SELF LOVE: FINDING IT AND KEEPING IT.

I love to write about the revolving door of changes you learn from throughout. This year, a change that I personally lived through was seeing how my mind has shifted from self CRITICIZING to self loving.

This year in particular, felt like there was no shortage of Celebrities and Health Enthusiasts sharing the importance of self love and body positivity. It was like suddenly, in 2017 we realized as people, the perception we have for ourselves was far more important than the perceptions others had of us.

. I can remember being 14 years old, having to go in for my annual physicals and because I weighed over 160 lbs at the time, was told that I was headed down the path of obesity. Can you imagine that as child and during a time when I was already being exposed to cruel locker room judgement, that my doctor thought it was a good idea to tell me that I was basically obese?  What wasn't being considered though? My ethnicity? My genetics? My activity level? My economic limitations? In a New York Times article, they quote The Journal Eating & Weight Disorders stating, "comments about a child’s weight are often predictors of unhealthy dieting behaviors, binge eating and other eating disorders, and may inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes about weight that children internalize."  

Imagine how many people, male or female, who today are in their mid-to-late 20's or early 30's, but as child were subjected to the same treatment? Ill intent or not, don't you think it would become pretty hard to ignore comments from doctors, parents and family members during a time of such vulnerability? Now try growing up and loving or not loving yourself solely based off physical appearance. Sounds pretty tough right? 

we can't change how doctors of our past doctored, how parents parented and how schools educated. What's done is done.

What we can do however, is shift an entire cultures mindset, easy right? Heck no, but people around the world are using their platforms to do just that! One of my favorite models, Ashley Graham is the QUEEN of body-positive and breaking these society created stereotypes. In her book,  A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like, she's empowering her readers to love themselves and all that they are; size, shape and color included. "I put myself out there, trying to prove that beauty is beyond size." Then you have brands like Aerie, that back in 2015, removed heavy Photoshopped images of models from their campaigns and website. What a positive message that, shocker, led to a realization that real women want to buy underwear too. Aerie even saw a spike in sales with this #AerieREAL campaign, according to a HuffPost blog post, that featured a Teen Vogue article covering the brand. 

Call it "body positive" or "self love" or some other term that I'm sure is out there. Ultimately it's the ability to remove the feeling that you need to change the way you look to LOVE the way you look.

For me this has been something that I've struggled with my entire life and not just from a weight and body image perspective. I've also struggled with the fact that, I am an African American female, who was privileged enough to attend private schools, was blind to the fact that my mom at one point in our household used food stamps, and never for a moment felt as if I was being discriminated against due to the color of my skin. So on top of always feeling like the minority among those who shared the same skin color as me, I also spent years working out and eating "right," changing to this diet then that diet, dropping ten pounds then gaining back five, in hopes that even if I couldn't share the same skin color with the non-African American displays of perfection across every magazine I purchased, that at least I could be as skinny or as fit as they were.

How do you change a feeling, ingrained so deeply in a persons make up? It's more than just throwing out those magazines, or the scale, or hanging out with people that look like you. Honestly, what I've learned over the course of even the past year, is that some of it is a maturity that develops over time. You get to a point where you say to yourself, "Why do you care if they care?" or better yet, "How can you set the standards for those who look to you for guidance?" When you can identify a fault in a system, that tells you because you look differently you're wrong, that's your opportunity to stand on the closest podium, shouting at the top of your lungs, no I'm right because I said I'm right. That to me is Self Love.

I wont sit here and act like I'm as confident in my own skin as Ashley Graham or as ready to be photographed in one of Aerie's non-Photoshopped campaigns. However, today I do look at my body, the color of my skin and more importantly, the content of my character with love and appreciation for of the success that my 5'5", 145 lbs, beautifully browned skin body, has worked SO DAMN HARD for. 

So how do you find self love and how do you keep it? Don't go searching for it in a book, or heck even this article. You have to find it in yourself to reconfigure your mindset to appreciate all that you are, first and foremost. Have gratitude for the life you've been given the privilege to live. Self love is more than just a body issue, it's an issue of us as a society finding it impossible to see beyond someone's physical make up to truly understand who that person is.  I challenge you all to wake up everyday and take one step at a time towards a life that fulfills you and a soul that exudes positivity. 

-XX

SJG