Recently, I noticed some small but significant changes in my body since I turned 30. Looking into the mirror one day, I discovered a few moles that were not there before. My partner found a baby grey hair that was starting grow on my head. I I noticed that my clothes don’t fit the way that they used to; I am gaining weight around my belly and my thighs. These cellulite, stretch marks, and wrinkles are here to stay. Given my past struggles in my relationship with my body, I was surprised to find that I did not react to these changes with criticism, disappointment, or panic. Instead, I found myself observing these changes with a sense of calm curiosity. I realized that I liked what I saw.
I fought a long battle with my body in my teens and twenties. I fell for the media’s unrealistic expectations for women’s bodies at a young age. Since puberty, I tried to conform to the society’s beauty ideals because the ideals promised happiness and success. As an Asian woman living in the U.S., I also equated being beautiful with being White. Over time, I learned that chasing after these beauty ideals was a fruitless and hopeless task. I could not be more thin or more White than the body I was born into.
Realizing that I am starting to accept and embrace my body as I aged was a welcoming change. Perhaps part of this acceptance comes with the third decade, as I hear that we generally feel more grounded, happy, and care less about what people think at this time in our lives. I also think this new found body acceptance is the result of talking about my relationship with my body, being honest about my body shame, seeking out sources of information to challenge the beauty ideals (such as the TEDx Talk by Jean Kilbourne on “The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women”), and finding validating voices that help me feel normal in my struggle.
“I wrote ‘Bootylicious’ because, at the time, I’d gained some weight and the pressure that people put you under, the pressure to be thin, is unbelievable. I was just 18 and you shouldn’t be thinking about that. You should be thinking about building up your character and having fun, and the song was just telling everyone to forget what people are saying, you’re bootylicious. That’s all. It’s a celebration of curves and a celebration of women’s bodies.”
There are still times when the body shame comes back and I feel 14 years old again. In those moments, I look down on my belly and I tell myself, “I love you, no matter what.”
Do you struggle with body image concerns? Have you found ways to love your body? Share your story with me in the comment section below.