Learning to love my ‘lived-in’ body

According to Medium, it only took me a few months to actually start writing this. I wrote the title, and left it to stew. I’m not really sure why I’ve left this so long. A large part of me thinks it’s because I don’t really want to talk about my body.

I don’t think any woman wants to talk about her body, not me anyway. I have always seen it as flawed and unattractive. I grew up in an environment where I felt that nothing about my body was to be loved or appreciated — I’ve always been teased as I was on the heavier side, had a gap tooth (which I hated so much that when all my adult teeth came out I insisted on getting braces — I was 10), and to top it off, had unruly curly hair.

Now, at 26, I have been thinking a lot about what I appreciate about myself. I am finding it difficult, but a few months ago when I first drafted this story, I remembered that a good friend of mine once told me that she liked her scars because it kind of showed that she had lived in her body. I thought that was really brave of her to tell me that what most would consider ‘ugly’ is something she actually appreciated about herself. I also thought, if only I could think the same way.

I guess one of the most obvious things I dislike about my body is my stretch marks. These things have just decided to appear on my skin where they wanted, when they wanted. My stretch marks make me feel like they were in control of my body. I hated them.

Then I realised, these actually tell quite a good story about my life and how I lived. I grew very quickly as a child, but stopped growing in height when I was 12. It’s funny to think that I was once one of the tallest in class, but by 6th grade one of the shortest. I quite like that I am short — I fit neatly into most spaces including 2-seater sofas and crammed trains. The other thing that seemed to always changed was my weight. I would go up and down, up and down. I was a fussy eater growing up, and was kept on a strict diet of 10 glasses of milk daily until I was 10. At age 11 I realised that food was nice — I ate everything I could get my hands on. This was the time when my stretch marks started showing up. Then at 14, I started getting physically active by going to the gym with friends. I lost some weight, and gained some shape, thanks to puberty. The stretch marks remained.

Today, I look at myself in the mirror and I see me and my body — the one thing that has stuck with me throughout my life. It has seen me at my worst and at my best, as I have seen it at its worst and at its best. Looking at myself and all the marks — scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, the lot — I can finally say I’m proud I bear these, as they tell my story. Each mark signifies a life event, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a ‘significant’ life event or not, what matters to me now is that I know I am alive and I’ve got this incredible machine, this body, which I live in.

I will make the most of this one body which I was born with, take it to great heights and push it to its limits, because what else would it be for if not to feel thrilled to be alive?

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