Being the mother of a daughter, I'm acutely aware of how my self-perception can impact the way my daughter perceives herself. I've always tried to carefully choose the words I use to describe myself, hoping to empower instead of shame. By my feelings of self-worth are complicated, and sometimes they can be overshadowed in my attempt to be consistently body positive. The truth is, I don't have to love my stretch marks, and acknowleding that I don't absolutely "have to" feel any one way about my body, is another lesson I want my daughter to learn, too.
For the record, I fully support a woman's right to love her body without the so-called "permission" of some outside influence (i.e. social standards of beauty that are almost always unhealthy and impossible to obtain). In fact, I admire anyone who can snap photos of "imperfections" or stretch marks, honoring and praising them instead of feeding into the idea that you have to be picture perfect in order to love yourself. I don't feel the same way about my own body, yet, but I'm trying to, and watching women unapologetically love themselves is helping me learn how to do the same.
Before I went through puberty, I put on a massive amount of weight, stretching my small frame into a size not equipped for a 9-year-old kid. Not long after, I developed eating disorders that have crept back into my life at the times I feel the most out of control. With all the weight fluctuation, I've collected a massive amounts of stretch marks. They're on my upper arms, my inner thighs, my stomach, and my hips. Since having my kids I've tried to repeat body-positive sentiments about loving my body, flaws and all. About embracing my "tiger stripes." About denouncing traditional beauty standards. But it seems like no matter how much progress I desperately fight to make in regards to fully loving and accepting myself, I can't get on board with this ideology the way others seem to. I hate my stretch marks. I wish I didn't, but I do.
Now, as I try to be the mother my daughter needs to see — a strong, confident, healthy example — I'm more aware than ever of how my actions and feelings about myself and my body may also affect her. She's my mirror, so I'm careful when I see myself through her eyes. Will I ever love my stretch marks? Maybe, but maybe not. I've sure as hell going to continue to try, though, for the sake of my daughter and the feelings she may or may not have about her own body in the near future. In the meantime, here's some pretty solid reasons why it's perfectly OK to own your own feelings about your stretch marks.
Because I'm Not Every Woman
If I could openly and fearlessly embrace whatever society has arbitrarily decided is a "flaw" on my body, I would have it made. I can't, though, and even though other women can. I'm my own person, with my own set of feelings and opinions, and my own views of myself that can be very different when compared to the ways other people view me — and how they view themselves.
While I want to be a positive role model for my daughter, it's important to recognize that ambassadors for self-love are not a monolith. There are different ways to feel and different ways to accept yourself. We all do it in our own time and in our own way. I may never feel the same way about my stretch marks as other women feel about theirs, and that's OK.
Because I Love Plenty Of Other Things About Myself
It may sound like I'm still struggling to secure an ounce of self-esteem, but I promise I love so many other things about myself.
For example, I love the fact that I conquer anything I set my mind to, I never, ever, give up on dreams, I'm empathetic and compassionate as hell, I'm a kick-ass mom (just ask my kids), and I love fiercely. Do I have to love things like stretch marks or cellulite, too? Does not loving them negate all the wonderful things I do love about myself? I definitely don't think so.
Because Loving Them Won't Change How I Feel About Myself
My stretch marks reminds me of painful times in my life. The ones on my thighs trigger middle school feelings of not fitting in, for example, and my stomach stretch marks remind me of being bullied in elementary school. In other words, I don't think they don't deserve my love or acceptance. Not completely, anyway. I can accept they are there, taking residence on my body permanently, but I can also choose not to give them full reign of my self-worth any longer. I can take away their ability to gauge how I feel about myself, andI can shut down their ability to make me relive memories I would rather forget.
Because, Realistically, I'm Not Alone
Regardless of all the articles and blogs about self-love, or Instagram pictures of women who love their stretch marks, I don't think I'm alone in feeling outcast for not loving my stretch marks. Again, I celebrate those capable of celebrating the marks on their bodies that prove they've been through something transformative, for better or worse. It's wonderful. I'm just not that person.
Because Everyone Is Allowed To Have Insecurities
Do we have to love every piece of ourselves in order to have self-love as an entirety? I don't think so. I can be insecure about my stretch marks and scowl every time I see them, but still feel confident about what I present to the world. Self-esteem and having zero insecurities are not mutually exclusive.
Because I Don't Need The Pressure
If I teach my daughter anything, it's not to cave into the pressures of the world, but instead, to listen to her heart and intuition. She doesn't have to feel the way I do about any part of her body (and, honestly, I hope she doesn't) but if she does, that's her prerogative. Every woman has the right to feel however she feels. Can't we all just tend to our own gardens and leave the rest alone?
Because I Don't Like Other People Telling Me How I Should Feel
Don't tell me what to believe in, who to love, how to parent, how to feel or not feel about my body or myself (amongst a long list of things I don't need another outside opinion on). After many years of looking for self-acceptance as a whole, I'm finally secure in myself. I don't have to love my stretch marks in order to make sure I don't lose that security. I see them. I know they're there. And someday, maybe I'll forgive them and take all the pictures of them and post those damn pictures for the world to see.
For now though, it's good enough that they don't define the scope of how I view myself in this world. Or more importantly, they don't define me period.