“Why do you live in your body like you will be given another? As if it were temporary. You starve it, you let anyone touch it, you berate it. Tell it that it should be completely different. You tug at your soft flesh, wish it thinner, wish it gone. You fall in love with those who praise the way it sighs under their hands, but who praises the way it holds up your weight, even when you are falling apart?” – Warsan Shire
Photography by Nyamu Muthama
Body positivity and self love are my things. At least they are things I’ve been working on for a few years now, and won’t ever stop. Why? Because I take these things seriously. I take body confidence and body positivity as a crucial part of my self love journey and you know what? I’ve definitely come from far. From about 7 years ago and before, I couldn’t even wear a cupped sleeve top, let alone a sleeveless top. I mean, me, Anita with the fat chubby arms full of stretch-marks by the underarms, ME?!? Not in a million years. I couldn’t even wear a skirt or dress above the knees without stockings. I couldn’t even fathom showing the cellulite around my knees to anyone. Could you even picture me in a stretch top? Hell-to-the-no. How, just… HOW?!?! So I could show my back fat and tummy flab? I think not. It was crazy, this constant fear of not wanting to show my body because I was so uncomfortable with all my ‘flaws’ and an even bigger fear of getting stares and being silently judged by people for having the audacity to wear clothes that made
people strangers uncomfortable. It was crazy and it was tough and exhausting always having to think of ways not to make myself feel so conscious about my body. I couldn’t take it any more.
Dress – Woolworths; Boots – Missguided; Lipstick – MAC Ruby Woo, Hoop Earrings – Lovisa South Africa
Making a decision to start loving your body in the state it’s in isn’t easy, so here are a few steps that I’ve taken and continuously take in my journey of learning over and over to love my body and myself more.
- Be deliberate about your journey. The journey to body positivity and body confidence starts with the deliberate decision to keep telling yourself that you love yourself. We always hear about people talking about the power of the tongue. When you decide to tell yourself that you love your body constantly, consistently and deliberately, then so it becomes. You slowly find yourself gently moving away from negative thoughts about yourself and replacing them with the positive.
- Make a point to look at yourself naked in the mirror more often. You see, the thing with teaching yourself to love your body means being uncomfortable in the beginning so that you can be comfortable in the long run. I used to avoid mirrors all the time just so I could avoid seeing the stretch-marks on my boobs, on my lower back, on my arms, on my tummy- you name it. Once I started to really look at myself and even tell myself that I was beautiful even with all this things that seemingly made me imperfect, I literally saw myself in a different light.
- Identify parts of your body that you love, and find those that you don’t really like and reinforce the power of the tongue on them. I mean, there literally is no wrong way to have a body, so why constantly focus on the things you don’t like and instead focus on the ones you love and take baby steps to being okay with the parts that make you uncomfortable. For me, it’s been my saggy boobs. I’ve always had saggy boobs for as long as I can remember. I honestly cannot recall a time when I had perky boobs, if I ever had them. My boobs for that reason have always been something I found literally both annoying and uncomfortable because I wished them smaller and they didn’t look like those of my age mates when growing up. I always felt left out when friends said they could wear tops with no bras or were okay with going swimming when all I could think of was looking for a costume that would give my boobs the support they needed. Needless to say, I am more comfortable these days with my saggy boobs with stretch marks and I even wear tops that show them. If it makes others uncomfortable then they can look the other way.
- Change your wardrobe. Whenever you hear people say that dressing up and dressing well lifts their moods, this really is true. One of the first steps I took towards my journey into body positivity was the decision to slowly change my wardrobe. In all honesty, it was the biggest factor in my self love journey. I have always been interested in fashion so changing my wardrobe and giving myself the guts to wear clothes I wouldn’t normally wear gave me a huge nudge in the right direction. Whenever I dress well and wear makeup I always feel so good about myself I swear it’s so so amazing! Try it.
- Be gentle with yourself. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of trying to conform to societal beauty standards. We’re socialised to thinking that if we aren’t really looking a certain way- having a flat tummy, perky boobs, no cellulite, no stretch-marks- that we aren’t beautiful. Abeg, if it is not us to love our bodies first, who will love them for us? We cannot leave that to have others validate our bodies for us. I mean, they don’t carry our bodies for us, they don’t help us carry our saggy boobs or our flabby tummy or chubby arms. Most of the time people project their insecurities onto others because they know full and damn well they wouldn’t be able to have the same confidence and self love that you have. We need to celebrate our bodies all the time. We’re so often focused on the external of our bodies and we always forget the inside that functions perfectly well for us to even get through each day as we do. Be kind to your body.
If you decide to do anything, love your body and love yourself first. Why hate your body when you could love it instead?