Thursday, January 5, 2012

5 Ways To Get Your Old Self Back

When I failed to embrace my natural beauty, I became someone else. But at 51 I'm back to the beauty of 21

Day 5 of Your Year To Wellness

I woke up earlier than normal this morning and decided to catch up on the news. I prefer to read the news. Actually, I prefer the days when news was read by people who had to write it themselves and then had to work hard to be unbiased in their delivery.  I’m old enough to sound like those folks who long for the good old days, but I’m black and a woman and we know that the good old days were not that good. Sorry, I’m leaning a little left this morning, but that’s because I watched the news. To clear my head I turned to one of those stations that shows really old movies. To my children that would be E.T or Jaws but by old I mean older than me. Imitation of Life was on. Now, for you youngins this was the original 1934 version with Claudette Colbert and Louis Beaver. There is nothing politically correct about Imitation of Life---at all, so if you watch the original or the remake for that matter, be prepared to get sucked into “them good old days,” I mentioned earlier.

The movie has many themes, but for me, the main theme centers on the black maid and her daughter who is light enough to "pass" for white (a term used to describe blacks who disregard their race and live within a white world. Typically, the only people who have no idea of the person’s real race are other whites…’cause black folks know.) The daughter tries to pass, but is unsuccessful at every turn. She blames everyone for her ill-fated life, but mostly she blames and hates her mother.

Now, I actually conducted my doctoral dissertation on colorism (a term coined by the writer Alice Walker.) Colorism is black on black discrimination. My dissertation, the first of its kind has been used as the basis for legal disputes and has been cited in a great deal of research studies, books, both fiction and non-fiction and even plays. I’m proud of this work and of the fact that my innitial obersvations were drawn from my own experience as a “dark” child in a family whose color ranges from Snow White to Slappy White. In my research, I found that the very light and the very dark received the same amount of discrimination from other African Americans and when I was done I was sick of all people, but really I digress. As I watched this movie and thought about my doctoral dissertation, I was compelled to change my intended topic for day 5 of the Year To Wellness, because an imitation of life is truly what we all do when we choose to be someone we were not born to be.

We are all given the tools we need for life. My round butt, dark skin and wonderfully nappy hair are a part of what makes me Bertice. In the past, when I failed to embrace my own beauty, I diminished it. I’m not saying that we should all run around without make-up or deodorant. (Why is it that folks who refuse deodorant, have a love for patchouli?) What I’m saying is that we all have things about ourselves that we’d like to change, but as you get older, you will find that those are the very things you want to reclaim. Women with wild unruly hair miss it when it thins out, and people who thought their thighs were huge can see just how huge they can become through self-hatred.

So, how do we get that old self back, the one we didn’t like when we had it?

·         Stop trying to be something you’re not—as simple as this sounds, look closely and you will see what I mean. Look at the groups you belong to and the events you attend. Are they a true representation of your desires and dreams? When we try to please others to the point of displeasing ourselves, we become Peola in the original Imitation of Life and Sara Jane in the remake. You will become angry with everything and anyone you perceive as real, simply because you know that you are not.

·         Make a list of your favorite songs, musicians, and films---When was the last time you listened to or watched them? We often change music when we change the people we interact with. Every life has it's own soundtrack. When I got divorced, I looked at my old record collection and wondered where I had been. On the day my divorce was final I turned up the music that hadn’t been played and danced and celebrated getting myself back.

·         Take yourself out on a date—Okay, I know I’m sounding crazy again, but it takes one to know one.  If you don’t like to be out alone, then you really have work to do. Like yourself enough to want to be alone with your own thoughts and feelings. Go to a movie or dinner alone. Take a book and go to the park. Enjoy yourself for an afternoon and get to know YOU again.

·         Watch yourself in different social settings ---and make an observation of the different mannerisms, vocal tones and behaviors. We all change in different settings; that is appropriate. You shouldn’t act the same way at a football game as you do in an office, but if you become Sybil (another old movie reference) no one, including yourself can know who you truly are.

·         Gradually reclaim you—if you jump back into your old self, the one from before marriage, kids and taxes, you will do more harm than good. Before I got my children (3 of the 5 came on the same day) I drove a little sports car. A week later, I had a minivan. Recently,I decided to rent a convertible sports car for old times’ sake; it was hot, loud and I had a hard time getting out of it.

There are some things about my past that I don’t need to revisit, but there are many, that I absolutely need to be whole and well.

Are you imitating life? Love you as you are. You can’t get the body you want until you love the body you have.

Be well, Be You, BE Whole

Bertice Berry, PhD


  1. Oh my... You have moved me to be the old me agian. I the days when I could just admire the sunshine without noticing the clouds blocking the other rays.

  2. I stumbled across this article, and I just wanted to say thanks! This is wonderful, simple to the point advice I just hadn't thought of.

  3. I like you and your writing. All true thank you,

  4. Thank you! In need of getting the old me back!

  5. Thank you Bertice, though I belong to a different part of this world, every word you said rings a bell with me