Baring My Imperfections Taught Me to Love My Body
Ever since I can remember, I’ve had issues with my body. I didn’t hate it; in fact, there were quite a few features I adored. But thanks to today’s culture of seeking validation in over-Photoshopped ads and magazine spreads of celebrities with bodies I could never attain, I felt myself over-scrutinizing even the tiniest flaw.
I grew up in a household with two incredibly loving parents who told me constantly (and still do) that I was beautiful. No one else was the problem…but me.
I went in to my middle and high school years hiding my body like it was something I should feel ashamed of. I went through six years of my life with a strict no-shorts policy, despite living in 90- degree heat, because of my thick calves and thighs.
I would only buy tops with sleeves, or I'd wear a shawl to cover my upper arms. Worst of all, I refused to go into the pool—something I loved doing—if I saw someone I knew from school for fear of them judging my body in a bathing suit. Summers were miserable. I was miserable.
It was a slow and steady process to re-fall in love with my body. The defining moment was two years ago when my friend Anna had asked me to model for her. Not just any type of modeling—nude modeling. Anna is an amazing artist who has such a keen eye for beauty. Even though I was uncomfortable, I said yes.
This was the first time in my life that I had ever been fully naked in front of someone in broad daylight. And she had a camera! As suspected, at first it was uncomfortable and weird, and the pictures showed it. I seemed rigid and forced. But as time passed, we started cracking jokes and feeling comfortable.
By the end of the shoot, every shot showed a big smile on my face. I’m a big jokester, so the beginning shots where I was trying to look serious looked unnatural in comparison. As I started to put my clothes back on, I realized Anna’s eyes never criticized my body. Not once. Every glance was appreciative, supporting, and even somewhat invigorating.
When she sent back her favorites from the shoot, I audibly gasped. There I was, butt naked in all of my glory. You could see every blemish, stretch mark, and scar…and I was beautiful. It would have been just as easy to have Photoshopped them all out, but she didn’t. I remember showing someone the pictures and having them comment on how I resembled a Renaissance painting, something that has stuck with me since.
Ever since that whole experience, I have been able to find beauty in every inch of my body. For some people, it may take a while to get to that level of self-acceptance. My body is by no means the definition of traditional beauty, yet there is so much of it I wouldn’t change. Every blemish from a workout, every stretch mark from my skin growing with me, and every scar, a souvenir of a good time.
At 23, I'm finally able to love and accept myself. I’m not saying you have to get naked in front of your friends or on camera to do so. But try to find those things about yourself that make you special, because they make you beautiful too.
By Anne O’Hara, 23