Stretch Marks, Cellulite, and Self-Confidence

It is a rainy Saturday morning in May. I get up, the lessons of the past day, fresh and resounding in my mind. I scrub my bathtub and sink, thinking and thanking my Creator for another chance at life. I offer my words and my life as a sacrifice and hope they please him. I shower and get ready to meet two gorgeous women for breakfast. After an hour and a half, my belly is full. And so is my soul.

The sun is still on her day off and the clouds are moody about it. They keep crying. Their tears pour from the skies in quiet, gentle showers. It is Sunday the next day and so I try out three outfits for church. My roommate and I come to a decision. We deem the third outfit, a light blue off-the-shoulder dress and nude shoes with gold embellishments, the winner.

I like what I see when I look into the mirror. Standing there for a few more moments, I go back a few years ago, to a time when I inched closer to reproach for my body. It is pertinent that I provide some context here. I am an African woman who possesses her mother’s features. Her rosy cheeks, her nose, her full hips. Of my siblings, I am the least lean. This did not come without certain remarks from some extended family members. Now and again, I would hear “are you sure you’re not eating your sister’s food?” It was a casual jab that made my heart bleed. Being Nigerian means that you do not take certain things seriously. Knowing this did not take the sting out of those words, often laced with big smiles.

Perhaps I had acted without wisdom in some respects. I enjoyed food thoroughly and now and again, disregarded my parents’ counsel to eat a little less.

Puberty hit and stretch marks became permanent visitors. You know, the kinds that show up unannounced and have no immediate plans of vacating your space. I didn’t like them. I didn’t like that they spread out on my arms without regard for my feelings. I didn’t like that they were there. I didn’t like that I didn’t take my mother’s soft and flawless arms. I didn’t like that they didn’t respond to cocoa butter, shea butter, aloe vera, stretch mark creams and soaps, and the ultimate, bio-oil. It broke my heart when one day in boarding school, I discovered that my bio-oil had disappeared from my locker. Where and how was I to find it?

The morning before mass one Sunday morning, I wanted to dress up in a pretty sleeveless dress. It had a white background and was adorned with green, turquoise blue, and black designs. I examined my appearance in the mirror and did not like what I saw. Because I didn’t want anyone looking at those crooked lines, I promptly found my mother’s leftover foundation and poured some of the brown liquid onto my palm. Smoothing it over both sides of my upper arm, I nodded, satisfied with the result.

I grew up in a happy home and knew that I was loved fiercely. I believed that true beauty resided on the inside yet I knew that appearance mattered.

In the weeks leading up to my graduation from secondary school, I enlisted my mother’s help as my coach in my quest to become more fit. My father and siblings cheered me on and my mother and I bonded. I was satisfied with the outcome of that exercise and felt beautiful on the day I graduated. I felt even better, knowing that I had done my parents proud by winning prizes.

I think something profound shifted after those years. Perhaps the hormones wore off and I could think and see more clearly. Beauty had never been something I had always thought about with a standard in mind. For me and for others, being presentable was all that mattered.

An important part of growing old is growing up. This is the area where many of us fall down. It has taken seeing myself through God’s eyes to get to the place of true beauty, one that never fades.

I also believe I became inspired by people who regarded themselves with admiration and considered it normal. As a person who is always looking to do better and be better, I find it difficult sometimes to hush and say “I like where I am and who I am.” I fear complacency. I don’t like or want to be ordinary and so I’m constantly looking for ways to improve. But without knowing it and through God’s help, I found myself with people who affirmed me out of love. Find those people. Keep them. Be them.

In a previous post, I outlined my qualms with society’s idea of self-love. Out of love, not spite, my parents cautioned me when I overate and it would have done me good if I listened. We all know that excess weight predisposes us to coronary diseases. It is my firm belief that self-control is an act of love, even towards self.

I owe the person I am today to all of my experiences. I don’t want a filtered, airbrushed type of beauty. I want the crooked-nosed, gap-toothed, sun-beaten type of beauty. Beauty was never meant to be just superficial. Beauty was meant to orient man towards heaven, towards the author of beauty. I want the kind of beauty that wells up like a spring, from within.

If my stretch marks disappeared overnight, I’d miss them. They have greeted my eyes every morning for years now, and have taught me a great many things about what fills a person with beauty and grace.

Quiet the chaos and clothe yourself with dignity and strength. According to Pope Benedict XVI, you are willed, you are loved, and you are necessary. Believing any less would be selling yourself short.

7 Ideas For Your Next Self-Care Session

One of my favorite things to say is that one cannot pour from an empty jar. It is impossible to give what you do not have. In the course of our daily lives, we share, give, and do things constantly. At the end of any given day, it is essential that you recharge and refuel. As an introvert, this is key to my existence.

