“I Am the Soul that Lives Within”

“I am not my hair/ I am not my skin/ I am the soul that lives within.”

India Arie’s lyrics speak volumes, especially today. I adored her and this song as a child, shouting the lyrics playing through an iPod dock speaker alongside my sister. The relatability was undeniably apparent in our lives, in my family, and in the world. I always thought it was beautiful, understood most of the message as a little girl and continuously watched the music video featuring Akon over and over again.

And then I was recently listening to a podcast called “The Self-Love Fix” by Beatrice Kamau. In one of her episodes, she mentioned India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” when discussing the idea of knowing your worth and the importance of it. I smiled when the relationship between the song and the message in the podcast became clear, and I began listening to “I Am Not My Hair” again as if it was the newest best song of the decade. However, I found to have a much deeper connection to the lyrics this time, a much stronger connotation to the song.

“I am the soul that lives within.”

I always sing this line with my hand over my chest, feeling its words sink into my spirit and embrace my soul.

I find that I must believe in this lyric if no one can believe it themselves. I fear that sometimes, all there is to me is my physicality, that no one stays to know me and all that I am within. Throughout my entire life, including my childhood, I’ve let people define me. Their criticisms and judgments—all their words, comments, questions, insults—somehow defined me. And I must have been a fool for letting them, for sometimes not finding the strength to stand up for myself and who I know myself to be. To be frank, I was never taught, but now that my voice has power and I detest to remain quiet when being criticized or insulted, it’s as if I committed a crime, that suddenly I’m too sensitive or I’m completely overreacting.

It’s difficult to believe that I am more than my hair or my skin, especially when many consistently think it’s a compliment when they say I have the “best skin color”or that they love my hair “better when it’s straight.” Surprisingly, most men love when my hair is naturally curly, but that becomes the first thing they notice, and continue to notice…and continue to compliment, nothing more.

But I am more.

I am more than my hair.

I am more than my skin.

I am more than my age.

I am more.

Much more.

And if no one can see that, if no one can take the time to see me, then I must.

Because to me, I am the soul that lives within.

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