I have a secret I don’t like to admit: I have not always been body positive. I’ve spent all 23 years of my life in a love-hate relationship with myself. It’s a toxic, bone-gnawing, tumultuous affair that I do not know how to leave — that I couldn’t even when I want to. Oh, how I’d love to.
The truth is that I never felt very comfortable in my skin. It’s always felt like chunky sweaters and too-long pants do — too much, too extra, just a nuisance that hangs from my bones. How often have I daydreamed about cutting away all the excess flesh until there is nothing left of me? How many times have I dreamed about curling up and becoming smaller, smaller, smaller, until I disappear completely?
But I am learning to honor my body. I am learning not to judge it. I am learning to treat it like a friend — with understanding, with care, with affection.
I have never treated my body well. I’ve left scars all along the surface. I have filled it with unhealthy things, I have ignored it when it tried so desperately to tell me that something was wrong. I have treated it like it is an inconvenience.
But my body is not a nuisance; it is not extra baggage I am forced to haul around. It is my home, my temple. It is the vessel in which I experience the world, in which the world experiences me.
So I’m reclaiming it. I’m forgetting everything the world has said about it and letting go of every criticism. I am learning what I think comes first — what I believe is what matters.
I’ll start with the small things — I will look myself in the mirror and say it. “You are beautiful.” Even if I don’t believe it. “You are beautiful.” Especially if I don’t believe it. “You are beautiful. You are beautiful. You are beautiful.”
I will feed my body the food it needs. Not the half-assed greasy meals that make my stomach churn the moment I ingest them, but things that make me feel strong and clean. I will fight the urge to lay in bed all day and instead go out into the world and do things that make me feel productive, useful. I will treat my own skin as if it is something to be cherished. I am letting my body have the things that make it feel better, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I will love myself, and I won’t feel shame in that.
So I’m dressing up in my favorite clothes. I don’t care if it shows too much skin or if it accentuates my curves in ways that make you uncomfortable. I’m putting on my favorite makeup. I don’t care if the blood red of my lips is too “loud” for you. I’m showing off my tattoo, the one you once looked at and said, “Well, at least you can cover it up easily.” I won’t hide anymore. I’m showing the world the version of myself that makes me happy, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.
And you know what? I will dance in public, even when I feel embarrassed, and I’ll wear the outfits people say I’m not “supposed” to, even when I feel self-conscious, and I will hold myself tall, even when the world makes me feel like I should hang my head. I will let myself take up the space I have always been afraid to occupy, even when I want nothing more than to shrink to nothing.
Maybe the first step to self-love is learning how to fake it. To tell yourself you love your body even if you don’t believe it. Maybe self-love comes with time. I think it’s my time now.
I will love the cellulite on my thighs, the curve of my hips. I will love my birthmarks, my scars. I will love the way my stomach jiggles when I laugh, the way my smile shows my crooked tooth. I will love my eyes, which have always seemed too plain, too boring. I will love my dimples, my nose, my hair. I will honor them.
I am learning to love my body. It’s a process, but I think I’m finally ready.