For someone who has totally loved her body her entire life, you’d think it’d be easy to talk about it or show it in pictures. I’ve never felt uncomfortable looking at my naked self in the mirror. I’ve also never been self conscious being naked in front of someone else. Even just typing that was hard and it was unequivocally hard to do my first photo shoot in a bathing suit. Perhaps I’m just more of a private person. I cover up in the ladies locker room and I hide my body from the public eye. I stand against walls or do things like tie a shirt around my waist when I feel like what I’m wearing is tight and therefore, too much. It sometimes feels too inappropriate for anyone to see, as if I was purposely putting it on a pedestal for people to look at when most times I just want to hide. Yes, I’m somewhat of a private person, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the other reasons why.
For starters, I always wanted to be looked at as a “good girl.” If I didn’t respect myself or my body, why or how would others? I was a girl who had dignity and respect for herself at a young age and theorized the respect from others would be given in return. And it was. I got it from who I wanted it from, men. They would tell me things like “I respect you so much for not putting your *** on Instagram.” I would get compliments on how I carried myself with the outfits I chose to wear. There was nothing risque and nothing too short. So, I continued on with dressing that way. I didn’t talk about my body and I wouldn’t take pictures that would give even the slightest hint that I had this massive backside.
I remember one Christmas taking pictures in my plaid PJs with my plaid wrapped gifts in front of the tree. “Creative,” I thought…and funny, I snapped away. Striking a different pose every time the shutter open and closed. I turned sideways, naturally. As soon as I saw that pic on my camera, I knew that I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) post it. It was showing too much. I didn’t want people to think I was posting it to show off my ***. (What in the actual ****!) This is my body, why should I hide it? No way was I ashamed of it, I loved it! I was worried about perception.
I was so concerned with proving to others (and myself) that I was the good girl Jay-Z coined in his hit, “Song Cry.” I wanted to be that. No, I needed to be that. “Once a good girl’s gone bad, she’s gone forever,” Jay was probably referring to women not cheating on their man or not sleeping around. I also associated “going bad” with giving in and losing my self respect by flaunting something that I shouldn’t. And if I did, I felt I would be deemed unworthy being crowned that title. I am grateful I had this mentality at such a young age (it kept me out of trouble). I will teach my kids to respect themselves and love themselves wholeheartedly. But I will also teach them to not be so hard on themselves.
Why was I so hard on myself? How did I become like that? I’ll tell you how. People’s comments (and demeanour) from those closest to me, made me feel like I was conceited or even narcissistic. It hurt and I was enraged inside. Their comments would be voiced, making me feel like I shouldn’t be proud of how me or my body looks. They suggested I wanted “attention.” In essence, it sounded like they didn’t want me to love myself as much as I did. If anyone truly knows me to my core, knows that I’m humble. I don’t do things to “get attention” and in all actuality, I despise it. Maybe they were projecting their lack of self love onto me. It made me live in serious fear that I was wrong to feel good about myself. If I put myself out there, others would think the same negative and nasty thoughts. So, to sway them otherwise, I spent years trying to overcompensate with my “good girl” behavior in efforts to prove them wrong.
It’s recognizably held me back in areas of my life, most importantly, my career. I’ve had the confidence but second guessed myself because of how others made me feel and how I thought I’d be perceived. Furthermore, I don’t know why I’ve given men so much credit and so much of my time trying to gain their respect. Who I am and what God knows me to be, is the only thing that is important. It’s okay to love yourself and it’s okay to let other people know that you love yourself, too.
Photographer: Merideth Morgan
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