By: Ashlee Renee
Loving myself has been an ongoing battle since I can remember. As a kid I was the chubby friend and the fat girl on the softball team that didn’t run very fast. I was every guy’s friend, but never a girlfriend. My older brother never had to chase guys off because no guys saw me as more than a buddy. This, plus being chubby from day one led to many insecurities.
As a teenager my self-confidence was nonexistent. I hid behind my own fat jokes and baggy clothes. I used my humor to hide because inside I had no idea who I was. My family was a typical Midwest family that loved me and gave me all I needed, including lots of meat and potatoes. I had a great life, two great parents who supported anything I did. A spacious home and a car given to me at 16. Life was picture perfect to an outsider.
Around 16 is when I started to learn about depression and mental illness. I became aware that it ran in my family. I learned there is a difference between being a moody teen and being suicidal. Thankfully, my parents saw this and got me help. To this day I am on anti-depressants and am so thankful for them.
Around 18 I met my first real boyfriend. Before this time I never gave my body a good look because I was too busy staying covered and embarrassed. I never saw my imperfections as beautiful. I only compared myself to women in magazines and on TV. At a size 10/12 I felt like a blimp. I laugh now when looking back at size 12 me because I really wasn’t big at all. I hated everything about my body and about myself. Now at a size 20/22 and 33 years old I wish I could tell every teenager that you don’t have to look a certain way! You don’t have to be what is considered good looking in our society! Just be you! And if fat is the worst thing you are, then you are doing pretty damn good in life!
In college I started to appreciate my curves while learning more about myself. I started playing roller derby and loved that I could have sex appeal while still sweating and knocking girls down. This really exhilarated me and help me break out of my shell. A friend asked me to model for them for a school photography project around this time. From that first shoot I felt absolutely alive in front of the camera. I felt like I could shed all my insecurities and show my true self. Back then, I was a size 16/18 and felt the best I ever had. I was embracing my body. I started indulging in self-care like bubble baths and shopping for items that made feel great. I no longer wanted to wear big t-shirts to cover myself up.
Honestly, life’s ups and downs, mixed with so many new experiences have shaped me into who I am now. Taking risks like going to Scotland for 6 months during college and posing nude for a sculptor have helped me embrace my true self. Putting myself out there has made my confidence grow and that continues even today, at 33. Body Positivity, for me, is just as much about loving my body as it is about loving what’s inside too. Once I was able to treat my depression, I had to learn to love my body and I realized that it wasn’t going to change. I believe we do inherit a lot of our size from our family and I am now proud of the booty my mom gave me and my freckled skin. It took me 20 years to realize its okay to be fat. It’s okay to show my skin and enjoy it. The human body can be art if you let yourself see the beauty.