By Ayorinde Ifatunji. Photography by Deun Ivory.
To be bold is to be strong and confident. To be bold is to embrace every inch of our being and become one with it. To be bold is to accept our bodies as they are and not waste our precious energy with critiquing it. Practicing acceptance of ourselves and our precious bodies is what allows us to be bold.
We, as black and brown women, have been taught that our bodies aren’t enough. Through media, society, and even friendly conversation, we have been taught that thin, white bodies, with no fat on them are the “standard.” The truth is, they are nowhere near. The world is made up of billions of different bodies that cannot be defined, though we’ve been conditioned to think they can be. Conversations swirl around us about the latest diets, what foods we must stop eating, how much weight a person has lost. It has become normal to be dissatisfied with the bodies we are in.
Let’s change that.
Affirm your body in all its beauty.
Strip down to the least amount of clothes you are comfortable with wearing and step in front of the mirror. Stand there for at least three minutes. What do you see? Finding something negative about the body we’re in can be an instant reaction, but think about how you’d feel if the first thing you thought was, “okay, girl you are looking as beautiful as EVER today!” A thought process such as this one takes practice, and affirming your body is a way to shift your mind to think in a more positive direction about the skin you are in.
Focus on a part of your body that you tend to be dissatisfied with. Mine used to be my thighs, so here's my practice. I repeat this statement:
“I fully embrace my thighs in all of their perfection and beauty.”
If that doesn’t resonate, try this one:
“My thighs are a part of what makes me whole, and I love them for that.”
Create your own affirmation and tailor it to your needs. You may use the ones provided, or simply search ‘body positive affirmations’ for some inspiration. The benefit of affirmations like these is that they allow the brain to get used to expressing love instead of distaste for the body. Speak your love for your body into existence.
Your body is enough.
The diet industry is alive and well, and takes many shapes and forms. It has recently masked itself in the form of paleo diets, cutting out gluten or dairy, or calorie counting apps. The diet industry preys on women who are dissatisfied with their bodies and their low confidence levels. There are thought leaders in fitness that focus on getting as thin as possible or worse, preaching the idea that being healthy equates to being thin. It is so incredibly false yet still we strive to get to this unattainable level of “perfection.”
There is no changing genetic makeup. I used to believe if I was thin enough, I could lose my hips and behind. No matter how low the number got on my scale, it never happened. We cannot lose who we are and what our DNA has passed on generation through generation. Instead, let’s embrace, accept and show love. Let’s eat what we crave, and allow our bodies to be intuitive in what it likes, rather than us trying to constantly control and decide for it. Let go of the idea that you are not enough if your body doesn’t match a certain look. You are unique in your own right. You are beautiful.
Make the connection.
We are often moving at such a brisk pace that we forget what our bodies truly feel like.
During a time when it’s quiet, and you are in a state to practice mindfulness, put down all electronics and just sit. Allow your hands to explore what your body feels like. Rough patches, soft patches, sharp bones and soft curves. Close your eyes and connect with your soul. Understand the power that your body holds and what it enables you to accomplish. Appreciate it and feel your senses activate as you pay more attention to how your soul connects with each part of you. Understand that every inch of you is intertwined with another, and that is the beauty of your unique body. You are alive and well. Your body and soul are what make that miracle happen.
Write your love letter.
This can be the most difficult, which is why it might be easier to practice the above first. Get out a piece of paper and something to write with. Starting with the top of your head, begin to pinpoint areas of your body that you aren’t satisfied with and express your love for them. Don’t hold back, in fact, push yourself to find reasons why you love that specific part. Our critical eyes have too long been observing our bodies with scrutiny, it’s time to shift our view. Write as much or as little as you are comfortable with. Incorporate the easy parts and the more difficult ones. Craft a piece that you will be able to read again in times of doubt, or write multiple letters as you see fit.
The discomfort in this exercise is real, and by no means will I mask it as something easy. It is tough work, but also work we must do to relieve the tension we feel in our minds when we think about our bodies. Even if you don’t believe everything you say just yet, you are setting the Universe in motion and you are making the words real by writing them down.
From body acceptance to body boldness.
Making peace with our bodies allows us to eat and exercise in healthier and more intuitive ways. It opens the doors to living a different way of life that is no longer defined by the size we think we must fit into or the food we convince ourselves we must eat to lose weight.
Being body positive is the stepping stone we must take to be bold, bright, and beautiful in our own eyes. Once we see that reflection within ourselves, we create space in our minds for the freedom and joy that is brown body boldness.
Ayorinde is a native Chicagoan who loves podcasts, meditation, and inspiring others to feel good about every inch of their being. Her blog, Bright-Eyed Joy, is dedicated to encouraging self-love and looking within to find the most authentic version of oneself. Follow Ayorinde on Instagram: @Brighteyedjoy, on Twitter @BrightEyedJoy, and on Facebook: @BrightEyedJoy