What society dictates

We live in a paper world. I don’t say that to limit the beauty of creation but rather to question humanity and the arguably universal societies in which we live. Perhaps you could call this ‘social satire’; it’s an absolute joke. First of all, I want to address the big obsession that we as a collective have on this concept of aesthetics. Physical aesthetics. It is hard to understand why there is a narrow box that one must fit in order to comply with societies standards of beauty. ‘You’re my type on paper’ is a phrase that I am certain you are all aware of. Is that what we as human beings are defined by? And here I am not referring to the few individuals who wholeheartedly find all people beautiful regardless of their front layer, I’m referring to the majority, I’m referring to society. The wicked truth is that in the eyes of society, we are defined physically by whether or not we meet a particular criteria on a metaphorical piece of paper. Paper standards guys. And who creates these standards? Celebrities? The media? The Government? Queen Elizabeth? No, none of the above. The truth is you make them. I make them. We make them. We are society.

The ironic thing about it is that although we as a collective set these standards, we struggle to uphold them. Only a few, though lightly, manage to play by the rules in the public eye. It’s a game that we created but cannot seem to play. We try to sugarcoat it, with various paper protests regarding ones physical appearance trying to undo the damage done. In turn we as individuals feel obliged to join certain movements which yet again causes those who object to be looked down on. We then end up in a vicious cycle of finger pointing and trying to decide which is the ‘right’ way to think. It’s always ‘us against them’ and proclaiming that ‘not everyone has to be slim and fair’ whilst simultaneously potentially insulting those who fit in those categories. Why the fixation on looks? Why don’t we set societal standards based on respect, love and cooperation?

We need to break these cycles, there’s a dying world out there, a real world, not the paper world we’ve created. The key to life is kindness, being kind to ourselves despite the way we look and being kind to others despite the way they look. Let’s take appearance out of the equation. Truth is you’re all beautiful; that’s a fact. But what really matters is the society that we create for our children and grandchildren. Let’s leave them more to cherish than a paper society.

Love Always,

Shadz xo

melanin.

For the majority of my life I have been surrounded with people from all over the world. In fact my friendship circle consists of British, Hungarian, Nigerian, Indian, Polish, Pakistani, Dutch & Bengali people and many many more. The clash of cultures has taught me to not merely tolerate and accept race, but to completely submerge into the cultures of others, embracing every difference. My problem, however, was never ‘getting used to’ or ‘blending in’ with people from other cultures as I was born into a multicultural society. My insecurities lay not within how I responded to others but rather how I perceived the way that other people would respond to me. This led to a tainted view on how I viewed my race and thus a large part of my existence. Of course now, as I’ve grown older I’ve learnt to embrace my own race just as I have everyone else’s. My puffy hair and hot chocolate coloured skin is nothing for me to be ashamed of, I am BEAUTIFUL and so are you.

Truthfully and thankfully I have never experienced hardcore racism of any sort. Throughout secondary school, particularly during the earlier years, I was labelled as an “Oreo” by some of my white peers (which I embraced) and “white” by my some of my black peers (which I didn’t embrace). In hindsight, it’s hard to pinpoint why exactly the different names had opposite effects on me. Perhaps being called an “Oreo” by white friends seemed playful, perhaps affectionate and accepting into their race (but I still couldn’t understand why I had to be an Oreo and not a chocolate digestive). On the other hand being labelled as “white” by my black friends came across as an insulting, cold hearted and rejecting from people of my own race. (I did have Asian, Mixed race and Hispanic friends, but they never labelled me anything in regards to race.) After a while I internalised these labels and saw myself as being black on the outside and white on the inside. Daft right?! I jumped on the bandwagon by starting to see race as a personality type, defining my racial identity by the interests I had and the labels set upon me. I often felt “too white” for my black friends and “too black” for my white friends. These feelings were and always will be a mistake. It is toxic to believe that hobbies, passions and interests are stamped with a racial barrier. I assure you that you can do and love ANYTHING that you want to do that empowers you regardless of your race and how others may perceive it. I begun to distance myself from many of my black peers (bar a few who I’m still friends with to this day, shout out to you gals!) because I didn’t feel as if I could relate to them. I often felt different from my extended family (we are Caribbean) as I felt that the perception my classmates had on me shone through at family gatherings. This caused me a lot of anxiety and led to me feeling very lonely within the most loving family for a period of time. I could not fathom why enjoying different types of music, speaking in a sophisticated manner, enjoying ballet and contemporary dance, hanging out with different people and speaking openly about mental health was classed as ‘white’ and why being or ‘acting white’ was seen as a betrayal to my heritage by my peers of colour. Likewise, I didn’t understand why my white friends felt they had to announce that I was a black person who perhaps enjoyed and embraced things that were stereotypically part of British culture. I just wanted to be me. I no longer feel any sort of anger or resentment towards any of these people for labelling me, they were (and many still are) my friends. We were all conditioned by the standards of society and I understand that they did not say it out of malice but rather because of societal pressure to conform to the norms.

