When I was a teenager there was little to no information about body positivity or loving your body traits. However, it’s crucially important to know that it’s totally normal to be insecure about certain things – like stretch marks, hair texture, eye shape, and skin tone. So, I wrote this article to share what I wish I could have read when I was a teen. In short, it’s about some of the body traits I was most insecure about, but now with a little work, I have come to love. I also interviewed some of my friends and family, including my sister, Jaliene Singer, and my friend, Ashley Aviles, along with others who did not want to be named. I would like to thank them.
Remember there is always room to develop, love, and care for yourself so you can too one day appreciate (and maybe even love) all of yourself!
My Curly Hair
Starting at an early age I had a love-hate relationship with my hair, because not everyone had textured curly hair. Most of my peers had straight hair, which definitely made me stand out. The fact I was different made me feel unrelatable to others and unable to fit in. I felt if I tried to make my hair look like theirs that I could fit in with everybody else.
All my life, well-meaning people would tell me how much of a “blessing” it was to have curly hair. Although they had good intentions, what they didn’t see were the tears I cried from working the tangles out of my hair in the morning.
When I was in elementary school, in the mornings before school, I would just throw my hair into a ponytail to make it manageable to deal with throughout the day. My classmates would always tell me to straighten my hair or to let it down. But no matter what I did, I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb.
Later, I tried straightening my hair to fit in. But this quickly got tiring because of how long it took.
As the internet became more and more popular when I started middle school—I was able to meet new people online and surround myself with those with a similar hair type! I made a great group of friends (both online and IRL) that helped me accept that my hair is beautiful and unique.
Over time, I was able to make myself realize that I really don’t need to straighten my hair constantly or copy traditional straight hair styles to fit in or please others. Now, I love watching my hair naturally curl up when it dries, and I love the curls that stick out of my ponytails or braids.
Though tattoos aren’t technically a “natural” part of our bodies, they create a unique confidence boost because you can show personal artistic expression. Tattoos are a great way to represent who we are (and the ones we love) to the public!
In many Indigenous cultures and communities, tattoos are a form of self-expression or a way to connect to culture. They can symbolize who we are on the inside and paint the stories of our lives on our bodies.
When I look in the mirror, I can see my tattoos. The first one peeks out from behind my left ear—a design made of a small heart. Another located on my collarbone is of my parent’s and maternal grandmother’s astrological constellations. Another slightly below my collarbone is of my parent’s and maternal grandmother’s favorite flowers. I also have a small flower on the left side of my rib cage.
All these tattoos have their own significance, but the most meaningful ones are the ones underneath my collarbone. My family is important to me and having something to remind me of them while I am away at college means so much to me. My collarbone tattoos signify that I am not alone and that my family is by my side. Hence, that is why they are on the left side of my chest – it feels like they’re watching over my heart and that they are always with me.
Getting tattoos, was one of the things I’ve done to help me be more comfortable in my body. They have a lot of meaning, and adding them to my body helped me feel more confident.
My Eye Shape and Skin
At a young age I knew that I did not look exactly like every other kid I went to school with. Growing up I noticed the kids around me were paler, had lighter hair, and a more circular-eye shape. Then, there was me who had tan skin, curly dark hair, and almond shaped eyes.
Many people would ask me where I’m from or tell me I don’t look like my parents. This caused me to be very anxious about my Indigenous features at a young age, and it took time for me to embrace these features.
Now, I see my eye shape and skin tone as traits that make me unique. Today, my eyes are one of the features on my body I try to make the most prominent by experimenting with eye makeup. With makeup or not my eyes are beautiful no matter what, and they will always continue to be one of my favorite features.
My Stretch Marks
Stretch marks can have many different meanings to how we perceive ourselves as people. For me, my stretch marks show how much I have grown not only physically, but as a person as well. I feel that these marks on my skin symbolize the life lessons I have learned and am continuing to learn as I get older. They also represent what I like to call, “battle scars” of surviving the tough ages of puberty and beginning to mature.
Feeling insecure or self-conscious is a completely normal feeling to have. It might be hard to accept that others are going through these same struggles. But it is extremely important to know that you are not alone!
Self-love and working to accept yourself doesn’t always have to take a big effort. Sometimes it can be as small as taking a quick glance in the mirror and giving yourself a warm compliment. It can also mean choosing to spend time with supportive and kind friends. Regardless, self-love can take time, but any small steps you take can make a big difference over time.
To learn more about embracing your traits:
- WRN – Body Image: Love the Skin You Are In
- WRN – Self-Esteem and Self-Love
- Tips for Making Your Virtual World a Body Positive Environment
Shaelee Singer is a sophomore at Portland State University and member of the Navajo Nation. As an English major interested in education, Shaelee is grateful to be writing articles that spread awareness about health to Native youth.