Time for some real talk – I have hated myself since I was around 6 years old.
That was around the time when three things happened: (1) My parents separated which later led to divorce, (2) My mother, little brother and I ended up homeless for the first time and (3) It was the first time I was told I had to lose weight. Of the three obviously there are two things on this short list that should hold more weight in terms of importance, yet they all greatly affected my self-esteem, body image and mental health.
It wasn’t until I entered my 20s, inspired by the bloggers I followed online, that I decided to look past the qualities that others celebrated and worked on loving the “flaws” I was always told I should make every effort to correct. I replaced my old wardrobe with new items. I learned to accept compliments. I started experimenting with makeup in ways that I found comfortable. I accessorized more. I cut my hair. Twice, even going shorter the second time. I’ve colored my hair a bold color. By all accounts, I’ve become a different person.It is truly amazing how much things can change in such a short amount of time, especially when it comes to the reactions of those close to me. For the most part I’ve been called shallow, vain, self-centered and even selfish for choosing to love myself over anyone else. I’ve always been the kind of person that will put everyone else before me, so the very fact that I can now say “no” or disagree with views regarding body image is a point of contention. And I will admit that this has upset me a bit more than the very negative body shaming comments that I always received growing up. I know that I can’t be the only person that has experienced this so I thought I should share some of what I learned in the process:
1. ) Don’t apologize
Making significant life-changes may mean disappointing some people. Friends and family are used to how you were that the very idea of you changing (in any way) fills them with either dread or misunderstanding. Sometimes both. In my case even with my introverted nature, I have become a bit more outgoing to the point of expanding my social circle, and less critical of myself which is essentially the root of all of backlash that I have gotten. Positive growth can and will be seen as negative by those that took advantage of your once pessimistic outlook. It’s ok to cut those toxic people out of your life whether they are friends or family. You don’t need that kind of negativity around and you shouldn’t be forced to listen to it either. Though this will be difficult it is important to remember that the right people will celebrate your progress with you and may even help along the way.
2.) Wear what you want for you
I was the type of person that would wear a black hoodie over any “outfit” I had on because I thought that in doing so I would draw less attention to myself. Mostly this was a response to being told that I was an embarrassment and that no one wanted to be seen with me because of how “ugly and fat” I was. So the very thought that I no longer want to cover up or hide is radical. I still take great care to put myself together everyday much like I did back then. I prefer no wrinkles, and match my accessories carefully. I even make sure that the way I part my hair to the right is done properly, however the difference now is that I do so for me. If there is a trend or style you want to try – do it! You deserve to be seen, to show off your personality and style. And don’t forget to take all those OOTD pics and /or selfies!
3.) Don’t expect them but do accept compliments
Your beauty probably won’t always be recognized but it is important that you do. It was a long struggle but I learned that my worth isn’t linked to the what others consider to be attractive or conventionally beautiful. I’m petite, I have curly hair, I’m black, I prefer to wear my glasses on a daily basis, and I’m plus size. I’m the kind of person that is celebrated in the media as the “before” picture for a weight loss/makeover journey, something that is supposed to change. So compliments are very hard to come by and when they do they tend to catch one off-guard to the point that we as women shrink away from them.
Saying “thank you” when someone says they like your outfit is the first step. Honestly the hardest art about accepting compliments is learning to believe they mean it and that they aren’t just saying this to be nice. (Or to be mean, since, let’s face it, shade is real.) Admittedly, I still struggle with this sometimes but I have found that once you start it becomes second-nature. (Plus its quite satisfying to see how those throwing shade your way react when you respond positively.)
4.) Share your journey
The body positive movement has gone mainstream in recent years with some brands even going so far as to use it as a way to gain customers however, marketing ploys do nothing in educating the public. Working on yourself is the hardest thing anyone can ever do, especially if you’re doing it alone surrounded by naysayers. In sharing your journey, struggles and all, you become part of a community that is right there with you. The more that we share our stories it will help challenge the beauty standards that once kept us away from shining our brightest.
At the end of the day just remember to be yourself for yourself. Spread the body love without fear and hopefully the rest of the world will learn to follow.
Have you noticed any changes in how people treat you since beginning your own body love journey?