This I Believe: Words of Others Do Not Determine My Self-Worth


Daja Burley, Creative Contributor

Daja Burley is an everyday senior focusing on keeping her GPA on track, but still uncertain about her plans after high school. She is a proud member of Sahuaro’s Marching Band, and has been playing the clarinet for 7 years.  At first she felt uncomfortable about the assignment, but when she started writing it, she understood the purpose of the essay. She says it is definitely one of her favorite assignments.  In this personal essay, she talks about the “crippling judgement of  people”, and how it affected her for years. 

I remember when I was a kid, I would be walking down the aisles of Park Place Mall with my mom. As we would walk, I noticed all the cute outfits that were on display. But then I realized that on T.V and in the magazines, that white or light-skinned women were the ones modeling, being called beautiful and the ideal woman. These thoughts would run through my mind and I would think to myself I’d look nice in that if I was white.

This is how I thought of myself. I began to doubt the beauty that was my ebony skin, or if it was beautiful to begin with. I hated myself. I hated my skin. On multiple occasions during my childhood, I would think that my life would be easier if only I had a lighter skin tone. I even thought about bleaching my skin to reach that perfect shade of brown, to be anything but black. But I knew I could not change who I was and it devastated me.

However, when I came to high school it got worse. Last year I decided I was going to put myself out into the cesspool of high school dating. I preceded to talk to a guy, and I felt as though we actually had the chance of becoming a couple. At the end of the year, I asked him out and he told me, “I’m not really into black girls, so sorry about that.” Is that all I was, just a black girl? His words crippled me. Is my skin so dark to the point I am ugly? I reverted back to the days when I hated myself. I would compare myself to the girls who were blessed to have fair skin, and it sickened me that I could never have that gorgeous, porcelain skin.

Being tuned down because of my skin color brought me back to my childhood. When I was twelve, my mom recommenced I get a skin lightening medicine. Medicine for my skin? Am I sick? Is my ebony skin a sickness that should be cured? I was confused and refused the offer. The thought of my mom wanting me to change my skin has stuck with me these past years and because of it I would degrade myself. I was black and a dark skin black, the worst of the worst.

Returning to the present day, I realize he was just one guy, so it was nothing to stress over. I moved on and starting talking to another person of interest. “I’m only into Mexicans” he tells me. What bothers me the most is that it does not even occur to people that I am more than a skin color. I was devastated; however, I was prepared for that sort of response for, it was not the first time my skin has let me down. My skin was a wall, blocking me from achieving what I wanted. Even when it came to wearing cute outfits or even talking to guys.

What I do not understand is why do these people merely brush me under the rug because of my skin color. They give me no justifiable reason such as: ” I don’t like how you act” or “You smell awful all the time.” No, it was just my skin color and no further reasoning. Perhaps I could fix a minor flaw to better myself, but I cannot fix my skin. I do not know why I had to be cursed with this for the rest of my life.

Back to my dating dilemma, once I got over those two guys, I started talking a new person recently. I sincerely liked this guy, and I truly hoped he would give me a chance. However, I had to ask the question. My friend asked the question for me, for deep in my heart I already knew what his answer would be. “Are you into black girls at all?” His response destroyed me, ” I’m not really into them.” Is the skin I was born with a curse? Is it a taint? No it is not.

I love my ebony skin that I am blessed with. For a long time I hated myself because of the features I was born with. That ends today. I have learned throughout my childhood, my middle school experiences, and throughout my four years of high school that I am beautiful no matter what anyone says. The words of other people will not determine my self-worth. This I believe.