Sonam Akther, from Bangladesh, grew up feeling ugly and insecure, unable to meet the beauty standards placed upon her and other women around the world.
Today, Sonam, as an educated woman completing her PhD in neuroscience, shares a new story - one of self-love, where women praise other women for their work, for their ideas and values ...
In our society, young women grow up insecure, without self-love. They grow up with a message that pimples are ugly, curly hair is not beautiful, messed up brows don’t look good, and hiding skin imperfections is normal. Growing up with my pimples, curly hair, big nose, and oily skin, I also felt insecure. I was not taught to love my features. Society taught me they were not beautiful.
In my second year of university, suddenly, acne appeared on my face. Growing up with ideas of beautiful women from television, I felt insecure. I thought people looked at me with disgust. Whenever someone saw me after a long time, their first comment was, “Your skin has become too clumsy and blemished. You were so beautiful before. What happened?”
Those questions made me extremely sad and insecure. Once my acne situation got so bad, I skipped university for three weeks. I simply couldn’t let myself go out. My inner strength was shattered. With the beautiful women in all those magazines, with photoshopped skin and body, with all those advertisements where women's skin and body were the main things to show, I felt I was not good enough.
... with photoshopped skin and body, with all those advertisements where women's skin and body were the main things to show, I felt I was not good enough
After twenty-three years of life, I realized many magazine and TV women were fake. Their skin and body were photoshopped (not because they were not beautiful naturally, but because society had this weird definition of women's beauty). I learned the beauty industry was teaching young women to hate themselves, keeping them busy with their insecurities because only in that condition could women be controlled.
When I realized I was much more than my skin and body, I started reading more about people. I read lots of books that helped re-shape my view. When I realized even though women were brilliant, they were mostly praised for their beauty; it made me think…
We can’t control beauty, but we can control our ideas and values. So, when people praise us for something that we can't control but overlook our abilities, they do not want us to know our worth.
I saw how teenage girls were trying to get those Instagram looks and hating themselves in the process.
I saw how advertising companies showed women not having a job because she was not fair and beautiful, but after using that "miracle cream", she became three-tone fair and got the job! These advertisements tried to dehumanize women, hindering their talent and ability, showing that they only got the job because they are beautiful now.
I saw on social media people were selling creams, saying, "You will be fair after using these." Women use those harmful creams just to look beautiful, in the process becoming sick (even skin cancer). This agenda worked fine, and a whole generation of insecure young women are now out there constantly trying to figure their worth.
And nobody is holding all those magazines and fake images responsible for this.
So today, this is what I want to say to all those women out there who constantly feel insecure about their color, skin, or pimples. You are beautiful, honey. Don't let those crappy magazines and advertisements make you feel vulnerable.
Believe me, in real life, those women look exactly like you. Those images are not real. Never try to feel unworthy because society imposed some so-called beauty standard on you. You are beautiful, just the way you are.
It took me twenty-three years to learn self-love. To know that my curly hair is beautiful. To know pimples are natural and everyone has them at some time. To know skin imperfections should not be covered. Instead, you should feel proud of yourself.
I never try to use anything to hide my own skin. I am very happy in my skin. Now, I feel like I am the best among all. The last nine years of my life were so fulfilling because I learned to grow up beyond my insecurities and love myself.
We need to celebrate our mind - something we can control. We need to praise other women for their work, for their ideas and values. It will take years to reverse the damage. But we must start now. We can teach our daughters to love themselves.
We need to praise other women for their work, for their ideas and values. It will take years to reverse the damage. But we must start now.
We can tell them they are beautiful and smart. We can teach them how to support themselves and other women around them. We must build a sisterhood to encourage each other. We are much more than our face. Behind our faces, we are the dreams, the laughter, the kindness, the ideas, the adventures, the laws, the rights, and the mother of our future generation. If we believe in ourselves, there is nothing we can’t achieve.
Maybe society didn't teach us how to love ourselves, but now, we will teach our daughters never to feel insecure in their lives.
HELLO, I'M SONAM AKTHER
Born and raised in Bangladesh, I have my Bachelor's and Master's from the University of Chittagong in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
After that, I joined the same department as a junior faculty member. Now I am doing my PhD in neuroscience at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.