A Love Letter
By Autumn Morris
I look in the mirror, and I see stretch marks. It hurts.
Of course, the marks themselves don’t hurt. It’s the site of them which inflicts physical pain in my chest like I’ve literally been hit with reality. Followed by disgust when I run my fingers across the hair that grows on my chin. I keep looking and I see underdeveloped breasts, large pores, love handles, and surgery deformities on my stomach. “You’re beautiful”, they tell me, but they haven’t seen me like this: naked.
Luckily, most people will never see me like this. They will see the confident version of me: makeup, flattering clothes, shoes that make noise, curls as voluminous as a lion’s mane. But what they don’t know is all of that is a distraction… from this.
What brought me here? We don’t innately hate these things about ourselves. So why am I standing here, looking in the mirror, and so completely unimpressed by what I see?
The simple diagnosis is: comparison culture. Society has this idealistic illustration of beauty in which we all seem to compare ourselves to, something I never really understood. This idea that an object or individual’s value can only be assessed by its ranking next to something else. We become so blinded by how we rank that we lose the lovely of our existence. We would never compare Van Gogh to Picasso, as their art styles are so very different. Yet, we can’t help but compare ourselves to this idealistic illustration of beauty found in magazines, movies, commercials, billboards, and social media.
My stretch marks, my love handles, my chin hairs, and my scars are not represented in this societal depiction of what beauty is. So, when I see my nakedness, I can only assume these features are less than.
For a while I tried to focus on the things I love about my body. Maybe these features could outshine the deep resentment of the rest. My eyes, my lips, the dimples on the small of my back, and my hair are enough for me. But, not enough to fill the void of not feeling beautiful in my entirety.
I find that the more I encourage the popular opinion with the language I use to describe my seemingly lesser parts, the deeper my displeasure with my appearance. Rather than continue to sulk in this void, I chose to change the narrative. While there are parts of me that I love more than the others, I have chosen to speak to and of my body gently and lovingly. Just like I would never allow a societal opinion to hinder my appreciation for my partner, my job, or my interests, I will no longer let it hinder my appreciation for my body.
When I look in the mirror, I see stretch marks. But, I’ve chosen to call them vessels of gold. I feel stubble on my chin. But, I’ve chosen to refer to it as fierceness emerging from the surface. I see love handles. But, I’ve chosen to see them as pockets of strength. I see scars on my stomach. But, I’ve chosen to just see marks of battles won.
I look in the mirror and push myself to be delighted by the intricacies of my being. I don’t look like the Instagram models or the girls in the magazines. But, I have vessels of gold on my ass… and that is kind of amazing.