Hi friends. I know that I have written countless blog posts and Twitter threads on the subject of self-love body positivity and fat acceptance (etc etc) for you guys in the past, but I guess this time I’m writing this more for my benefit than anything. Selfish, I know, but it’s my blog and Idowhatiwant.
The subject of self-love has been a difficult one for me this year, I won’t lie. It’s been a year since The Series of Unfortunate Events (not the book) occurred and during this time I’ve been struggling a lot with regards to my self-image and self-esteem, which hasn’t been an easy ride when your depression decides to rear its ugly head too.
I let a lot of outside influences dictate how I felt about my body; from being told that I didn’t have the right type of plus size body to be deemed attractive enough to be with anymore, to guys on apps blocking/ignoring me once they find my Instagram page and see my face/full body, it’s taken quite a toll on the old self-esteem. I began wondering if there was actually something wrong with me physically and started to ponder whether I should just lose weight in order to be seen as attractive by someone. I felt ugly, invisible and not worthy of love. As I type this out, my face is contorted in disgust, but sometimes one can’t help feeling like that, y’know?
However, one thing I’ve always stood behind when it comes to doing things to help you feel good about yourself is either walking around in or taking pictures of yourself in lingerie. It always puts a spring in my step and upon shooting this with Kaye, I was shitting myself the whole time. Taking photos of myself in my room with a shit lens and controlled lighting? A BREEZE! Taking photos of myself in lingerie in public? Slightly less of a breeze; more of a slight gust. Since shooting these images and looking back at them to see how awesome I look, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, emotional unpacking and recalibrating and I wanted to share with you some of my steps to achieving self-love.
Get naked with yourself (or at least get some gorgeous underwear). Start at the top and work your way down, feeling your entire body as you go. Take the time to stop and examine parts you feel unfamiliar with.
Learn your body. Stretch marks, bumps, hair, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles. SPREAD YOUR CHEEKS in the mirror. Sniff your own armpits. Grab your belly. Wobble your arms. Take pictures of yourself in beautiful underwear, like this Anoushka set by Elomi. There’s nothing like having the right set of underwear to make you feel like a million bucks, and Elomi knocks it out of the park every time. Send a thirst trap to yourself. Find you a photographer and take pictures of yourself on a public street showing the goods! You don’t become friends with someone just by looking at them. You make an effort to get to know them, and over time, they become a source of familiarity and comfort. Your body has the potential to be your BFF.
One thing that I’ve learned over the last 4 months is regarding the relationship with my body is that my body is not the enemy. When I allow myself to check in to this truth, it creates space for me to have a real compassion for my body. Even when I’m not feeling fantastic, I can come back to knowing that my body is working with me, not against me. It’s my best ally in living my fullest in celebration of radical self-love.
Honestly, truly. During the really bad times last year, I developed insomnia for a number of months. I tried everything possible to get me off to sleep but to no avail. One of the best things I’ve ever invested in has been the Headspace app. Not only do they have daily meditation exercises, but they section it off into different categories. They have meditations on self-esteem, depression, grief and other not-so-nice-things and it knocks me right out.
What I love about meditation though, is that it gives me that time to be one with myself. For 10-15 minutes, it allows me to centre myself and actually feel the skin I’m in. I talk to myself and repeat mantras until I fall asleep. It’s a beautiful process that has really helped me to be at peace with my body.
WEAR CLOTHES THAT FIT WELL
Because there’s nothing more depressing than buying an outfit in a size you think you should wear, then being upset when you realise it fits badly. Let it go sis! During the bad times last year, I lost 3 dress sizes in a short amount of time as I stopped eating (depression + heartbreak is a bitch). I bought smaller clothes as a result, however, when I began eating normally again, a little of the weight came back on and there was a point when I was almost annoyed as I wanted to continue wearing the clothes I was wearing but ended up feeling uncomfortable because I was forcing it. Nowadays, I throw out all of the rules about what I’m ‘supposed’ to wear and style my body in clothing that speaks to me. It’s definitely tough to find plus-size clothes that work at times, but it’s not impossible – and I never love my body more than when I’m rocking my favorite outfits.
UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF CONDITIONING
From birth, we are exposed to a specific series of images in our media that reinforce the attractiveness of an unattainable ideal of female beauty. We are constantly affronted with photo-shopped images of actresses and models who embody these traits, in a process designed to make us feel worthless and insecure so that we BUY MORE PRODUCTS!
The cosmetic industry is a multi-billion pound per-year industry because let’s face it, if we all loved and accepted our natural bodies, would we feel so compelled to purchase diet pills, skin creams, plastic surgery, makeup and butt pads?
We are incorrectly taught to believe that we need to look a certain way in order to be happy. Not only does thinking this make happiness unattainable by putting it into the future (“I’ll be happy when … I lose these five pounds!” or “When my tummy is flatter”), but it directs women to focus their energies on the body while giving less emphasis to their minds and spirits and other amazing things about us. The earlier you recognise that the media are shepherds of the Devil, the faster we can begin to unpack the toxicity and begin our journey to self-love.
ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOUR BODY ISN’T BAD
My fatness doesn’t exist in a vacuum. People care about my fat body because we have created these invisible structures like capitalism, misogyny, and colonialism that teach us what bodies are good and what bodies are bad. The problem is, they’re wrong, friends.
The reason why people have issues with my body is not because my body is bad. As Glenn Marla says, there is no wrong way to have a body.
So instead of getting upset at my body for not fitting into the thin ideal, I let myself get really angry at the people who have created these social structures.
That anger often ignites my determination to wear a crop top and proudly display my fat arms and stretch marks. LOOK AT MY BAWDY. LOOK AT IT AND SEETHE.
CHIRPSE* YOURSELF. GAS YOURSELF UP.
Here are some positive affirmations that have helped me on this journey. Repeat these to yourself in meditation or say them out loud in the mirror. At first, this might be difficult and some tears might be shed (trust me). Just know that whatever happens, this is all part of your healing and growth.
- I am enough
- I am beautiful
- I am unique
- I love and respect my body (also, my mind and spirit)
- I am more than my body
- My body is a safe, happy place
- I reject artificial standards of beauty that do not serve me
- I love myself unconditionally
- I see the beauty in all living things
This is admittedly the hardest part for me. Self-deprecation is an art form for me, soI’mm still trying to get to a point where I believe the things I’m saying. I’m hoping that one day I will get there, but baby steps!
(*for those unfamiliar with Afro-Carribean London parlance, to chirpse means to ‘chat up’ or flirt.)