Dear Eight-Year-Old Me,
Come here, love. I want to hug you. I want to tell you some things about yourself that you don’t know yet. You see, I know the thoughts you keep to yourself. They are all the things you hate about yourself. The roundness of your face. The smallness of your eyes and nose. How people tell you your hair is so black and straight when it is not. You wish you could look like your friend with her large nose and eyes and wavy brown hair. Or your brother with his oval face and long nose and light brown eyes–with his extra eyelid space. He looks like your white mother, and you wish you did too. They tell you that you look like your father–your asian father. You hate this. It’s not like you think poorly of your father. You just think your brother and your mother have the most beautiful faces. It’s true, they do. But so do you. You are incredibly beautiful, my dear.
I want to explain things to you, things you might not understand. But you will eventually. They call how you feel about your asianness internalized racism. It’s when you take the bad of what other people believe about your race, and you believe it yourself. It’s not your fault. They’re lying to you. They’re wrong. They’re not seeing you how God sees you. When God created you, He purposefully laid out each feature on your face, every hair on your head. Just as He has made waters both shallow and deep, both beautiful and purposeful, He has made deep-set and shallow eyes. He has made noses that curve both up and down as hills and valleys rise and fall. He decided that for you your eyes would sit gently on the surface of your face and your nose would slope downward with grace. Your features would be small like pearls, and your irises closer to hematite than caramel. You’d have a faint beauty mark over the right side of your lip and a bolder one on your right cheek. Your smile, with age, would bring slight dimples. Would crinkle your eyes and make them shine. Your hair would gleam in the light, in each strand all the colors of your ancestors dancing as one. The roundness of your face would be sweet, invoking a sense of youth that would remind you that you are a child of God. This is who you are. This is how you have been made. Nothing they say can change that.
Do you see how much you have to celebrate? You are absolutely beautiful. I want you to know that your race is beautiful as well. Remember how you love that you have an ethnicity per finger on your left hand?! Chinese, Italian, Scotch-Irish (basically two), and English! Stay excited about that. Remember when your teacher asked what your middle name was, and you said it started with an E, and no one could guess?! No, it’s not Emily. It’s En-Xin. It was like you had a little secret to share, something that made you so unique that no one could see it coming. Keep enjoying that. Keep celebrating your name, even when people pity you for your poor pronunciation. How you pronounce it is beautiful, because it’s only yours. Don’t believe those who discount you for being ‘less’ of any one of your ethnicities–they just want to feel like they are ‘more’. But you are always more than enough. You don’t need their approval for that to be true.
Finally, my dear, count every way that God has made you as a blessing. You are blessed when you look into the mirror and have the privilege of seeing yourself. You are blessed when you run your hand through your hair, and it is smooth like your father’s and soft like your mother’s. You are blessed when your sunglasses fall down your face because your nose bridge is not high enough. You are blessed when you feel that one crooked tooth, and you’re reminded of how your teeth look so different from your brother that the orthodontist couldn’t tell you were related from your teeth molds. You are blessed because you’re related anyway. Oh, my love, you are blessed, and I love you. One day, you will be learning to love yourself too.
Here’s to your sweet and tender beauty.
A Little Bit Older You
About We Wander Through
Michelle is a fellow sister in Christ, who has been faithfully walking beside me for a few years now. She studies English and French.
Read more like this at her blog, We Wander Through.