Theories of being ‘colour blind’ are untestable. The key is to see race fully and actively choose to not define people by their outer appearance or cultural background. Understandably we live in a diverse society and so it should be without a doubt that we no longer define ourselves or each other by our race but I know some people around me still struggle with race and that’s okay. If I were to teach my younger, more insecure and vulnerable self and others one thing about race, it would be this. Cultural differences exist, but we all have the opportunity to unite. Dialect varies, but meaningful communication is universal. Traditions vary, but good morals are reflected in every nation. Racial history varies between cultures but unconditional love is what should bring us together and set us free. In essence the differences between our cultures should not tear us apart or cause us to fall into hatred and intolerance but rather bring us together, allow us to learn more about each other and cause us to grow in love and acceptance. There are more similarities between us all than differences. The YouTuber, ‘Prince Ea’ published a video a few years back about race and it was one of the most heartfelt videos I have ever come across. He posed the question “who would you be if the world never gave you a label?” His answer was “we would be one, we would be together” which as a girl who had struggled with societies interpretation of racial identity, spoke a lot of truth to me and was very comforting. (I’ll link the video down below).

I can only thank God for freeing me from the pressures of the world and allowing me to see myself as I was made. It was a journey to acceptance that I will never forget, one that I’ll cherish forever and one that I will use to help others who are going through the same thing. The human race in all it’s forms is beautiful. The multitude of cultures, races and nationalities that have surrounded me in my life this far have shaped who I am today. Forever and always embrace who you are and be open to learn about and love others.

Love Always,

Shadz xoxo

Prince Ea – I am NOT Black, You are NOT White http://youtu.be/q0qD2K2RWkc

A matter of connection: A bit of friendship advice….

Friendships and human connection are a major part of the lives of the majority of people living amongst us. Humans are social creatures and thus desire to connect with others. Many people, more specifically teens, have the mentality of “group=safety” whereby they spend the majority of their teenage years thriving on the idea of “fitting in” rather than being an individual.

Now, there is no issue with wanting to fit in and there’s no problem with wanting to find friends that resemble oneself but the toxicity comes when the desire to fit in puts your happiness at stake. In essence, it becomes an issue when you go out of your way to change yourself in order to gain respect and admiration from those who you associate yourself with. This can be in the form of changing your passions or interests, compromising your personal morals and adapting your appearance. These are all toxic signs. I’m not generalising all circumstances and I’m not dictating that all people who experience this are in toxic friendship groups, but from personal experience and from the tales of those close to me who have also encountered these situations, it is a good sign that you may need to reassess your friendships.

Friendship should not be competitive regarding things that you cannot control; ie: looks, weight, popularity, intelligence, family life, but instead ones friendship should encourage you, support you, value you and of course help you to believe that you can reach your goals. We should be quicker to listen to others than we are to speak and I believe this is important, especially when one requires the care and attention of the other.

Everyone is an individual, so it’s by no means a 1-for-all topic. It’s not always a matter of acquiring meaningful friendships overnight. It does happen though, that people meet, unexpectedly, and become the best of friends but also note that friendship is a journey, not a destination. You’ll meet many amazing people as you go about your teenage years, and some will become lifelong friends. However, do not live in blatant ignorance. Although I value all people regardless of their past actions and do not believe that a person alone can be toxic, I do strongly understand that not all friendships you encounter will be sincere, so just be mindful. Ultimately, friendship and human connection is so important and I hope and pray that you all develop powerful friendships that will lessen the downsides of this beautiful life.

Love Always,

Shadz xo

The Beauty of Christmas!

Hey guys! Merry Christmas!! What’s your favourite part of Christmas? Is it the decorative lights? The presents? Spending time with your family and friends? I love all of these aspects, as most people do, however, as a Christian, Christmas to me is so much more! Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ through joyful songs, generous giving and all round fellowship and collaboration with those in my community is what truly makes my Christmas special. This year, today in fact, I had the absolute pleasure in helping out at a Christmas party/meal for those who are less fortunate than myself which was organised by my incredible church family. Giving back to the community and sharing this special holiday with those who are short of either company or money has definitely been one of the major highlights of my Christmas.

Christmas for most is a season of peace, love and joy regardless of faith and beliefs. I hope all of you out there experience the peace, love and joy that you well and truly deserve. I wish endless laughter and happiness to you and all your families!

Will be back with another blog in the New Year!

Merry Christmas!

Love Always,

Shadz xo