By Judy M. McCutcheon
As a kid I was always skinny, I remember being 23 and still weighing 90 lbs with clothes on. I never had pimples as most teenagers do and my skin was always clear and blemish free. To say I was smoking hot is an understatement. I looked great and I felt good about myself. I felt that I could take on the world and conquer it and I set out on that quest, and I succeeded for the most part – except I began to lose my confidence and self-esteem as I started gaining weight. It’s funny how we have been conditioned to associate feeling good about ourselves, by the numbers on the scale. I have always been a go getter and fiercely competitive, and I am smart, articulate and beautiful. So, how do we get trapped and caught up in what is considered to be societal norms about what we should look like as women? And why, how you look should determine how you feel about yourself? There has been all this fat shaming going around – and yes ladies we do it to each other, how does that advance our cause?
I started my natural hair journey in 2012, and if you had said to me 10 years ago that I would wear my hair natural and love it, I would have stared at you in disbelief and wondered who you were talking about. I have since totally embraced who I am, I love all of me from my head to my toes and every inch in between – crease and cracks included. I was in a relationship, and when we just started dating he said to me that I was “the fattest woman he’s ever dated” and of course that did wonders for my self-esteem – I’ve since found out that I was the sexiest woman he’s ever dated. Anyway, he would always be bugging me about what I ate and badger me about exercising. If the concern was for my health, that would have been great, but it was all about aesthetics. Ladies, too many times we get caught up in other people’s opinion of us, and that’s because we have an external frame of reference. I was fortunate to have a mother who championed my cause and I know that each one of us has a person like that in our lives, it may not be your parent or even a family member, but if you took a critical look at the people in your life you would find that one person.
As girls, we have been socialised to put others before ourselves, but I have found doing that takes all my energy and then I have nothing left for me. A few years ago, I decided that I would put me first and yes that resulted in some backlash, but I was prepared for it because I knew that if I didn’t put me first, I would eventually be no good for anyone else. Our cultures in the Caribbean are so varied when it comes to how we are taught to see ourselves. A friend told me that in her culture, they were not allowed to eat at the table with the males in the household and that they were given whatever was left over after the men had eaten and of course the men got the biggest portion of everything. It’s difficult to break away from cultural norms and traditions, but little by little we can start putting cracks in the moulds until they finally break. You start this by first loving and embracing your “you-ness,” and then teaching your daughters to love themselves unconditionally, and teaching your sons to love and respect your tribe.
Society is harsh enough towards women, without you putting that extra burden of self-judgement on yourself. There is all this talk now about self-care and while that is important, the thing that gets us there is self-love. Learning to love who you are could be a painful exercise depending on your socialisation. If you grew up constantly hearing negative things about yourselves, then those are the things you believe to be true about you. Mothers, when you compare your daughters to each other or with other girls, you are helping to put them down the rabbit hole of low self-esteem and self-doubt. Women, when we remain in toxic and abusive relationships because we are concerned about what society would think, we are teaching our daughters that it’s ok to settle for less and showing our sons that it’s ok to disrespect us.
We worry too much about how society would label us rather than who we truly are as a woman. It’s about time we start loving ourselves and putting ourselves first. Start doing positive things to begin the journey of self-love, thus showing others how you want to be treated and not compromising who you are for the sake of others. Find activities that make you genuinely feel good about yourself, exercise to stay healthy, meditate to improve your spirituality, affirm yourself positively, save, invest and plan for your retirement, forget about fad diets and practice intuitive eating and surround yourself with people who would champion you. Let your frame of reference be internal, love and embrace who are, remembering that happiness is not a body size.
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