I was inspired to write this blog post while standing in front of my bathroom mirror, about to get into the shower. I noticed something new on my underarm. A new stretch-mark. Staring at me in the face with it's bright redness. Its newness. At first I did what we are all wont to do - I got really, really, really fucking sad at my body. I stared at myself for a good long while - soaking in everything I was unhappy with. I let myself have destructive and damaging thoughts for way too long. And this is something we all do - it's what we've been trained to do. We're constantly at war with ourselves, with our bodies. Putting ourselves down and criticizing any change that occurs. It's not easy to recognize all those small subtle moments where we are thinking damaging thoughts - and it's even harder still to try to reverse those and have good, healthy conversations with ourselves. But. With practice (and a dash of stubbornness), those healthy conversations can happen - and you can begin to feel at home in your body.
Above, is a completely un-retouched photo (of my butt, yes. Hi, butt). It has a lot of stretch marks. There's more on my thighs, on my chest, and now one of those silly little buggers made it's way onto my underarm. "Stretch mark" is a word that often brings shame to women. We flinch away from them, call them our "flaws". I am asked to edit them out of photographs, because we don't want people seeing that we have them. They are areas of shame. But why? What is a stretch mark? It's evidence.
Evidence that you live in your body. That you are growing within your body. That your body is adapting, you are adapting. It's stretching to make room for all of the amazing woman it embodies. Your stretch marks shouldn't be badges of shame - they should be badges of honour.
After I realized the toxic conversation I was having with myself in front of that bathroom mirror, I stopped myself. I held up a hand to myself and shut that body-shaming asshole down. This new stretch-mark didn't mean anything other then I'm growing. It's another sign that a beautiful human resides within this skin. Stretch-marks are just keys on the kitchen table. They're coats hanging on the back of the door. Socks left on the bathroom floor. They are proof that this is someone's home.
Stretch-marks. Scars. Wrinkles. Laugh-lines. Those are a part of our story. They shouldn't be a reason to stand in front of the mirror and hate yourself. They should be loved. Touched. Caressed. They are pieces of us.
I want you to do me a favour - I want you to do you a favour. If you have a moment like I did, standing in front of a mirror, picking out your flaws. I want you to mentally hold a hand up to yourself. Shut that body-shamer down. Would you let someone talk to your best-friend like that? Hell no! Talk to yourself like your best-friend would talk to you. Start restructuring those conversations that you are having with yourself. It may not be easy. It might feel fake for a long time. It still feels fake to me, sometimes. But try. Shut your body-shaming tendencies down and tell yourself: "I'm beautiful." Touch your body. Trace those stretch-marks with care. Give your body love and words of encouragement, she needs it. Remind her that she is a home - she is your vessel. And above all us: love yourself radically. Love yourself endlessly. Never. Stop. Loving. Yourself.
My favourite act of self-care and love is taking a bubble bath, and then rubbing body lotion over the parts of my body that I struggle to love. My squishy back chub, my tummy. All those little jiggly bits that society tells us are no bueno. I like to pay particular attention to them and mentally whisper a giant "fuck you" to all body-shamers. Now I want to know... what's your favourite act of self-care? Do you have one? What area do you struggle to love the most? You can anonymously send me your answers with the form below. I promise I won't share (unless you would like me to share your story). The only thing I will do is stand with you in solidarity and give you a giant e-hug.