“I am more than this shell of a body. I am also a beautiful mind and a passionate soul. My worth is not based on one, but all dimensions of who I am.
Let’s get this straight. Self-love is so much deeper than my ability to show up in a bikini. But those who have not struggled through sexual abuse or hating your body cannot fully grasp the depth of that simple act of self-love.
I am more than my body, but this vessel is not less important because its existence has been perverted and misused since the beginning of time.
Loving it has not come easy. In fact, I’d say finding the strength to love my mind and soul has been so much easier than loving the skin that encapsulates them. The journey to self-love is as much rooted in the stereotypical coming of age drama as it is in darker, deeper issues.
I was overweight as a prepubescent tween. I can recall a group of ‘friends’ chasing me around the playground, throwing a water bottle at me, while snorting and calling me Mrs. Piggy. I laughed with them, because what was my alternative? Fight or cry? So, I ran and laughed, while carrying around the shame that weighed more than my 10-year-old body ever did.
By 12, I started to grow up and ‘level out.’ The attention the boys began to pass out was far different than those playground days. But the damage was already done. Losing some weight and growing some breasts did not magically add value… it gave me a tool to search for validation in all the wrong places.
I listened to songs with lyrics like:
‘It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes,’
‘Can I play with your panty line?’
‘I want a chick with thick hips who licks her lips…’
‘Hoe, who is you playin’ with? Back that azz up,’
AND those are just the first few, almost G-rated lines, I could think of. Most were far more offensive. One in particular makes my insides churn, and I consumed it as fact, molding my young body into something that would deem me worthy.
The attention to follow could fill up a book. But each encounter left me a little more hollow, a little more desperate for love, and a little less concerned with what I’d have to do to find it.
After delivering my first child at 15, I was left with a body I didn’t recognize — heavier, softer, and covered in stretch marks. A permanent reminder of a lifestyle that left me empty, void of validation. I was positive I’d never find another man to love me, because my entire experience with males was based on the media’s exploitation of what made a female body desirable.
I was broken. I was flawed. I was not worthy of my own love, let alone the love of others… and this is where I sat. It was a dark place. I want to say it was a short season. I want to say I didn’t stay in this solitude for long… but that would be a lie.
I wallowed here. I was molested here. I hid underneath men’s clothes, 2 sizes too big, and behind a smile a mile wide. Anything to deflect sexual attention and nurture those around me. I found more and more reasons to believe I was not worth the love I was giving. So, I slipped further away from the light, until it was hardly visible. The abyss was my home.
I wasn’t the hero of my own story. Truly, I don’t think any of us can say we are self-made. We all meet people along the way who are responsible for parts of our healing. My husband picked me up at my lowest and began tearing down walls. He held me while I heaved up decades of trauma, and tried to help me see myself like he saw me.
I fought to love this body. He fought for me to love this body. But his constant encouragement didn’t take root until I became the parent of a daughter. When I looked into her eyes, and realized she would grow up strongly influenced by how she saw me, consumed by my own image… that is when I started to make changes.
If she is WORTH SELF LOVE, then so am I. And so are you! We were all created in the image of our creator. Not one of us will make it through this life unscathed. I pray your scars aren’t deep trenches carved by abuse or trauma. But if they are, believe me when I say you are so worth loving. Girl, hear me. You are not what has been done to you. You are a wildflower. You can exist without a gentle hand or special care. You deserved it. But you can grow despite it. You are worth self-love.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Raquel McCloud, 31, of North Carolina. Follow her family journey on Instagram here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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