I used to absolutely despise my body. This hatred dated all the way back to elementary school. I’d try to deny it. I’d go to pool parties where girls would wear two-pieces, and I was that fat girl desperately trying to rock the bikini — which was doing my body no justice.
There was no escaping the barrage of esteem crushing “role models” who immeasurably damaged our self-image. Growing up in the age where scrawny, pre-pubescent Miley Cyrus led a double life as Hannah Montana, my idols had no curves and looked amazing in anything they wore (even that swan costume Miley Cyrus wore on one Hannah Montana episode).
They exuded this confidence and beauty that I attributed to their physical appearance. I hated my ugly, fat body for not granting me that luxury.
My lack of self-esteem continued through middle school when I moved away from my home. The one place that despite my discomfort in my own skin made me feel like I belonged.
I was a 5’4″ seventh grader who wore size 16 pants and could barely squeeze into an XL shirt.
The worst part were my stretch marks. I noticed them on my love handles one day while I was getting dressed. I was horrified. I thought I had a rash of some sort. I looked them up on WebMD — for an accurate diagnosis — and swore this was the end. I was sure I had scurvy, but no, it was worse I had stretch marks.
I started noticing these unsightly lines all over. I was desperate to rid myself of these hideous striations, so I took to the internet and googled a remedy. A miracle remedy called “emu oil”. Twice a day I’d carve out thirty minutes to slather at least 40 percent of my body in emu oil leaving my skin shiny and slippery, not in a sexy way either — more like a sea lion. One month and $40 later, I saw no improvement.
I was cursed with a curvy figure and the stretch marks of Octomom. My self-esteem continued to plummet.
Throughout most of high school I had given up an accepted my fate as fat-stretch-mark-girl. I’d go to lacrosse practice and see all of my athletic friends sprinting with ease. Meanwhile, I was the winded girl who was last to finish the warm-up lap. I felt hopeless.
I’d try a week-long diet in hopes of getting in shape and making the marks disappear. To no avail, I’d give up a week later and continue the cycle of self-hate. Yo-yo dieting became a part of my eating regimen, but it only perpetuated my poor body image. Whenever I would lose some weight, I’d gain it right back and have more stretch marks to show for it.
When I transferred to a new university, I met open-minded people who encouraged me to try new things, wear different clothes, and above all, be myself completely regardless of other’s judgment. They made me realize in the struggle to conceal my body, I was concealing personality and my true self — my unique quirks, passions, and personality. The people who allow you to be you without judgment or expectations are the invaluable people that nurture your soul.
The sooner you realize that you don’t need everyone’s approval, the sooner you can start to move forward and love yourself.
The people in my life appreciate and love me, including my flaws, and so should I.
Flash forward to today, I’ve lost over 25 pounds, but more than that — I treat my body with the love and care it deserves.
I still have my stretch marks, they’ll never go away. Surprisingly though, I love them. I’m a goddamn tiger who has earned her stripes.
They remind me of the journey I took in loving my body. I love myself completely, inside and out. Every last stretch mark.
This post originally appeared at YourTango.