Teyana Taylor set off a firestorm of chatter this week with the revelation of her amazing body in Kanye West’s “Fade” video. The sight of Teyana’s chiseled and lean physique sparked articles, think pieces, tweets, and statuses all bearing the hashtag, #bodygoals.
Many used the hashtag out of appreciation. Some joked about being inspired to head to the gym. Yet, some misogynists took the opportunity to continue their mission of hating women with body comparisons and shaming.
Whatever your thoughts, the sister made us all pay attention. In the midst of giving Teyana props of my own, I couldn’t help but think about body image. In particular, I thought about my own relationship with my body and how I came to truly love it.
The idolization by some seemed mere appreciation while others bordered on covetous. It breaks my heart when I hear women wish for parts of another woman’s body as if we are Frankenstein creations of paternalistic desires. Society has dictated to us what is desirable as if desirability is a goal to attain and those of us who haven’t reached this pinnacle of outside validation have failed.
I once said to a friend, “I can’t think of anyone else’s body I would rather have than my own.” This is not a criticism. My personal journey has taken work, much introspection, and brutal honesty. This is my account of how I came to love the skin I’m in. My body is now mine – not something to be remarked on, critiqued, or compared.
My journey began in childhood. I have always been a thin person. I remember an older woman asking my mother whether I was taking vitamins. Needless to say, my mother’s response assured her that her inquisitiveness was not welcome.
As a teenager, I remember being uncomfortable as my body developed into womanhood. Breasts were not welcome. I didn’t know how to handle them or the attention they brought and it did not help that mine seemed to appear over one summer. Let’s just say, they were not shy. But, I was.
In college, I was met with the full realization of how my body was perceived. Yet, this was not a perception for which I was ready. Girls become women by outside standards but are not always equipped to embrace or overcome those outside standards. I was 5’8”, lean, athletic build, and naïve. The reactions I was met with by both my female and male peers were hurtful and sometimes confusing.
Comments on my body were and are commonplace by people I know and some I don’t. I learned to subconsciously apologize. Apologize for being thin. Apologize for the attention. Apologize so as not to offend or make someone who had not reconciled their own body issues feel less than. It was damaging in ways my young mind had yet learned to process and my mature one had deemed frivolous.
How, then, did I finally fall in love with my body? I decided to run a half marathon. I know, it sounds crazy.
But, I am incredibly focused when I set my mind to things. Running was not a challenge I halfway took on. My preparation involved embracing a healthier lifestyle that included diet change, boxing, yoga, and barre. I committed to the conditioning and along the way became truly free.
For the first time, I became aware of the astounding satisfaction of unlocking my body’s capabilities and pushing its limits. I became alive with each step, with each mile. As my body changed, I could not help but pay attention in ways I had never done. I began to FULLY appreciate…myself.
I began to realize that my body is God’s unique gift. It belongs to me—not society’s expectations or gaze. It is my own and my appreciation of it does not lessen anyone else. To the contrary, my unapologetic acceptance of it is empowering not only to myself but to others.