Many high-profile public figures such as our friend in our head Lizzo and supermodel Ashley Graham are killing it as curvy queens. Despite their talents and well-deserved success, many people minimize these wonderful qualities to their weight or size. While critics slam them for their bodies, many of these public figures choose to continue to shine light on body positivity an loving one’s self. Getting to a place of real self-love is difficult, but it can be done. Everyone has a rollercoaster ride story of how to get to a place of living their body, including myself.
I have a quarter-century of years behind me now and I am *just* learning how to really love my body. Wait, let me set the story, it will help explain what I mean here. While at one of my three jobs today (I’m a hustla, homie), as I walked past a mirror and caught a quick glance of myself, I had to take a double-take! Stepping back to see myself, while checking to make sure no one saw me, I begin to admire myself, channeling Cardi saying, “……, OOH! Damn, I’m fine!”. Now that’s an absolute mood. To some, this may seem a bit narcissistic, or vain, but you ought to know, it took me a long time to get to this point. My pilgrimage to a time and place where I can look at myself in the mirror and feel pleased with what I see is a big deal!
To give you a little perspective, let’s go back to my youth. You see, I grew up short and chubby. Mind you, I was much-loved, but no one really noticed the shy, smart, chunky girl, particularly boys! To me, that feeling of being un-noticed translated to being undesirable and that haunted me for years, despite the attention I got from lots of boys as I grew older. Not to put the focus on the male gaze, but as a young, not-so-woke girl, the looks I got from boys was attention, and that served as validation, which was important to me at the time.
As a teenager, I was fairly active and athletic, and my body morphed from baby fat to toned muscle and curves. Nevertheless, I was still slightly “thick”. Queue the body dysmorphia phase. I hated practically everything about myself. Even though I was constantly told how pretty I was, and complimented on my fly fashion sense, I truly couldn’t stand what I saw of myself in the mirror. Try as I might, I could not escape the image of myself as a “rollie-pollie-Esque” girl. To combat this dysmorphia, I exercised excessively and became obsessed with the food I ate. I fully understood the value of healthy eating habits, but I never fretted over a missed meal, I just didn’t care. I wanted that dream body, without delay!
I grew up watching lots of music videos (106 & Park, TRL, and Rap City were LIFE). You know where I’m going with this right? Back in the day, the women in most music videos had a certain look. A look that I didn’t have, but one I strived for, and most wanted just because I thought at some level, it was what was expected of me.
Generally, women in music videos were not positively represented. My deep insecurities made me mad impressionable, and that stayed with me throughout my college years. It was in college that men became more open and vocal about my body, which only served to heighten my insecurities.
I remember an incident where a guy who I was “talking to” invited me to his apartment one night to hang out. Me, being nineteen and eager to have a 90s Black sitcom type of romance rushed over. Once I got there, he literally grabbed my hand, spun me around, and said, “Damn, you ain’t got no booty!” Like, sir excuse you? The situation was so ridiculous! The way he spun me around felt like he was inspecting me, the whole thing is cringe-worthy AF. I felt as if my body disappointed him. I soon left and we never spoke again (mainly because I turned down his advances for a Netflix & Chill situation, but that’s another story for another day).
On another occasion, on a visit with a good friend to her hometown., we met a few of her high school friends. Everyone was cool, but one guy felt it necessary to make comments about my body. When we were introduced to one another, he proudly states, “Hmm. You can stand to tighten that stomach up” and proceeds to tap me on the stomach. I almost came out of myself and raised all kinds of hell, but I didn’t. I internalized it and kept my cool. Having a guy point out verbally and physically, something I felt insecure about, only made me feel worse about myself.
Years later, while in graduate school, as a result of my poor self-care, depression, poor eating habits, and unending stress from work, school, and everyday life, I gained a lot of weight in no time flat!. I gained more than 60 pounds within a few months, and could hardly believe how much it affected my day today! I got stretch marks, and my clothes fit me like a body glove or second skin rather than draping over me as I had grown accustomed too. Some clothes, shoes, and even jewelry I couldn’t even squeeze into anymore. I felt awful and was concerned about what others would see and say about my obvious weight gain. To me, being heavier suggested a lack of control, an absolute personal failure. Growing up, everyone around me was slim and fit, and thicker women were looked at as less feminine and less desirable. As I recall, fat-phobic and fat-shaming people were all around me when I was growing up. To this day I’m still jaded about weight and body image issues since it has never been something I could openly discuss with people in my life that I felt close too.
But enough of the heavy stuff, let’s get to my breakthrough! One day, not any special day, in particular, I just thought to myself, “I’m tired of not loving my body” and just like that, I stopped, the foolishness, and fell in love with the Me that I am! Change can happen when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired of your–own-self. From that day forward, I have challenged myself to accept the fact that I am not as small as I was in high school and that is perfectly okay. I am an adult now, with a real life, and my body has and will evolve along with everything else in my life. This is the body that has carried me through every aspect and event of my life…., the good, the bad, and the absolutely ridiculous. I should be grateful for it instead of feeling hateful and harsh toward it. It’s easy to love your body when it’s in your ideal image of shape and or weight, but the key is finding that love of your body in between? Losing weight is not the issue, I wish it were that easy. It’s actually a mindset. I had to teach myself to love my body where it is right now, what it looks like right now, and how much it weighs right now. I can’t wait until I lose however many pounds to start loving my body. My body is strong, fabulous, and deserves to be loved now — Tuh-day!
Everyone will not understand this, but everyone did not grow up with the experiences I’ve had and that so many others like me, have had. There’s still a great deal of fat-shaming going on. Although I feel strong and secure with how I look now, there are still triggers. Family members who greet you with, “Oh you put on some weight” or those who watch and judge what you eat and how often you eat it. Or going to the doctor and being weighed and the nurse announces your weight as she writes it down. Seeing guys you’re attracted to only attracted to “Instagram models” (no shade to y’all, you know you fine sis!). Sucking in my stomach when walking past a cute man. Going shopping and leaving empty-handed because the store doesn’t carry your size. Such things as these can send me back to that place of wishing my body was different than what it is.
Although I always had deep-rooted issues with my body, I always wanted to get to a place where I can see myself and be happy with my figure regardless of what anyone has to say. While I felt more accepting and loving towards my body, I wanted to make sure I was healthy. Health is most important, so I went to my doctor and had tests run on everything important, and when the results came back, I was healthy as a horse. Knowing that I’m fully healthy and in relatively good shape for my age made me appreciate my body that much more. No matter how much I work out or eat healthily, I will always be a curvy, thick girl. And finally, I am just fine with that.
Some of my favorite jams for days when I don’t feel like a bad b*tch:
- Rolling Hills – Jill Scott
- Masterpiece – Jazmin Sullivan
- Video – India. Arie
- Queen – Janelle Monae & Erykah Badu
- Doves in the Wind – SZA
- Cranes in the Sky – Solange
- Lady – D’Angelo
- Grown Woman – Beyonce (and basically her whole discography)
- New Apartment – Ari Lennox
- Philly Jawn – Kota the Friend
- Sweet Thing – Rufus
Courtney D. Johnson is a fashion industry professional, or “pro-fashion-al” as she likes to call it, a freelance stylist, and writer. She is a published and award-winning fashion scholar and researcher, and a proud HBCU alumna. Courtney loves to research and write about Black beauty, style, and culture, as well as being an advocate for mental health. She is a proud auntie who loves to spend time with her nieces and nephews, friends, and family as much as she can. Courtney currently resides in the greatest city in the world, New Orleans, LA. Follow her on Instagram @_xoxocourtney
Featured Image: Danielle Brooks @daniebb3