*Content Warning: This piece contains a reference to sexual assault and self injury, which may be triggering to some.*
In middle school when my anxiety surrounding my body was reaching an all-time high, I tried to bleach my skin. It was a failed attempt to be the lighter caramel color of my mother. To this day I still have slightly lighter patches on my thighs – physical remnants of the weight of colorism on the mind and spirit of young dark skin girls.
It was one of the lowest points in my self-love journey. I felt so ashamed and even uglier than I already did. Since that day, I had never wanted to change the physical appearance of my body or mutilate it in the slightest.
While on one hand it grew my own fear and disgust of my own body, it equally grew my hatred for believing what others think I should be or look like. That was until I was assaulted. Then suddenly I wanted to change everything about my body.
In my mind – like what is common in so many sexual trauma survivor’s minds – I was convinced it was my body’s fault that I was chosen, then attacked; if I had only not looked the way I did. If I only could change myself now that it was over, at least it would never happen again.
But it was not my fault, it is not your fault and people make sick and disturbing choices every day. That day they made one that included me, and those days they made some that included you.
Changing yourself for something such as not wanting to be looked at ever again in a predatory way is impossible and not mentally healthy for yourself. I had to learn that who I was both physically and mentally was not only beautiful, but deserving of respect on the highest level. And that respect to me, included not wanting or attempting anymore to harm myself or morph it into a painful and justifiable reason.
It is hard every day to remember and carry that fact, and what you see as respecting your body and your mind might be different than mine. That is perfectly normal. But when you find what you respect, do not feel ashamed to stand on it.