We are currently within the throes of Lockdown Part Deux, although you wouldn’t really know it due to the amount of hustle and bustle (and open sit-in restaurants and cafes!!!) I’ve been seeing outside over the last few days. Although not as intense as Lockdown I, there is a stillness this time round that – at the beginning – I found rather unsettling.
Maybe it’s because I live alone. Maybe it’s because the last few weeks haven’t been the best for me, mental health-wise. It could be a plethora of reasons really, but whatever the case, I’ve been taking the time out of my pretty open schedule to do a lot of internal work, and over the past few weeks I’ve had a few epiphanies.
One thing I’ve been trying to deal with for a while now is the issue of body confidence. As someone who predominantly writes and creates content in this space, I’m sometimes touted by others as a bit of an ‘expert’ (which for the record, I don’t think I am at all. I just have a big mouth). A couple of weeks ago after having a heart-to-heart with a close friend, I realised something: I’d completely lost all my confidence, and to be honest, it’s been this way for just over a year.
It can be difficult when you have a platform that centres on body confidence and self-love, as you’re frequently expected to ‘perform’ confidence and high self-esteem. You’re put in a position where you frequently offer advice to others, putting up photos of yourself in bikinis or underwear showing off the ‘flaws’ and all the things that make us human. Throughout the year I’ve found myself doing that a lot, even on days and weeks where I felt like shit. It made me feel like a bit of a fraud if I’m being honest.
But I know I’m not a fraud. Self-love isn’t linear and there are good days and bad days. I lost my confidence last August after a long series of unfortunate events convinced me that my image and my body was the sole reason for my loneliness. At the time, I compartmentalised the feeling to make room for writing the book, working, travelling, and all the other things I had going on at the time. I wanted to give the illusion that I was this strong, confident KWEEN when in reality, I would cry every day because of what I saw in the mirror.
As a black woman (and a plus-size one at that), you often get landed with stereotypical personality traits and tropes that are rooted in racial microaggressions. Because of that, a lot of people typically tend to refer to me as sassy, confident, strong, and even intimidating at times. While I may harbour some of those traits from time to time, it’s not all I am, and so then I’m sometimes forced to perform these traits in order to appease people.
This year has been a year of trying to claw back the confidence I worked so hard on trying to develop over the years and in a way, having a lockdown has been a great way for me to find a sense of stillness and calm for me to concentrate entirely on myself. I’ve been using the downtime to invest in myself emotionally, as I’ve found that when trying to do work on body image issues, the physical self is normally the least important part to fix.
With that being said, I do things that self-soothe me, such as singing to myself and disassociating (with is something I really want to write about at a later date) from time to time. Reading, listening to podcasts on trauma, inner child healing and disassociative disorders have been helping a lot with me getting to grips on why I feel what I feel when I look at myself in the mirror.
Photography is another way for me to express myself, and see my body for what it is. I’m not artsy-fartsy so I can’t go into the particulars of why I choose to shoot myself, but I think it’s important to normalise bodies like mine as society won’t do it for us. There is such beauty in different body shapes and I would like to think that mine counts alongside them. After years of hiding myself, making apologies for my body and trying to be smaller in order to appease others, there is empowerment in just putting my stretch marks and body out there. It may not be to everyone’s aesthetic tastes, but it’s mine and it’s the body I’m choosing to love and live in, regardless.
Body confidence is a temperamental ally; she waxes and wanes frequently, a constant enemy to the patriarchal world in which we live in, unfortunately. It’s okay to not feel confident all the time, especially during the current climate in which we are surrounded by articles telling us how to ‘lose the lockdown weight’ and are spending a lot more time focusing on ourselves without the distractions of work and social lives.
At the end of the day, if we keep basing our self-worth on something as ever-changing as our bodies, we will forever be on the emotional roller coaster of body obsession and shame. The journey continues.