Unsuck your stomach — and other ways to stop giving a fuck

Here’s a pic of me in a middie cause summer of 17 I am recommitting to loving me before everything else.

I talk a lot about bodily autonomy — the self-determination of human beings over their own bodies — in the work I do: right to have an abortion, parent your kids absent criminalization, borders, and cages, have sex for money if you choose because that’s your damn business, etc.

I even evangelize about it in my relationships, to friends and others. And for someone who has talked about it so much, I didn’t have a practice for it myself. At the beginning of this year, I became aware of all the ways I give my bodily autonomy away, ways I didn’t know caused me discomfort until I realized I had a choice. Here’s how & what I did about it:

I stopped sucking my stomach in. I was always sucking my stomach in, especially when I was feeling self-conscious about my squishy bits or the parts of my body marketers and people who can’t mind their business tell me I am not supposed to love. I have done this for as long as I can remember, since a child even — like wearing a permeant, ugly, annoying belt. This changed my life. Why was I doing that for so long? Did anyone even notice but me? I let it go! So freeing!

I stopped moving on the sidewalk. I was always being sidewalk bullied, especially by men. When faced with an oncoming sidewalk passerby, I could almost always guess they expected me to move and not the other way around. I don’t know what it was, and I could take some guesses, but whatever it is, it was about to stop. It’s an imperfect process. I’ve taken a few hits, but they’re worth it.

I take up space in my airplane seat, damn it! I’ve been giving away the arm rests for years. For what? That’s over. I have as much right to it as you. May the best person win.

I stopped covering up during sex:

It was hot af
It was overwhelming to pretend 
I wanted to get laid efficiently 
I wanted to enjoy my experience devoid of shame and fear

I genuinely stopped smiling at people just because they expected it. I don’t owe anyone shit. Least of all my joy. I also stopped filling silence for other people.

I stopped wearing clothes that I don’t feel fucking fantastic in. I was uncomfortable and didn’t feel my best and that never felt worth it.

I stopped hugging people I didn’t want to hug. And then I stopped feeling guilty and awkward about the other person’s discomfort.

I stopped having sex with people who didn’t worship my body. I critique myself. You have a whole other job entirely. Bow down.

I stopped eating and drinking things that made me feel bad. Why was I voluntarily making myself unwell?

If it wasn’t work related, I stopped spending time with people I didn’t enjoy and who didn’t enjoy me. It always gave me anxiety in my body. It is OK if we are not all friends, I’m learning.

I got out of a relationship that didn’t serve any of my needs. Though, wanting to leave is enough.

I say no when I want to say no. Saying yes when I want to say no is self-betrayal.

I stopped shaming myself and my body. No more of that!

I do a better job of listening to my body and prioritizing taking care of myself. For years, I’ve written off my pain as an aberration. It’s not. And my Black life matters too.

I tell my abortion story all the time. Bodily autonomy is a lifelong commitment.

I’m still learning to do most of this. I flex my new muscles when I feel old habits sneaking up. And I am gentle with myself when I need reminding. I’m speaking declaratively so I can stay brave. Every day is hard and good.

“i am mine. before i am ever anyone else’s.” ― Nayyirah Waheed, Nejma