Learning to Love Ourselves

rn - potential stock photo 3

by ariela

I believe that loving your own body is one of the hardest things for a woman to do. Granted, it might be easier for some women and harder for others, but overall I get the feeling we women simply struggle with loving themselves and embracing their bodies.

Why?

There are many reasons, and depending on the culture you grew up in might affect how you view yourself. A conservative, nondenominational, homeschooling, and patriarch-supporting family like mine? I grew up being told that my body was a stumbling block for men and therefore I needed to cover it up. Skirts had to be below the knee and all shirts had to pass the “tummy test”. If you aren’t familiar with this degrading dressing room ritual, it’s where you do various things such as bending over to make sure the shirt doesn’t pull up to reveal your back/butt, and raising your hands as high as you can to make sure no stomach is revealed at all. Once I turned 11, shorts were pretty much a no-no, because puberty was coming. I’m in my early 20s and it’s been almost 11 years since I last wore a pair of shorts.

Because of all the shaming, I have believed for many, many years that my body was a lean, mean, seducing machine. Unless I covered up, men would stalk me, just waiting for a glimpse of sinful flesh that would instantly make them rape me.

It’s dangerous. And to top it off, I’ve always been slightly overweight, so there has been the added pressure of losing weight to have a “body that pleases the Lord”. Because, you know, Jesus ONLY loves women who wear size 0.

Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too curvy, too straight. Your boobs are too big, your boobs are too small. I’ve heard it all.

Is it any wonder we struggle with loving ourselves?

I almost feel like a parrot, because this subject has been written about so many times. But maybe if we keep talking about it, things will begin to change.

Things have already begun to change for me. A few days ago I had my hair cut into a bob, which I’ve always wanted. My grandma is completely ignoring it and my dad can’t bring himself to say he approves.

But I realized that I don’t care anymore. It’s my body, it’s my hair.

I tried on a new shirt a couple of weeks ago and looked in the mirror. The shirt really looked good on me so I told myself something; I spoke out loud and said “Damn, woman, you look sexy.”

Do you know what happened? No, men didn’t come leaping out of the crevices to attack me. The world did not explode. The Lord is still on His throne.

But I felt a surge of confidence come over me.

It’s my body. Why shouldn’t I love the curves that form me? It’s me, after all.

Do yourself a favor, dear. Look in the mirror and even if you don’t believe it, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself how sexy you look. I can’t see you but if I know I would agree with you.

Haven’t brushed your hair in two days and still in those ratty sweatpants? Love yourself anyway.

Just dropped a couple pounds and wearing a new dress? Love yourself anyway.

Overweight, with bags under your bloodshot eyes and a stained tee shirt? Love yourself anyway.

Get picked on at school for wearing that outfit because you have a tiny build and need to gain a couple of pounds? Love yourself anyway.

As I learn to love my own body more, I hope to keep writing on the subject. Meanwhile, keep telling yourself encouraging things. What do you want to hear someone say about you? Why don’t you say it to yourself?

“Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?”

— Maya Angelou

Breaking the Rules

by ariela

Growing up, I was never much of a rule-breaker. This is changing, and I am realizing that it can be a good thing. Because fundamentalism has a way of taking lies and power plays and turning them into rules. Rules that press into your soul and hold you back from finding who you really are.

I am breaking the rule that says I am “only” a woman. Breaking this rule felt like jumping off a cliff; it gives me new life and expands the possibilities of my world.

I am breaking the rule that says I must conform to my parent’s dreams for me. Breaking this rule feels like running through a heavy downpour of rain; I cannot be stopped despite the oppression pouring down around me.

I am breaking the rule that says my words must be perfect. Breaking this rule feels like a burst of energy in the middle of a marathon; my words do have power and meaning even if they aren’t exactly perfect.

I am breaking the rule that says my art must be like everyone else. Breaking this rule feels like dancing to a new beat; who cares where my paint goes as long as it expresses my soul?

I am breaking the rule that says I am worthless. Breaking this rule feels like stepping into the light; I don’t need to be afraid for people to compliment me and my work.

I am breaking the rule that says everyone must agree with my writing. Breaking this rule feels like a breath of fresh air; I can write what I want and don’t have to worry that everyone will approve or not.

Tell me, darlings. What rules have you broken or do you need to break? How can we help you break free?

This post was inspired in part by a writing prompt from the writing community Story Sessions, which Ariela is a member of. Please consider checking it out and joining the story?