I tend to be much meaner to myself than I could ever be towards someone else. I would feel guilty if I just thought something unsavory about someone else, yet when it came to me, I was the most cruel.
The mean thoughts I had about my body started around puberty. At first, I hated my body for changing and becoming something I had not anticipated. When my mother approached me about wearing a bra for the first time, I threw a fit and screamed at her in rage: how dare she think I have breasts? I hated the sanitary pad talks, the pride my mother and grandmother showed me for "becoming a woman," the new pain I was feeling once a month, but most of all, I hated my body. Why was it so complicated? Why couldn't I have just continued living in my prepubescent body? And why was all of this out of my control?
In my teenage years, as the idea of change settled in and I got over my puberty denial, my thoughts developed and fixated, and the hatred towards my body became more specialized. I hated my breasts for being too apart, my stomach for not being flat enough, my thighs for touching. But my vulva remained my worst enemy. The internet did not help things either: If I saw a meme of a pastrami (or whatever other meat) sandwich that was compared to a vulva, I would think of my vulva: why does it look like that? I didn't look closely at my vulva with a mirror until I was in my twenties because I was afraid of what I would see. I wouldn't let lovers see or touch my genitals because I was too ashamed. I went as far as having a consultation with a surgeon for a labiaplasty, all the while thinking that I should be so embarrassed to show him the horrendous thing between my legs!
A change in perspective has helped me come a long way. Today, I try to approach my body as if it were another person, and I treat it with the kindness and consideration that I would show others.
This includes sustaining it through healthy and filling foods, cleaning it with safe and nourishing products, and letting it rest as much as it needs to. Most importantly, this approach relies on me thinking about my body in a supportive and loving manner. If I find myself not particularly enjoying some aspect of my body, I restrain myself from thinking negative thoughts. For example, I will think "let me wear something that will complement your curvy shape" instead of "this makes my thighs look fat." I will also apologize to my arm if, for example, I accidentally burn it with a curling iron. I will tell my toes they look beautiful in red, and I will ask my stomach to be patient when I have PMS. When considering labiaplasty, or a sugary meal, or getting a tan, or staying up too late, I will ask my body "am I hurting you?"
Today, my labia are just as long as they ever were, and I love them that way! I try to show my vulva how much I care by accesorizing it! Recently, it has been sporting a landing strip, which I think compliments it well.
I never want my body to feel like I don't love it. I really do believe that the body is "someone" else: If you treat it badly, it will cower and weaken. If you support it, love it and nourish it, it will flourish, and it will thank you.
R. - 23 years old