Today I counsel a Young Biracial Girl whose confidence is shaken by her brothers’ rejection of girls who look like her.
I am a high school senior with two brothers I love. The younger is 16 and older is 19. We’re Mixed Black and White. We all look kind of alike—more like our Black father to outsiders, if you know what I mean, than our White mother, even though if you look closer you can see we share some of her features. Our parents are divorced, by the way. I live with my mom but my little brother and I see our dad often. (Our big brother is away in college like I will hopefully be next year.)
Anyway, I have always been confident about how I look and my body and all that, even though I have heard people say that Mixed girls have self-image issues if their father is Black and chose a White woman (their mom), because it sends girls the message that only White women are good enough. That has never, ever bothered me. Even though my Black father married two White women, my mom and stepmom, I have never felt inadequate because of that.
But it changed in the last year when both my brothers got serious with their girlfriends who both are White. To be honest, neither brother has ever had a Black or Mixed-Black girlfriend. They have dated Asian, White or Hispanic only, but it somehow is only striking my notice now. Maybe because these girlfriends they have now are over more a lot and are connected to my brothers at the hip.
So it just hit me recently: no guy in my immediate family has ever picked someone who looks like me.
Every time my brothers post picture of their girlfriends, I feel bad, like that’s what an attractive girl looks like—not like me. Not only that, everywhere I go, I can’t stop noticing magazines and ads with White girls showing how beauty “is supposed to be.” I used to just ignore that White beauty standard stuff.
I am attracted to people of every race, and used to be a flirt, but now I am starting to withdraw because I feel like I am not attractive anymore because I don’t look like those girls. This is not how I am normally, believe me.
I have not talked about this to my brothers. They both always tell me I am beautiful, but for the first time I don’t believe them. I feel like they have betrayed me. But at the same time, I am madder at myself than them because I am letting it get to me and I am not an insecure person.
How do I get over this and feel like me again?
Those ads in magazines showcasing White beauty standards have always been there, but up until now, you’ve taken them in stride, confidence intact. Suddenly, you’re thrown off course, susceptible to this country’s frequent rejection of Black womanhood.
Given your closeness, I suspect that hurting you is the furthest thing from your brothers’ minds—they would probably describe their dating choices as simply a preference or just “one of those things”—but there is no denying the pain you feel. It seems like your sense of betrayal is deep and profound, even if your brothers have not actually compared you unfavorably to their White girlfriends.
Do you believe your brothers have true aversions to dating Black or Black-Biracial women? If they do, it has nothing to do with you or your attractiveness, and everything to do with your brothers and their feelings about Blackness. As you know, Multiracial people tend to be flexible in dating and choose partners from a variety of backgrounds. Some of us say, “Well, me-plus-anyone is going to be a Multiracial relationship. Why limit myself?” Others identify strongly with one race or another. Preference and tendencies evolve as we go through life. Besides, I suspect that your brothers see more in these girls than their Whiteness—such as kindness, shared interests or senses of humor.
Is there something your brothers are doing to rub your nose in their choices? Since you did not mention anything, I can’t help wondering why this is bothering you so much at this time. You have always been accepting of your brothers’ dating choices and never personalized them until recently.
You mention that your older brother is in college and that you soon will be as well. A year from now, you and your beloved brothers will all be in three separate places. Is it possible that you are feeling premature anxiety about growing apart from them? If so, that could certainly exacerbate your distress over their dating choices.
On the other hand, it is true that some Black Biracial women have acknowledged a struggle coming to terms with their Black father’s choice of their White mother. It is possible that some deep resentment of your father’s selection of White women is now surfacing. It might have been triggered by your brothers’ girlfriends, or your imminent journey into the adult world.
At some point, I think it would be a good idea to talk with your brothers about your feelings, either separately or together. The purpose would not be to persuade them to end these relationships, but simply to share what you are going through and get clarity and support from them. If you are too raw to address this with them now, here are some other ways to get back to feeling like your confident self.
- Spend time with other women of color who celebrate their own unique, special beauty.
- Surround yourself with people who celebrate you for all of who you are.
- Engage in activities you love that get you in a mindset to appreciate your whole self.
- Remember the occasions when you felt most confident and identify what was going on, who was there and imagine what it might take to recreate those conditions.
Finally, if you try these things and are still not feeling like yourself, you might look into seeing a licensed therapist in your area. A qualified professional can help you pinpoint the source of your pain and insecurities, unpack them and ultimately identify strategies for turning them around.