One day I was on the beach with a friend and as we strolled down the ocean’s edge, we looked at other beach goers in bikinis and gossiped about everyone.
Of course, we talked about what they wore and the various bodies on display. What I remember about that conversation was when at one point, she said to me “I wish I have your confidence to wear whatever I like”.
I remember smiling and saying, it’s because i have literally stopped caring about not just what people think about my body, but what I think too.
I smiled to myself because that confidence didn’t come cheap. See, I grew up hating my body and what I looked like.
For so many reasons.
I was a prebubescent skinny kid who was molested at 8/9 years old. That was the beginning of hating my body.
I blamed myself because I somehow believed it was because of what I looked like. I blamed myself because the adults around me would always scold me for not sitting ‘properly’ with my legs pressed together. I thought my abuser put his hands inside my vagina because I sat with my legs open and I hated myself for it.
Then came adolescence and puberty and my body rebelled. I grew up too fast. I had to start wearing a bra when other girls in my class didn’t have to.
Then one day I went to the neighbourhood store on an errand, wearing just a T shirt and the store guy stared at my chest with my budding breasts and pressed them till it hurt.
I cried all the way home.
Being a teenage girl who ‘filled up too fast’ in a low income neighbourhood like I did, was not fun.
Grown men stared and made lewd comments everytime I passed, grown women looked at me and made comments about how my breasts were getting bigger because “I was allowing boys to press them”, my mother tore up my favourite brown skirt one day because “it will attract men”.
Nobody ever told me it wasn’t my fault.
I saw everything about my body as an imperfection.
Every other day, my mother would make comments; today it’s my hips getting bigger, tomorrow it’s my stomach, next week, it’s my arms, the comments never stopped. It was always something or the other.
I never used to think I was beautiful either. Even when I became older and i got compliments from people, i didn’t believe them.
Things didn’t change overnight though. I didn’t wake up with an epiphany about how to love my body.
It took a long and winded journey of self discovery and faith to get here.
Yes, I said Faith.
Christianity, for all it’s attendant issues (that I’d rather not go into here) helped open the door to seeing myself as a perfectly created being.
Understanding that I was intentionally created and loved by God, helped me see myself properly and love myself back.
On my self love journey, I learned how to stop internalizing other people’s biases, negative comments and issues.
I learned how to be kind to myself, how to give myself grace and how to see myself exactly how God sees me; beautiful and deserving of all good things.
I learned the power of positive affirmation too. I learned to affirm my body out loud. For me, it was purging my soul of all the negativity I had internalized and accepted.
It took a while, and I stumbled many times because honestly, the world we live in doesn’t make it any easier. Everyday we are bombarded with ‘standards’ on what we should look like, what the ideal body is and why we would be ‘happier’ if we just fixed this part or that part.
My relationship with my body is very personal. She has being through a lot with me and we have grown together. Every roll, every fold, every curve, every dip, every spot and mole is a tangible part of who I am.
When I said my body confidence didn’t come cheap, this is what i mean.