When you’re touched against your will, it warps you.
For years, I stressed about wearing the “right” clothes. Nothing could be close to provocative. I spent a lot of my childhood in baggy shirts and pants, always afraid of the feelings I would stir in my abuser.
And in men in general.
I developed almost a paranoia of being attractive. I learned exactly what would turn men on and I tried my hardest to avoid absolutely everything that resembled seduction.
Oh by the way, I was 8 years old.
Those feelings should not be a part of anyone’s childhood.
Eventually, I got away. My family moved and I in turned, moved far away from having that fear within the walls of my home.
That’s when the journey began.
The first step in reclaiming my body happened in high school. Remember all those ways I figured out how to avoid triggering attraction?
Well, I flipped it.
Slowly, I found that my ability to attract the opposite gender was a power; not something to be ashamed of.
Thanks to hours of dance classes, I perfected standing, walking and talking in ways to entice, ignite and seduce feelings of attraction.
I stopped shaming my body and instead started embracing it.
I had a steady stream of males (around my age because anything older still freaks me out) spouting sonnets about my beauty. I went on extravagant dates and had men turning their heads when I walked into a room. To my young adult self, I had reached the pinnacle.
I used my success with gaining attraction as the root to my self-love and it served me well for the better part of a decade.
But to be very clear, basing self-love off of the opinions of others is never a healthy or stable way to main self-esteem.
And I learned that lesson the hard way.
After years of research and mastering the art of seduction, I managed to make the most amazing man in the world fall in love with me. We got married and I soon learned that I couldn’t rely on the opinions of throngs of men to boost my self-esteem.
****As a side note, my husband is incredible at building me up and making me feel beautiful. It’s just different.
An engagement ring is very much like the Ring to Rule Them All from Lord of the Rings. As soon as I put it on my finger, I became invisible to the groups of people I relied on to foster my self-worth.
All of a sudden, I had to find other reasons to love my body.
… And I had to do it for me.
Fast forward another decade and two babies later, and I’m happy to report that I have come a long way in taking back control of my body and self-worth.
I’m learning to love what my body can do instead of what it looks like. I can run after kids, hike mountains, and gracefully execute complicated ballet moves.
I’m learning to be beautiful for me and no one else. I eat healthy foods, exercise and put make up on because of how it makes me feel, not because I’m trying to maintain a look I think the world will enjoy.
I’m learning that I’m awesome and that doesn’t need to be validated by any one else.
I still have a long way to go, but at least I know now:
My body belongs to me.
How has the journey of taking back your body been for you? I would love to hear about it!
If you think you, or someone you know, might be in an abusive relationship, please see my list of resources for support.