Over the last couple of months, women have been proudly sharing photos of their stretch marks on Instagram, using the hashtag #LoveYourLines. And it’s pretty damn refreshing.
The list of natural bodily features and functions that women (and men) have been made to feel ashamed about is endless, as is the list of terms we use to describe them. We talk about our blemishes, our flaws, and our imperfections as if they were somehow separate from ourselves, alien invaders marring the perfection that could be our “real” bodies – if only those things would disappear.
But speaking about them in this way, even endearingly, merely serves to emphasize their “otherness.”
What’s worse, we keep quiet about them and we cover them up. No matter how aware we are that the photos in magazines have been airbrushed and photoshopped, or that people tailor their social media activity to match the image they want to project (think about how many photos of yourself you have untagged), these images of perfection still take their psychological toll.
We begin to feel as though we are the only ones with stretch marks, or cellulite, or scars, because by all appearances, the whole world is free from them. But mainstream media (or social media, for that matter) is not the whole world. The world is full of real people with real stories to tell, who have lived diverse and incredible lives, with the marks to show for it.
Long ago, I heard the most beautiful quote about aging, and while the exact wording escapes me, the sense of it has remained all this time. It was something to the effect of, “The lines we accrue as we age are simply the manifestation of our souls on our bodies. It takes many years for our inner beings to fully imprint themselves on our outer selves.”
Our stretch marks, just like our wrinkles, tell of lives lived, and loved, and lost.
Literally anyone can get stretch marks. We can get them when we lose or gain weight, during puberty and during pregnancy, at any size and any age. Even incredibly fit supermodels get them – as proved by Chrissy Teigen, who posted a picture of her thighs in April with the caption: “Stretchies say hi.”
And now they are being made visible. Let’s take a moment to appreciate these beautiful and courageous women. Because, let’s face it – in today’s airbrushed and filtered world, sharing “imperfections” takes a heck of a lot of bravery.
It’s time to start thinking about them differently. It’s time to stop hiding, and start sharing.
Let’s change the conversation.
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