A Pilgrimage to Self Love


This piece originally appeared in Boshemia Magazine Issue 03: Bodies.

It has been a long pilgrimage to a place of self-love. I can see the summit, yet I have not fully and truly arrived.

I have learned to love the steep, wide slopes of my hips, and the soft rotundity of my tum—the droop of my breasts, nodding earthwards as though in reverence; my thick white marble thighs.

I am on cordial speaking terms with my lil back roll, right below my bra strap, and the hollow concaves of my deep-set eyes; they say to keep your enemies close.

My body is given to self-sabotage. I fuel it lovingly; it often rejects my offerings

but still I nurture.

I don’t remember the moment I decided I was incorrect; the first moment I realised my hips were wider, my flesh softer, my nose bolder, my brows thicker than my peers, than the role models offered to me in the media, than the mould I was supposed to fit.

I feel as though it has always been a part of me:

it must have been a quiet, unmarked moment stolen somewhere

between the blithe ignorance of childhood and the first time I bled (young).

I do remember the first time my ‘friends’ told me my smile was wrong, my tooth gap was ugly, my tummy was too doughy, my hair was too wild.

[My body was never in fashion then. I had to look to the ancients to see myself represented]

Phebe Lou Morson

Phebe Lou Morson

I do remember the first time an ex boyfriend said,

deliberately within earshot,

with a pointed glance in my direction,

that he preferred girls with a thigh gap, and encouraged all our male friends to loudly agree.

In my memory I have always been ‘bigger’. Photographic evidence proves this.

But not ‘bigger’ in the traditional way; just slightly too big.

Not quite big enough to definitively be called ‘fat’. Not quite small enough to count as ‘thin’, or to comfortably fit into high street clothing. People call my shape ‘curvy’, and curves there are many.

An awkward middle; not at home anywhere, hyper-conscious of my body taking up space,  hyper-aware of the way my clothes formed around me,  hyper-feminising myself to counter my extra bulk;

teen me starved her body for days at a time to try to reduce, resize, reinvent, to shrink myself so small I evaded the scrutiny of my peers, and of myself—my loudest critic.

(Spoiler alert: it never worked).

Poppy  Crew

Poppy Crew

The moment it changed was when I realised I had been presenting and cultivating my body for the benefit of those around me, to impress total strangers and people who don’t have to live in this flesh.

I promised myself from that moment to only cater for myself.

I promised myself to present my body the way I wanted it, and for nobody else.

This was revolutionary for me.

At twenty I stopped fuelling my flesh with the flesh of other living things.

I turned to the bounty of the earth, and drew my energy from the sun; it grounded me.

At twenty-one I stopped removing my body hair. This was my biggest lesson in how to stop caring what other people think about what you do with your body. I learned to embrace my body being outside of the status quo; I began to treat it with respect.

I focused my new, solar-powered energy inwards, and it exuded outwards.

In my memory, the change in my attitude is visible even though my body didn’t significantly change at this moment. Photographic evidence proves this.

I wish I could say I am totally at peace with the way my body looks—I’m not. I love my body now, it’s true, but as with all loves it is complicated. I always convinced myself that when I lost weight all my body issues would disappear, and yet

I still check my side profile every time I pass a mirror, or catch my reflection.

I still obsessively measure my waist and hips, I still weigh myself more often than I wish I did.

I still dress ‘strategically’ to minimise my size and accentuate my smallest parts.

I still scrutinise the way my body looks from every angle before I leave the house.

I still have occasional meltdowns when I don’t feel good, even though my logical part of my brain knows that I look fine. I have learned to trick myself out of those mindsets.

I wish I didn't still do those things. I am trying. But crucially, I respect my body; it is strong, it functions, it carries me through my amazing life—

I present myself boldly, with confidence. I no longer try to blend in or minimise myself,

and most crucially, I cultivate it for me, and only me.