Everyone wants to feel beautiful. Society places such an astronomically high value on being aesthetically pleasing to the eye that sometimes we forget what beauty truly is. It took me years to figure out the whole self-love thing and even as I encouraged others to love their bodies, I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. I could see the beauty in everyone but myself. Becoming chronically ill at the age of 21 added another layer of complication and confusion to the mix.
When I first became sick with gastroparesis I constantly said the one perk was that I would “finally be skinny”. I was a curvy girl all my life, always wishing to shed a good 40 pounds. So the effortless weight loss was a welcomed side effect of an awful new reality. As my waist whittled away into my dream figure, my body became so weak I could hardly get out of bed. I was unable to continue college, unable to work my part time job, unable to go out with friends, and unable to even bathe by myself anymore. Suddenly there was a gap between my thighs and my ribs protruded out past my stomach. This wasn’t the kind of skinny I wanted to be. I ended up with a G/J feeding tube in my abdomen for the foreseeable future, creating a hole that would leave a scar as a reminder for the rest of my life. I was frustrated that the one upside to my illness was taken from me. The feeding tube allowed me to slowly gain weight back but between tube feeds, medications, and years of switching between being able to eat a little orally and needing to be on an all Ensure nutritional drink diet, my weight yo-yoed. In addition to my scar that looked identical to a second belly button (poor placement I guess), I also had a pouch of excess skin adorned with stretch marks that developed on my lower abdomen. I could easily hide it with high waisted pants but when I looked in the mirror it was just another reminder of why I hated my body.
Over time I realized there was only one way to feel at peace with my body: fake it ‘til I make it. I began to force myself to wear bathing suits that showed my stoma scar. I even posted photos of my stomach on my Instagram. I put the most vulnerable part of myself out there for everyone to see and all I received in return was love- the love I wasn’t giving myself. I shared those images as a way to conquer my own fear, as a way to push myself towards self-acceptance…and it worked.
Now I own crop tops that proudly show my battle wounds and if my pants don’t quite hold in that excess skin enough, well that’s okay too. I show this part of me to hopefully inspire others to be unapologetically in love with their bodies-every part…even the parts we’re not a fan of. And now I practice what I preach, even if there is still some room for improvement. Because our bodies are simply shells that hold all the magical beauty of who we are inside. When we feed that inner beauty, it radiates through and makes our outsides beautiful too. Whether you hate the curve of your nose or the width of your hips, remember that our shells are our armor and we have the battle scars to prove it. Every inch of you and I have been through hell and back and that body part you loathe helped to keep you alive.
“Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.” -Beau Taplin