By Samantha McKenzie
I’m notorious for taking pictures. My older sister still laughs at me today because as a child, I was always cheesing in front of a camera. It didn’t matter who pulled out the camera or for what occasion, I could strike a pose in 1.5 seconds flat. Ever since I can remember, I was hamming it up in front of audiences and sashaying in front of anyone’s flashing lights. I had no inhibitions.
But that child-like confidence dissipated as the years went by. I began painfully picking myself apart. As a teenager I struggled with acne and body image. I smiled a little less and found myself shrinking in rooms filled with people who I knew loved me. I was short, skinny and flat chested and thought that meant something was wrong with me. It never dawned on me that I had the typical body type of a teen or that I was growing.
I kept waiting for my breasts to finally fill in or for my hips to take shape…and I waited. Even worse, I longed for a bigger butt because I heard that was the “thing” to have. I wanted so badly to fill out the Sergio Valente jeans that I had bought (the ones with the V-shaped designer pocket), but that wish never materialized either.
I went from innocence to insecurity in record time.
There’s a lot of pressure placed on young women to be a certain dress size or maintain a certain body type. While the messages may begin on the outside, they take root inside of us as we begin to internalize negative thoughts of being the perfect size, having the perfect skin, and having the perfect length of hair. Unbeknownst to me, the insecurities that began in my adolescent stage spilled over into adulthood — without permission.
But I had to force myself to stop. And I had to learn to love my outside as much as I loved the rest of me. I took positive steps toward this new daily practice. I began to reimagine words like “perfect” or “flawless.” I took on new habits, like looking at myself in the mirror (yes, it’s hard at first) and saying thank you.
“You’ve carried me this far, helped me give birth to three incredible children, withstood a few bumps and bruises and for that alone, I am completely grateful,” I’d speak privately to my body. From blemishes, to stretch marks, to all that’s in between, I started to embrace the body that had long embraced me.
Nowadays, I watch what I eat because I enjoy being healthy, and living as long as I possibly can motivates me. I care less about how I look in my photographs and more about the many reasons I have to smile in them. I don’t stress out about what’s too big, or too small, or what’s not enough or too much anymore. It’s all just my body. An imperfectly, perfect me.
Over the next 30 days, I challenge all of our “Women Who Hope” friends to take a selfie. Find something positive to say about your body and practice accepting yourself one body part at a time.