"How I feel about myself is more important than how I look. Feeling confident, being comfortable in your skin—that's what really makes you beautiful." —Bobbi Brown
This article was originally meant to target women who have yet to accepted their bodies after giving birth. But then, after my photographer Deun Ivory posted one of my pictures on Instagram, I remembered… most women, with or without children, struggle with some of the same insecurities. So scratch the mommy body empowerment article and lets just focus on the basics: LOVING YOUR BODY.
Now, some of these images may make you uncomfortable. You may turn your nose up and laugh; write nasty comments and talk about how this will never happen to you- but just know, that this article is not for you. This article is for the millions of women out there who recognize that their bodies are a piece of art. That it will continuously change and that it will naturally show signs of maturity, growth, age, and for those women who are super lucky: motherhood.
As some of you may or may not know, I’ve been on a journey to fully love myself. I’ve hid many of my insecurities by putting on a "strong woman" front and acting as if nothing ever bothered me. But that’s not really who I am. And in all actuality, A LOT of things bother me. One of those things happened to be the stretch-marks on my stomach.
The Stretch Marks:
When I was 17 years old I found out that I was pregnant with my now eight-year-old son. I was young, fit, and very active. Matter of fact, I continued playing sports up until I was 4 ½ months pregnant (with doctor approval of course.) At this point, I was on top of everything, taking my prenatal vitamin, increasing my water intake, and eating as healthy as I knew how. For my skin, I made sure my stomach was always moisturized. I used Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, and any and everything that said “prevents stretch marks.” And everything seemed to be working out fine --- well at least until the day before my son was born.
I can still remember the fist time I seen a stretch mark on my body. I was admiring my stomach in the mirror and then, as I looked closer I could see a small mark. At that moment I was like, “Oh okay… so I’ll have one little mark… big deal.” I immediately applied a generous amount of product on my stomach and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I looked in the mirror again to inspect the little mark that I’d seen the night before, and, chillllllllleeeeeee, it looked as if the baby inside of me was a tiger scratching to get out.I was so upset. I’d done everything I could do to prevent this and now my whole stomach was full of stretch marks.
Being the super hormonal pregnant woman that I was, I cried, cried, ate, and cried some more. I questioned myself. Who was going to love me with these things? How was I ever going to wear a bathing suit? Why did this happen to me? I was only seventeen!
The next day I gave birth to my son, fell in love with being a mommy, and forgot all about my stretch marks. The End!
Sike! I was horrified. Things between me and the father of my son were not going well and I was embarrassed about my appearance. I was now 18 and wouldn’t dare put on a bikini. I turned away when dressing in front of others, and wouldn’t chance doing the dirty with the lights on. At one point, I researched creams, lotions, and pomades (none of them worked) and surgeries and laser removal treatments (I would never purposely go under a knife), and then I just decided to “tighten my skin up” by working out. I managed to get a 4 out of 6 pack, but no matter how hard I tried, the skin stayed saggy and the stretch marks would not go away. For years I dealt with not loving myself. I was self-conscious in relationships and I hated my body.
It wasn’t until recently, eight years after giving birth to my son, that I learned to understand and accept my body for what it is. I was doing a live video on Facebook with some of my friends and we began to talk about love and forgiveness. My friend Jenai Harris made a statement about her journey with love and stated, “If you can’t learn to love yourself, then how can you expect anyone else to?” I’d heard the statement before, but the context in which it was said made me really reflect. How was I going to start a blog and tell people to love themselves when I didn’t even love myself? I decided right then and there that I needed to go face to face with my insecurities. I decided to no longer feel self-conscious about my body.I would no longer allow society to define MY beauty. And I would fall in love with me, completely. And after years of hiding myself from myself I finally seen who I really was.
I wanted to celebrate the end of my body insecurities by having a perfect stranger document my moment through photography. And that’s when I met the super dope and super talented Deun Ivory. As Deun began to photograph me, I felt a sense of pride and liberation. This moment was bigger than any photoshoot I had ever done. This was personal. This moment was a defining moment to erase years of self-hatred and revel in self-acceptance. I removed society’s standards of beauty and stood tall in my truth. I have stretch marks, so what! I’m no longer ashamed. My body has accomplished so much: the immense beauty of motherhood; the pleasures of maturity; and the undeniable journey of growth. There is no one, not even myself, that can ever make me feel badly about my skin.
The Take Away:
Understand this… we are all more obsessed with our appearances than we’d like to believe. There’s so much emphasis placed on how a woman’s body is supposed to look. If you post any image of a woman, good or bad, people will have something to say. And how can we not? There are mirrors everywhere, fashion do’s and don’ts, condemnatory magazines, and TV shows with the sole purpose of tearing women down for not looking a certain way. Advances in technology and, in particular, the rise of social media and photo sharing, has left us wanting to look like people who spend thousands of dollars to look like plastic Barbie’s. And for centuries, women’s bodies have become some sick twisted fantasy with standards so rigid and uniform that only 5% of the female population can obtain it. You never see real looking women in commercials, on billboards, in magazines, or on TV shows. These women have the perfect bodies, the perfect teeth, and the perfect hair.
However, your neighbor, your co-workers, and your best friend(s) are all going through the same struggles as you. We all have flaws and insecurities. Yet, we continue to all allowed the media to take the what’s ours and mold it into something that’s unrealistic. Your body is yours. You have to live with it , so get used to it.
You may not have stretch marks from pregnancy, hell; you may not have stretch marks at all. But I guarantee you there is something that you are struggling with. Whether it’s your weight, your hair, or your breast size. Just know that there is no such thing as a perfect body. Most pictures that you see nowadays are photo-shopped and edited anyways. You are beautiful. Every scar and every imperfection, has a story that makes you uniquely you. Your body is your temple. Embrace it and show it the love and attention that it needs. Never let anyone make you feel like your body is not worthy of appreciation.
Sexy, near naked, and provocative pictures flood our news feeds daily. They make other women who don’t look the same feel inadequate. Well, here’s a different kind of provocative for your feed. Enjoy!