, I have second-guessed myself many times. I have experienced the ill effects of what has been classified as analysis paralysis. I often wonder if I should have chosen more adequate words to convey my intent. Should I paraphrase? Am I saying too much, too little on the topic? I want to get it right so the information will be impactful and transformative.

I now invite you to embark on an odyssey with me to the center of yourselves. We will discuss the issues we face as women and young ladies, and then I will provide strategies to help shut down the noises in our heads born of our insecurities, which are telling us that we’re not enough.

You will learn that the struggle to the mountaintop of self-confidence is universal, and we, as women, tend to experience that struggle more viscerally and intensely than men do. We will have thoughtful, thought-provoking, enlightening, and robust discussions as we explore these assertions. We will explore root causes of this low-confidence epidemic, harkening back to centuries of unattainable beauty standards initially orchestrated and perpetuated by men, but that now have the full endorsement of too many women, who are eagerly embracing these metrics.

We will learn how patriarchy evolved, the causes of low self-esteem in women today, why lack of confidence is not benign, and how it is insidiously causing women to choose extreme measures to cope. Some even choose suicide as an option in an attempt to stop hurting.

Do not despair! This book will offer you smart strategies to help you improve both your self-esteem and your confidence levels. By sharing some of my experiences as well as those of other women and girls, you will learn how you can consciously and strategically work to get to a better place in your quest to become the best and highest version of yourself.

You will learn ways to navigate the hurdles on your journey to living your best, most fulfilling life. You will learn how to elevate your vibration to a frequency where you can drown out the cacophony of voices renting space in your head. Those voices are trying to make you believe you should operate from a space of lack.

You were born to hold yourself in high esteem.

You were born to be a confident badass!

You exist to love yourself unconditionally.

You cannot love anyone else until you love you. My tagline for my Confidence Chronicles group is, “Say I love you to you first!”

Disinfect your mind of negative stereotypes about yourself and fill it to overflowing with notions of your greatness because you are wonderfully and beautifully made. You are uniquely you!

I will challenge your concept of who you are and who you can ultimately become. I will bust myths and lay bare their fallacious origins so you can see them clearly for what they are—patriarchal constructs meant to keep women in their place.

Be mindful that I am not promising miracles, nor am I peddling pipe dreams. The onus is on you to apply yourself and practice the strategies that I will lovingly share. Not acting on these strategies is comparable to wanting to win the lottery yet not taking the first and most basic step which requires buying a ticket.

Nobody knows who you are, and even if they did, they are not in business to be philanthropic. Businesses exist to make money! Do not expect a random phone call telling you that you have won the lottery. Pay attention to this call instead—a call to action! Save your money unless you like to play the long shot.

Be prepared to stay the course. Applying these time-tested strategies once or twice, and then giving up, equates to buying a face cream your dermatologist prescribed to be used for a month to see results, but instead you use it for three days and then give up. You didn’t give it the time required to see the promised or expected results. You simply say the product isn’t good. Stay the course and finish strong. Begin with the end in mind. Do you want results, or will you just dream about them, as usual?

We now live in a microwave generation. Everyone expects results within an unrealistic time frame. We want it now, or better yet, we want it yesterday. This journey is not that. Life is not predictable. It throws curve balls and is full of vagaries. It is a gamble but so very worth it! Take a chance and bet on yourself. You won’t regret it.

Having experienced my own struggles with low levels of confidence and self-esteem, it pains me to see all the ways in which women continue to replicate the same struggles decade after decade, ad infinitum. Allow me to give you the key to unlock the door to a more meaningful sense of self.

The path can be challenging, but the views at the top are worth it.

Are you ready?