Almost 6 years…almost 6 years of self hatred, of feeling like I was ruined, of feeling alone. You see, before that I wore bikinis on my honeymoon and felt sexy disrobing in front of my husband.
And then I got pregnant. And then I gained weight. And then I developed stretch marks and a deflated tummy. And then I became miserable.
It was within these 6 years that I refrained from undressing in front of my husband. It became routine to quickly grab a towel if he entered the bathroom. But my child? No. My child didn’t care. To him I was nothing but his Mommy. The Mommy who’s tummy he’d kiss while I read him a story. The Mommy who’s tummy he’d lean his head against as he wrapped his arm around me to give me a hug. My tummy? My weight? It meant nothing to him.
But grown-ups? We think differently. We are raised by society and impacted by the media to believe there’s only one type of beautiful. Well, I’m here to say, “Fuck that!” I’m here to say we have to start lifting ourselves up so that we can lift our children up. The endless cycle of self hate has to stop.
[Image description: The photograph shows an African-American women standing in a black bra and black panties with white stitching on them. She has just past shoulder length dreadlocks in her hair. Her left hand is down at her side and her right hand is bent at the elbow at her waist. She is holding a pink camera cell phone. She is appears to be standing in a room. The flow is blurred with black and white squared tiles. There is a small rack on the wall with multicolored fabrics hanging from it.]
So, here I am. All of me. Period.
I look in the mirror and remember that this tummy kept a child safe for 9 months. I look and I remember that these breasts nurtured that child….that these hips gave him a comfortable place to sit as I carried him around. I look and I acknowledge that I am a woman. That I am Natalie. That I am beautiful.
It took years for me to acknowledge that the comments made about my appearance from my mother were her own views on how she saw herself. I applaud her and love her for finally admitting to me that she forced her own image issues upon me. I work with her to remind her of her own self love.
It took me years (and ultimately a divorce) to acknowledge that my husband did the same thing. The upturned eyebrows at what I was eating, the words of “encouragement” to hit the gym, and finally private email exchanges referring to me as a “200lb tub of ice cream” and a “fat slob” put things into perspective for me. A perspective that I should have realized when I felt pangs of guilt when he’d make a comments such as, “they’re gross” when he saw HUMAN BEINGS leaving buffets. HUMAN BEINGS that didn’t fit into what he defined as…well, as HUMAN BEINGS. I look back and think, “Why didn’t I see this before?” No, that’s not right. Scratch that. I saw this. I knew what I was hearing. I was just as guilty as I was too much in my own head wondering if he’d ever think the same comments about me and my body. I failed there. I personally apologize to all those who’ve ever had the faint feeling that someone was talking about them.
I wholeheartedly break the cycle.
I break the cycle starting with myself: No more “I’m fat here” or “I just need to lose 15 more pounds” or “I’ll feel so upset if this new guy doesn’t like me because of my body”.
I break the cycle with my child: I will continue to remind him how much I love him. I will continue to remind him we are not defined by labels forced upon us by the media.
I break the cycle with my friends and family: To all of them in all their beautiful shapes, sizes, colors and sects- Know that I will always continue to tell you how special you are, how beautiful you are and how much I am blessed to have you in my life. Remember that I will WITHOUT A DOUBT stop you when I hear self hate rear its head.
I Natalie, wholeheartedly break the cycle.
P.S.- And for those wondering what happened with my ex-husband: We’re doing pretty good. It’s amazing how well you shine when you don’t allow yourself or anyone else for that matter, to lower your confidence.[Headline image: The photograph shows brown skin shot from the side. There are stretch marks on the skin and a two thin orange ropes around the waist. The person has a hand on their hip and belly. The fingernails are painted light blue.]