Each of us share our personal stories on our journeys to self acceptance. No holding back.
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This post is so special to me because I think it is extremely important to open up about your insecurities in order to face them and eventually conquer them.
My confidence didn't blossom overnight. Let me tell you, it took me a long time to get there. And, I have to admit, I do still have my moody days just like every other girl. I guess it's just a girl thing.
For the most part, my insecurities began during my teenage years, when my body took a turn on itself. It seemed like overnight, my hips got wider and my feet grew so much that I could no longer fit in the cute regular shoes.
Oh what a journey, I remember being called big-boned and wide hips. I used to get embarrassed that I had to get bigger sizes in clothing and that I wasn't a slim figure like I once was. Even when my mom used to reassure me that I was perfect the way I was, and had a beautiful Coca Cola shape, back then I didn’t appreciate it. Mainly because most of my friends were slim and I wanted to look like them.
To make matters worse, when I started to get stretch marks on my hips, dear Lord I thought it was the end of the world lol. I remember asking my mom if there was a cream available to remove them. I remember vividly my mom giving me a look, as this was not an issue, meaning that you’re turning into a beautiful woman and to appreciate my baby-making hips. To cover up and draw less attention to my big hips and big thighs I used to wear extra baggy clothes.
For me, the road to self-love and acceptance came when I decided to do a self-evaluation and to look at myself in the mirror to appreciate my blessings. I also did a lot of positive reinforcement and adopted more positive thinking.
I'm telling you once you change your mindset you learn to accept what you have. The layers of shame and insecurities disappear and are replaced with confidence and body acceptance.
Let me repeat it again I love my body, I love my shape, and I wouldn't trade it in for anything in this world. My stretch marks are a proof that I earned my stripes by becoming the confident woman that I am today.
Thank you mommy and everyone that has been so supportive of me when I get down, you are very much appreciated. Someone shared this quote with me once and it stuck with me: Go where you are celebrated and embraced, not where you are tolerated.
As a mom, the body positivity movement that we’re participating in is quite essential. I want my daughter to grow up in a world where being harassed for simply being yourself is not an issue. While it may be naive of me to think that this is even achievable, doing nothing is sure to maintain the status quo – and that is simply unacceptable. If it means that I have to bare it all in order to get closer to that world, well that’s what I will do.
Whenever shorter well-meaning strangers tell me "I wish I had your height!" clearly they don't know the drama that comes with this frame. Don't get me wrong I (now) LOVE my height. It is how God Himself created me... But it was not always the case.
I was always tall – by always, I mean from elementary school. I was called the giraffe, a giant and Le Plus Haut (translation: The Tallest – my fellow Haitians will understand). I was called these things in school (sometimes by “authority figures”) and by extended family members as well.
My support system (i.e. my immediate family) taught me to be tough and not to let that stuff bother me, but it didn’t change the fact that it stung every time. My mom was 5’2″ (clearly, I got my height from my 6’3″ daddy), as such, while she was always loving and supportive, she couldn’t fully understand my struggle. I do remember one of my favorite teachers, who was also tall, had the best clap back game ever. One of those stuck with me for years. Everytime she was told “My goodness, you grow like a bad weed!” (which happened often), her response was “Yes, and manure stays close to the ground."
Being that I was much taller than the average, and I also developed rather early, people often assumed that I was older. So I was either ogled by older guys or treated like I was “slow” – either way, I would feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. I just wanted to fade and disappear. So I would not walk as tall or straight and was very self-conscious – this is probably the best kept secret because I would never let it show.
I don’t quite remember when or what made me turn the tide, but I came to the realization that being a statuesque woman totally rocks! I realized that my body was mine and feeling bad about it would not change it. Yes, I command attention when I walk into a room, and that is ok! I just flash a million dollar smile and go on with my life! You see, no matter what package you come in, agonizing over things that you cannot change is simply unhealthy. Instead of trying to change our bodies, let’s try to change the landscape that leads us to believe that our bodies need to be changed in the first place. Instead, let’s just be healthy, be the best us, and be happy in the skin that we’re in.
