Growing up dark skinned: 'I accepted being called an ugly duckling'

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NOMALUNGELO MAJOLA. (Photo: Supplied)
NOMALUNGELO MAJOLA. (Photo: Supplied)

AS a child, I never had a problem with my dark skin. I saw people’s skin almost as a mix of different flavours. I was just a dark flavour. But as a teenager, I all really wanted to be accepted. I had a teacher who would pick on me often. She would say, “hey, you! Blacky! You’re making a noise.” It sounds absurd now that a black person would call another black person “Blacky”.

When she first said it, I thought it was harmless. But when I saw the facial expressions of those around me, I understood that I was being attacked. It became a habit of the teacher, cripplling my self-confidence. 

I BEGAN TO HATE MY SKIN

The emotions I had towards her grew intense because a part of me liked her. I longed for her affection and hated myself because I felt like my skin colour was stopping me from getting that.

She kept on throwing negative words towards me in the presence of my peers. I wish I could have stood up for myself and stopped the bullying. I thought there was something wrong with me because a teacher didn’t like me.

I WISH I WAS LIGHTER

I was told that if my skin colour were lighter, I would’ve been beautiful. I began to believe it because the same thing was said by many others. It must be true, I thought!

I started fantasising about being light-skinned. I enjoyed being lost in my fantasies because in them I was light and loved. I felt like my real skin was foreign. I would’ve done anything to trade it.

LOOKING INWARD

When they said I was an ugly duckling, I accepted it. At 15 years old, I didn’t have a strong self-esteem. I didn’t realise that I had power to love myself. Being liked by others was more of a priority then.

How did I overcome the pain of being labelled as an ugly duckling? It is a process I’m still undergoing but the first step was to forgive myself. When I did I was in a better place to handle the bullying.

NOTES TO MY YOUNGER SELF

Everyone is going to try to label you. There is nothing you can do about it. Your teacher was older than you but that doesn’t mean what she said was true. Don’t torment yourself and suppress your greatness. Freedom starts with the mind, as we unchain every negative thought that was said to us.

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