Something we don’t talk enough about in the realms of body love, body positivity and body acceptance is that it takes work. Unlearning the heaps of body negative, ableist, classist and racist garbage that contributes to the ways we might hate or dislike our bodies is a journey that we all need to embark on at one point or another. Once we start to realize that we’ve become our own worst critics, cultivating a better, more loving relationship with our bodies is something we do for ourselves and to make sure we’re modeling the most positive body attitudes for our kids and the young people who look up to us.
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Whether you’re grappling, like so many other women, with the scourge of diet culture or have a more unique experience or encountered different stigma that has made it harder to accept or love your body, you can know that you’re not alone. To see all the different ways real women have done this work, we asked a few folks in our community to share their experiences with self-image and learning body love. Here’s what they had to say:
I’ve learned to love: My nose.
How: Growing up I couldn’t stand my ’strong profile.’ I worked for years with haircuts and contouring to minimize the appearance. I obsessed and despised it. I called it my witch nose, just missing a wart. It was not healthy at all… Then I learned of my lineage and how Abraham Lincoln and I share an ancestor. In truth, he is a ‘cousin’ and this strong profile has been part of my family for generations as old as the country itself. Learning about my family story gave me a different perspective on what’s important and now I appreciate all the generations that have come before and are still with me, in spirit and physically.
Why it matters: It matters because beauty truly is skin deep. It’s the family relationships and stories that are strong and enduring. I own my strong profile now as almost a badge of honor, as it reminds me of all the generations who came before me and sacrificed to give me this life. I honor that now by living my life fully. I used to obsess in mirrors and take 50 photos just to get a right one where my nose didn’t look so large. Now I live and take snapshots of fun, more focused on the moment and the memory. And…it’s just pretty cool to share a profile with Mr. Lincoln 🙂
I’ve learned to love: my Mommy tummy!
How: Because it is the evidence of my greatest accomplishment and the moment in my life that I was “self-amazed.”
Why it matters: I have had secret proud moments in my life, but I have never been openly proud and truly amazed with myself. I actually “fell in love with me” when reflecting on the birth of my two boys. I grew two entire amazing humans right in my body! I DID! ME! Wow, I truly am a badass mom blogger and am not afraid to shout it.
I’ve learned to love: my scar that’s 4″ long right in the middle of my abdomen. I had a life threatening, freak accident when I was a freshman in college. It took me a while to accept it, but now I go to the gym and workout classes just with my sports bra on, and feel comfortable going to pool/beach parties in just my bikini.
How: What helped me was doing Boudoir Photography. I’ve done a series of Boudoir Photography events and photo-shoots with social media influencers to help spread body positivity, overall confidence and self love. It helped me learn to love and cherish my body. I’ve posted my Boudoir Photography to the world without photo-shop or re-touches and share important messaging.
Why it matters: I’m now comfortable in my own skin, and have more confidence. I know I helped others too. I posted on my Instagram channel showing off my scar, and someone messaged me saying they have a scar too, and if I can post in front of a camera without being shameful then they are less embarrassed about their own scars. Slowly I’ve started to appreciate my natural beauty. I stopped wearing makeup everyday to work like it was a necessity. At one point I felt like I HAD to. Now I save so much time in the day and feel better about my natural appearance, more than I ever have before.
I’ve learned to love: My legs and my thighs.
How: I’ve taken the time to be more thankful to my body for all the ways it carries me through this world and for being a part of me, trying to be more active with that gratitude has been great for reframing old attitudes. I also got a tattoo over the summer on my thigh of a brain and a heart in a jar — kind of a call-out to the ways I’ve thought of my body in the past as a “container” for the real me as opposed to it just being me.
Why it matters: One of my earliest memories of feeling weird and off about my body came from watching the ways my legs looked as I was riding the car, the ways my thighs would flatten or bump out depending on how I bent my leg and how I hated them. When I was an athlete and later on as I started trying to actively be better and kinder to my body I’ve tried to give a bit more love to the ways my body can bend and change and work and not work and do my best to not give value judgements for who I am as a person based on one bit of negative perspective from one angle.
I’ve learned to love: My back/spine.
How: Apparently, I was born with a bad spine. It happened during my growth in puberty and went undetected until I was an adult but the cartilage between my vertebrae developed in a deformed manner and then eroded leaving me with a major deformity and chronic pain after the birth of my second child. So five years ago I had my first spinal fusion. Basically the majority of my spine was rebuilt. However other problems soon developed mostly in my hips because they now had to do all the work my back could no longer do. Turns out there were some problems with my first surgery and by Spring ’19 I was almost in worse shape than I was before. I was in severe pain and needed a cane to walk. So last summer I went for a revision. Now I have pegs in my hips and even more of my spine was replaced with titanium. I look and feel 100x better now, but will never be 100 percent again. However, I will take 90 percent gladly. I have lost my waist (now have no hips) and have a giant scar from my neck down to my rear end, but I am proud and grateful for this new lease on life.
Why it matters: I always covered my scar but this summer I plan to not do that. I will wear whatever I want and be proud of it. I have been through a lot and have come out the other side so grateful ad appreciative of this life I have been given.
I’ve learned to love: My legs.
How: By being with my body and working one step at a time from hatred to dislike to neutrality to okay-ness to love. I’ve intentionally spent more time naked, started following folx on social media whose legs look like mine, and seeking out dance spaces that celebrate all bodies . It’s also been vital for me to unlearn fat-phobic BS about what a good, attractive, worthy body looks like.
Why it matters: Being able to be in your body is a powerful way to experience more pleasure in the bedroom and out. I’m at my heaviest and also my most content because I’ve changed my mindset. This has allowed me to take massive leaps in all areas of my life, from returning to dance to being freer during sex to speaking up and asking for what I want and need.
I’ve learned to love: My small boobs.
How: I’ve birthed and nursed four babies and am truly amazed by the body — specifically how my boobs, no matter the size nourished four babies.
Why it matters: Growing up I always wished I had more to my chest but it doesn’t define me. As a mom of daughters I want them to see me loving all of myself and not talking down or wanting to change the way I was created.
A version of this story was published February 2020.
Before you go, check out some of our favorite quotes to inspire healthy attitudes about food and body image: