There is not a week in my life when someone doesn’t tell me I look tired. And on days when I’m interacting with people every day, a little more often.
“Oh no what’s wrong? You look so tired.”
“Is everything okay? You look exhausted.”
“Are you feeling well? You don’t look too well.”
In my late teens and early 20’s these comments elicited a reaction deep within me. A reaction that often resulted in a search for creams, concealers, diet recipes, and gadgets that would miraculously help decrease this oh so tiresome look! After all it’s the first thing I see when I look in the mirror. And who wants a pair of tired, puffy, sunken eyes staring back at them, going against every message the world sends about what is beautiful. In a world where women are constantly bombarded with images of unrealistic and unattainable standards, tired eyes do not gracefully fit into popular ideologies; big, bright, luminous eyes are beautiful.
Unfortunately, I can’t always blame my tired, puffy, dark circles, to being a mom, a wife, a student, an educator, and all the other roles I occupy fiercely. I’m sure they add to the long list of what’s “wrong” with my eyes, but for me genetics plays a bigger role. I’m created with thin skin around my eyes, so despite 14 hours of sleep, green tea bag masks, and highly priced creams and concealers, my authentic eyes always sneak out of disguise and into the world. A realization that took me a while to accept and embrace, but I finally did.
I’m not sure why I always allowed comments about my eyes to pierce through my heart, but looking back at life, maybe it’s because I always considered my eyes to be a blessed gift, one of my greatest possessions. They’ve always brought me through pain, joy and everything in-between. Each morning by the will of the Almighty they open again, and gain to begin a new journey into the unknowns of the day. If that’s not bravery I don’t know what is.
What changed? How did I come to appreciate and show gratitude to myself, to people and things around me? How did people’s comments and judgments start to bounce off instead of settle deep within me? It wasn’t a short lived journey; it was one filled with self searching and self development.
I’ve known people who swear by positive affirmations. Such as standing in front of a mirror every morning and saying statements such as “you are beautiful, I love you, you are strong,” and the like.
When I first read about this practice, I thought, how vain! But in a world that constantly darts ugly messages at women, having thick skin is crucial.
After learning about the effects of positive affirmations on the mind, I decided to try it. However, I have changed them to suit my beliefs. After all, the one who created the heavens and the earth, also created me. Accepting this creation, and acknowledging its magnificence, being grateful to it, is ultimately thanking He who created it right! Allah the Almighty Lord of the worlds.
So this is how I incorporate positive affirmations into my life.
Intention first. Taking care of myself is solely for the sake of Allah swt, the one who created me to worship Him only. After all, If I am not in my best outer and inner states, than how can I worship Him with all that He deserves?
I then say “Bismillah, Allah creates beauty, I am His creation. My body arms, legs, skin, eyes, exists by His will, who am I to question their designer, the most Perfect designer, they are beautiful.”
“I am strong, for His sake, I am beautiful for He creates beauty, I am compassionate; a beautiful quality that enables me to share love, joy and peace with those around me.”
This dialogue with myself opened my yes to an inner world within me, within women all around me; mothers, sisters, wives, friends and daughters. An inner world that if not cultivated in the right direction will be destroyed by societal expectations and ideologies. We’re never happy with who and what we are, never tall enough, thin enough, pretty enough, and successful enough. Those with short hair wish for longer and those with dark hair wish for lighter. This goes the same for skin color, we tan, we lighten, we iron out wrinkles, and ultimately we hurt ourselves on a daily basis, with words that cut deep within us. Each morning second guessing what we look like. Standing in front of the mirror spitting out statements such as: “Maybe I need to start a diet? Maybe my skin can be firmer, maybe my complexion can be clearer”. Yet after all this bantering and attempts at fixing we find ourselves in front of the mirror again the next day, concocting a different wish list.
So I committed to be more mindful, accepting and loving of myself. Transgressing boundaries of mere physical existence. Recognizing my inner self and giving it life, giving it a dialogue of value and power.
What an empowering thought process. To love my sunken, tired, eyes? Really!
What a foreign concept. To love a part of me that was always considered a flaw, an imperfection.
Today, looking in the mirror, staring deep into my eyes, and not just at a physical entity I see, I see the story of my life.
Life has not always been rosy. Life has not been easy. It sometimes has not been kind, and yes my eyes show it. Sometimes sunk in an ocean of tears from pain, and sometimes glistening from tears of happiness.
What if I simply said thank you!
Thank you for being part of my joy, and also releasing my pain. Thank you for the hours in nature, for the time with my children. With them I lay eyes on the most enchanting creations by my Lord the Almighty Allah swt; without them I am lost.
What a ground-breaking discovery!
Now just imagine that we open this dialogue with our mothers, daughters, friends and sisters in the world? Self-acceptance, love, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude. Taking the power away from people, opinions and all the external entities that cut away at us. Instead, giving that power to our inner selves. Cultivating an inner dialogue that can withstand the shattering bullets of societies and cultures.
They say eyes are the mirrors of the soul. Yet I don’t think we’ve ever looked into our own eyes. We instead get distracted by where our eyes take us; to the dark circles, to“imperfect” skin, hair, and other body parts that need “rescue”.
Once we can embrace ourselves with this care we are able to dig deeper and find more meaning in our lives.
Ask yourself how long are you willing to fight this battle? Taking away precious time and energy that can be spent towards growing into the person that you are on the inside. A motivator, and enthusiast, a risk taker full of ideas and energy just waiting to explode in ways that will change the world.
A mother who can love harder
A wife who can support stronger
A student who can be more present
A friend who can give more time
A neighbour who can lend a helping hand.
This is all I really want. To take this power back and put it into what carries the most meaning in my life.
I am here in life, at this most beautiful place, and I invite you to join. You don’t have to wait till you’re 20 or 30, 40 or older. The sooner you take back the power and change your inner dialogue, the closer you will to realize your talents, gifts, and blessings.
As for my eyes, sometimes, I choose to cover them with creams and colors, but most often I choose to walk with them bare unadulterated. I cover them because I feel like it, and I don’t because I don’t feel like it. Whatever choice I make is not filtered through the lens of the world’s ideologies of what I as a woman should look like. It’s my choice and I own it.
I show up in the world, exactly the way I want to. In my own skin!
My comfort within my skin shows, it glows, and it touches the lives of those around me.
“Asalamulaykum, hello, how are you, what can I do, how can I help, maybe a lending hand, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and sometimes a simple smile…are part of my daily life. I can look people in the eyes, and allow them to look back into mine, with an open heart not worried about the effects of their opinions, or statements. Because today these opinions don’t hold the power to cut deep within, they simply fall off like dust on my shoulder.
It’s a journey as usual! Learning to get out of my own way, loving, caring and accepting my true most authentic self will take time, it may take my lifetime. But it’s a journey worth venturing on.
So push aside the world’s lens. For, they will call what you have and don’t have “imperfections”. Focus on your inner self, and change your dialogue to self-love and self-acceptance. I promise you, it will seep into how you see other females in your world; your daughters, sisters, and friends.
As for my eyes, they carry a beautiful story, and only those who can see beyond them as a physical entity, are truly deserving to be part of this story.