I read a brilliant piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for The Atlantic (see here) where the opening line of the article critiquing the Nina Simone biopic states, “When I was a kid, I knew what the worst parts of me were – my hair and my mouth. My hair was nappy. My lips were big.” To that list I would also add thighs and a rear end that were and still aren’t a runway model size. My sister Leslie and I were blessed to have been raised by parents who loved, nurtured and supported us but a daily dose of media consumption (tv, movies and magazines) for me that meant I often felt inadequate, frustrated and always feeling like I was on the outside looking in when it came to fashion and Eurocentric standards of beauty. So, as a child and adolescent I knew that my physical characteristics were not “in”, “hip” or “cool” and I wore that knowledge like an invisible blanket of shame.
Growing up, I was BEYOND preoccupied, obsessed with and embarrassed because of the size of my thighs and butt. My “thunder thighs” (an insult hurled at me by an elementary school classmate) and butt did not allow me to wear the tapered acid wash jeans of my dreams that were oh so hip when I was younger. Those bad boys were simply not going to get past my knees. Oh and let’s not even go there with pencils skirts. I might have been able to squeeze myself into one but the zipper just would not allow me to be great.
It also didn’t help that I was bullied in elementary school. My tormentor was a red curly haired biatch (yah I said it) who was relentless and pretty much always had me in her cross-hairs. Thankfully, she was a grade ahead of me so when she graduated I finally had some peace. So, to combat my feelings of not being good enough, I threw myself into sports (I loved track and field, field hockey and school)….especially school. In our home, the talk around the dinner table was not “are you going to university” but rather “what are you going to study WHEN you go to university”. I am so grateful for the love, support and encouragement from my parents.
By focusing on what I was good at, to some degree, took my laser beam focus off of the size of my thighs onto what I could do and accomplish versus solely being about what I looked like and that was where my journey to body acceptance and confidence began and still continues. I began to appreciate what my body could do instead of oh, my thighs are big and ugly.
Don’t get me wrong I still have those days of feeling just crappy about the way I look but more often than not when I look in the mirror I love what I see.
As I grew up, and my world expanded beyond the four protective walls of hearth and home, I began to notice which kids in school were considered the prettiest, which people were gracing the pages of “YM”, Seventeen and Vogue magazine and the ones on all the tv screens, I had to do an Arsenio Hall –esque “hmmmm”. I, with my pressed hair that reverted to its natural tight “naps” in wet, damp or humid weather, did not look like any of them. I did not have the long flowing hair, or look “exotic”, and when I got into high school, I did not develop the bosom or curves that the boys seem to like. Let’s just say, my milkshake did not bring all the boys to the yard! This was the start of my obsession with thinking that I’m totally shaped like a young boy.
But for real; I have almost no boobs (I honestly think I’m a minus A cup), a tiny, unimpressive booty (ain’t nobody rapping about that), and broad shoulders. I have an athletic build so it’s like I have little baby muscles too! This feeling I had of my body looking more boyish than feminine, was my obsession for a long time. The non-Caribbean people seemed to love my body because I was so slim, but they were also the ones that then turned around to ask me if I washed my hair when I wore it any way but straight. Then I had the Caribbean people, who seemed to consider the prettiest women to be the ones with the larger bosom and big booties (none of which I possessed). I just felt unattractive and like I did not belong anywhere.
Fast-forward a few years, I eventually began to realize that we all have areas on our body we’d love to work on, and let’s be real ladies and gents, as we get older, we will find more we’d like to change! But I’ve learned that we all have areas on our bodies that someone else would kill to have, and it’s important to accept and dress the body you have right now, not the one you hope to have one day. In my case, I realized that FIT IS KING, and a great fitting push up bra and properly tailored clothes make a HUGE difference to how I look and feel. It is also important to stand tall, and carry yourself like you “run things” even when you don’t feel like you do and trust me, there are days when I definitely don’t feel like I do! But you need to fake it till you make it! That air of confidence; shoulders back, head high, chest lifted, changes the whole shape of our bodies, non-verbal cues, and even how we think. But more importantly, I realized that even without the fantastic bra, or fitted clothing, my body is all mine. If I don’t like it, who else will? In the famous words of He Man “I have the power”!!! It starts, and ends, with me.