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On self love, body image and the importance of friendship

15 Aug 2016

I have always been in this grey area about my body; I don’t consider myself to be ugly but I’m not drop dead gorgeous. To be honest, I don’t care that much for my appearance and now that I think about it, this is a bad thing. From a young age I developed the mechanism of apathy towards my looks to protect myself from negative comments. I just didn’t care. This was the only way I could be confident in the way that I looked because I told myself that if I didn’t worry about appearance who would?

But this wasn’t the truth; I did care about what people thought of me, like any human would. I had fooled myself into thinking that I didn’t need people to tell me I was beautiful. A little part of me did, at least once in a while. I can’t remember ever being told I was beautiful. Friends and family would of course tell me I was pretty but they had to. Nobody who didn’t have to tell me I was beautiful told me I was beautiful and that hurt.

Though I had a chubby exterior, my interior felt empty at times. I felt like I was ugly and less feminine because I was big. I felt that at times people didn’t treat me with the respect I needed and deserved. I guess that I just didn’t feel loved. I came from a loving family and had all the love I needed and more but somehow I felt like it wasn’t enough.

I can remember when my family moved from one city to another; it was a big move. I left every childhood friend behind and had to make new ones. I was only ten at the time. We started going to a new church and things were very different to what I was used to. Kids there were mean and absolutely horrible. I never felt like I fitted in with them. I didn’t feel accepted. They made me feel bad about my weight. Calling me all these names and laughing at the way I looked. I didn’t choose to be the size I was. I was only ten. It was the first time that I seriously felt bad about my weight.

Even though I didn’t see it at the time, it really knocked my confidence. I became really self-conscious and self-aware. I questioned EVERY outfit I wore. I used to ask myself, “does this make me look too fat?” What a sad thing for a young girl to say. Looking back it brings tears to my eyes. I was subjected to body shaming from a young age, from people who were meant to be my friends. I didn’t deserve this. I was only ten. I couldn’t really stand up for myself, I was the new girl. I felt like I couldn’t tell my parents. I didn’t think anyone would understand. It was my problem to deal with because it was my body and I was the one who was fat. I internalised the bullying and so desperately wanted validation of my own self-worth.

I felt like as a big girl I always had to be more. I used my personality as a wall to hide my insecurities behind. My loud, vibrant and opinionated nature was hiding a fragile black girl who just wanted to feel beautiful. I was hunting real badly.

I’m eighteen now and still fat. But I am learning to love myself.

I find great strength in the words “slay” and “queen”. For me the words hold meanings of power (over my self-esteem); beauty (in who I am) and courage (in the way approach situations). It sounds childish but to me slay=beauty. It’s one of the best compliments anyone can give to me. It empowers me. Recently I have observed that young women like me are hearing positive rhetoric from the likes of Beyoncé and Fifth Harmony. Both sets of musicians are using their music as a platform to spread messages of self-love. When I hear songs like Reflection and Formation, I instantly feel uplifted. Self-affirming music reminds me that I’m worth it.

I find great inspiration in my friend Lily, who is a beautiful person inside and out. She always tells herself that she is beautiful, that she is worthy and that she slays. I think that is something we should all do. At first I used to think she was conceited and arrogant but I was just not used to loving myself. We are not taught to appreciate who we are but to instead improve ourselves and seek validation from others. Lily taught me a great lesson that is regardless of what people have to say, I slay! And let’s not forget that I’m a queen.

When you hear positive affirmations you get used to them and normalise them, so then it becomes something natural to you. Loving yourself becomes natural and as it should be.

We all need more friends like Lilly in our lives. People who tell us we slay and remind us that we are queens (or kings or royalty). The kind of people who love themselves so that they are able to love others.