I was always the odd one out. Firstly, I was the only black person in my town and school until I was 8, so that made things interesting. Then as I got older, I got fat and that put me ever more into the “loser” category. Add on being an introvert who was definitely not cool or beautiful enough to hang out with the popular crowd, I ended up being very independent and lonely through high school. I got to college and was still very self conscious about myself. For the first time in my life though, I had amazing friends and it didn’t seem to matter that I felt awkward in my own skin because I only hung out with girls and gay guys (aka, people who didn't judge my worth based on looks).
During my sophomore year I was in an acting class and had a scene with a guy who played my husband. My teacher pulled me aside in his office after we performed to ask me why I looked so uncomfortable in the scene. It was then that I broke down and realized I felt awkward acting opposite a man because I had barely been kissed at this point, much less had a man interested in me physically, and I felt very unworthy. Unfortunately all my self-worth was rooted in thinking I was a waste of space on earth because no men found me attractive.
Over a year later, during the summer of 2012, I finally made up my mind to lose weight and lost 50lbs before my senior year started. For the first time in my life, I had guys interested in me. It was crazy. I was getting a lot of attention. But then I gained weight back over the holidays and started an unhealthy relation with attraction being based on weight, and I would spend the next year gaining and losing. I started dating someone briefly, then he broke up with me so I moved to Los Angeles, then moved back to the PNW, and at the beginning of 2014, I decided to lose weight for myself.
My ex and I got back together at the beginning of last year and I kept on my low carb diet for a couple months until it became apparent to me that my boyfriend didn’t love me because of my weight, he loved me because of who I was. I gave up dieting and let myself enjoy domestic bliss. I probably should’ve watched my eating better, because I did end up gaining a lot back, but the thing that really matters is that once I realized I could love my body no matter what the weight I was at, I could hold onto that feeling for the rest of my life and pull it out of the depths of my mind whenever I had bad body image days.
I wish it didn’t have to be because of a boy to learn that I am beautiful, but whatever that thing is that people need to learn to love themselves, I hope you all find it. It’s tough to get to it. It took me 22 years to understand that, and now I’m 24 and can love myself, love-handles and all. And now I can lose weight without doing it to be “attractive” because I already know I’m beautiful. Now I can eat healthy to make sure I am taking care of myself and my body.
So for some people having someone who loves you can make you love yourself, or sometimes it’s losing weight. Maybe it’s even just the consistent act of looking in a mirror and telling yourself over and over again, “You are gorgeous, dammit!” There’s no right or wrong way to find that love, but I wish the best to every person on this planet who doesn’t feel beautiful, because you really are, and you deserve to feel that way. I am so happy I found this feeling, because now I will never let it go. I love all of me, all my curves and all my edges, all my perfect imperfections (thank you John Legend for those beautiful words).
A poem I wrote about body love:
Yes, I am vain
Reflective surfaces have become my sustenance
I may put you off with my confidence
But this confidence was earned
This confidence was fought for
This confidence was my mind and body connecting after years of hate
So when I call myself beautiful
And you don't agree
My mirror becomes my lover
And I can move on
I'll leave you with this amazing piece from Mary Lambert, who is one of the artists who helped me realize I was perfect the way I am.