Just so you know, self-care is not selfish. The Golden Rule asks us to love others as we love ourselves. In order to love others properly, we must first love ourselves. You must pour back into your spirit so that you can do more and be more for others. Without further ado, let us jump right in!

  • Shower with the Lights Off

Slow down and let those deliciously warm drops of water touch you. Don’t be in a hurry, your best ideas tend to come when you pace yourself. Get comfortable with your thoughts. Be careful when stepping out so you do not slip and fall.

  • Lay on the Floor in the Dark

This sounds ridiculous but oh how relaxing it is! Pick a clean and quiet space, turn off your phone, and unplug the fridge so it doesn’t hum. Breathe slowly and hone in on one thought. This is a good time to pick a psalm, a proverb, or a quote to focus on.

  • Count Your Blessings

Don’t focus on the flood so much that you miss the rainbow. Learn to look up and leave your worries below for a moment. Name your blessings one by one. You are alive, there is hope.

  • Be Kind

Do something for someone else without expecting anything in return. The next time you’re feeling helpless, help someone. Remember that you are blessed beyond measure. It might just take a little more effort to see that when things go wrong.

  • Pray

This should be the first thing to do. Pray without ceasing and offer thanks for who you are and who you will be. God is near to the brokenhearted. You are not an afterthought, you are not a mistake. The Creator looked at all the good things in the world and thought it still needed you. Your talents and abilities are his gifts to you. Be grateful for that.

  • Create a Treasure Box

Get a random box and fill it with all the words and wishes others have given you on any occasion. You could even fill it with notes you have written yourself. When you feel down, affirm yourself with those words. You is smart, you is kind, you is important.

  • Journal

And light a candle while doing so. Pour your heart out on those pages. Create an atmosphere devoid of distractions and center yourself. The beautiful thing about journaling is that when the storms are over, you can look back on how you rode the waves.

Eat, sleep, exercise, and surround yourself with good people. Those who challenge you, who inspire you, and those whose shoulders you can lean on. Life is suffering, it is tough. But so are you.

Quotes I Live By

The winter semester is going by really quickly! I feel like I have just kept doing things non-stop. Last week was really hard for me and it was really hard to find quiet time.

So this week I am trying to remind myself of why I do the things I do and take more naps. Today on the blog, I will be sharing quotes that I try to live by.

These are from people who have walked/walk the earth and won my admiration. Enjoy!

 

  • As a rule,  I don’t like suffering to no purpose. Suffering should be creative, should give birth to something good and lovely ~ Chinua Achebe
  • My job is to inform, not to convince ~ St. Bernadette
  • Life and death are in the power of the tongue ~ Proverbs 18 v 21
  • I can take hardship. I can sleep on the cold floor anytime. I can also sleep on a feather bed ~ Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
  • Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction ~ Margaret Thatcher
  • A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself ~  Proverbs 11 v 17
  • A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing ~ Maya Angelou
  • Every man dies, but not every man truly lives ~ William Wallace in Braveheart
  • That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for ~ Sam in Lord of the Rings
  • Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self ~ Mother Teresa

 

There it is, folks! What are some quotes that have helped you on your journey through life?

Green Behind the Ears

“The sweet converse of an innocent mind… is my soul’s pleasure”- John Keats, Sonnet to Solitude

I do not know how it happened but somehow, I began to see people rationalizing doing things for others only if they deserved or would appreciate them. Individuals promptly took to keeping their “circle” small and not trusting so easily.

In my lifetime, I have been described as many things. One of the most recurrent themes has been kindheartedness. I enjoy talking with people who are more advanced in years and time after time, they are baffled when I brush someone being mean spirited to me as an isolated incident.

Some of these people I have encountered are confounded when  I state my belief that although other occupants of the world are broken just like me, they usually have the best intentions. Their amazement is quickly followed by the words, “don’t ever change”.

Amongst the greatest marvels in the world is the sweet innocence of a child. This innocence is often blown out by adversity, like a candle in the wind.Continue reading “Green Behind the Ears”

On Loving Yourself

“Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident”- Louis de Berniéres

In recent times, the internet and bookshelves have been bombarded with ideologies on self-positivity and self-love. Many propose that self-love is a crucial factor in propelling individuals into fulfilling lives. While I appreciate the intention of these messages and acknowledge that they can be helpful to some individuals, I do not completely agree with them.

It seems as though these authors assume that the consumers of these messages are without flaws. Unfortunately and realistically, this is not the case. One quote I recently came across said, “you are perfect exactly as you are. With all your flaws and problems, there’s no need to change anything. All you need to change is the thought that you have to change.”

Although I appreciate the sentiment echoed in the quote above, it can be problematic for persons trying to decipher right from wrong in a certain stage of life. It is worse still, for a fellow who is being corrected yet doesn’t see the defects in their character.

Love entails acceptance. Acceptance and then action.Continue reading “On Loving Yourself”