My body is the most awe striking creation I will ever own. I now know this however this did not always hold true for me.
I have gone through an amazing amount of moments in my life learning and unlearning, realising that a lot of the things I have been told to be right or appropriate for a woman are not necessarily right for me.
Perhaps I should provide you, the reader with a little background about who I am, to possibly understand where I am coming from.
I am fuller figured (plus-size, voluptuous, fat, big…whatever) African woman who has been well exposed to the expectations and demands of society. However, the world has failed dismally in ensuring that I live up to these demands and expectations. The thing is, I firstly recognise myself as human, that is what I am, what you are, what we are, we are the same but sadly we are socialised to reject this unity and embrace matters that revolve around the individual.
It is not that I am against individualism; it like most things, has its pros and cons, and I am all for the pros (self-expression, personal style, uniqueness) but society tends to take it too far when it comes to capitalising on its negative aspects (ego, materialism, narcissism). We need to be aware of this, being ignorant of such matters exacerbates hatred (of others and the self), anger, oppression, insecurities.
At a young age I was immediately made aware of the fact that I was not like “them” (the people you should aspire to look like). As a black, short, chubby girl with afro textured hair, the media and all its agents did not hesitate in letting me know that I was definitely not the “in” thing. None of the people on television or in magazines looked like me and if they did, they were far from being the “cool kids”.
The world of comparison had unleashed its whip on me, setting me straight and ready to conform. The dream of fitting in and being accepted had been sold and I had bought it, I was willing to do whatever I could to validate my existence. If it meant skipping a meal or two, I was in, staying out of the sun for that yellow bone complexion, relaxing my hair with those dangerous chemicals for that “white girl swing”, best believe I was in!
As a woman, the world places a ridiculous amount of emphasis on the need for you to be beautiful (thin, fair skinned, long straight/wavy hair). It is quite sad, frustrating and sickening to see the extremes the media goes to, to ensure that women are trapped by this system and remain obedient to it. Thus, having worked my way through the check-list of being the perfect beauty for years, I soon began to realise I was fooling myself, this was not for me. This transformed “me” did not really bring the joy I had hoped it would bring, this people pleasing behaviour had me pleasing people I did not necessarily like who constantly pointed out more errors about me, I was caught in a self-hate cycle and I wanted out.
Strangely enough, the internet would become my hero with the discovery of these underground realms of body acceptance and natural hair communities. There was no turning back as I was moved and inspired by women who were facing the same challenges I was, motivating and uplifting each other (something rather new to me then).
It was at this point in my life when I decided to embrace all of me, a black fuller figured woman with afro textured hair. I was finally home but it was not as easy as they made it seem to change my way of thinking, for each day I would be tested me. The stereotypes would continue to haunt me, the world would jump at the chance to size me up and box me in with these labels and categories…because I was this I had to be that. I would continuously be reminded that I was fat which is synonymous to lazy, unhealthy (btw you can be healthy, fat and fit), food hogger, obese or ugly and I have afro textured hair thus I look un-kept, unprofessional, funky, uncivilised, or I must be one of those radical social movement women (fist up in the air, power to the people…you know).
However, I had committed myself to embarking on a rarely travelled road, but honestly some of these prejudices I encounter are absurd. The media needs body diversity, we cannot all look the same, we are different and the media needs to acknowledge these differences and celebrate them, allow for people to proudly be themselves that is where true beauty lies. We are so much more than our hair texture, skin colour or jean size.
These labels are dividing us, we are human beings and that should be enough. Our reality too often confirms that it is not, so I say take those little negative labels they throw at you (also the ones you throw at yourself in your head) and let them empower you and strengthen you. The world may not think you are enough but you should know you are, love yourself, and never allow yourself to shrink to make others comfortable.
You are bounds and leaps of pure greatness (yes YOU).
Claim it, own it, and embrace it, unapologetically so!