Body Positivity, a Cyclical Process: because yesterday, I still cried.

“no one can define who you are without your permission”- @anisahamat_ (IG). For years, I have internalised so many harmful lessons, unlearning them is taking just as long.
From family, I learnt that I was too dark, too weird, the ugly smart one, derogatorily referred to as Baartman.
From toxic friends, I learnt again that Baartman was a slur, that I was too dark, worthy of being loved by men who hypersexualise me.
From my mother, I learnt, that I was too fat, my ass was disgusting.
The media, school, government all of them affirmed this, all of them confirmed it.
I learnt from myself, that all these perceptions of me were true.
This was me 10 years ago, this was me 7 years ago, this was me 2 years ago, it was me yesterday when I looked in the mirror and cried in horror at the site of me.
I cried at seeing staring back at me ugly, fat, dark, hypersexual Baartman. I cried even though 10 years ago, 8, 6, 5, 2, 1 year ago, I had learnt to love me, to look in the mirror and see fat, dark, Baartman and fall in love, every day with myself.  Sometimes we don’t talk about those miserable mirror days enough in the body-positivity movement. Our positivity is only ever punctuated by the negativity we face from social media trolls, life trolls, trolls everywhere. The world is so empty of safe spaces for our bodies, that we’re afraid to talk about those moments of self-doubt of revisited self-hatred: the suicidal thoughts that find home in our minds when we can’t take it anymore.
Sometimes I feel that body-positivity has become a sort of totality, that you are positive or you are not. There is little space for it to be a cyclical process, with the body and the mind, oscillating, between love, kindness to your body, hatred, punishment, starvation, and love again. Internalised shaming, is just as important to the process of self-love.
See 10 years ago, I fell in love with Alek Wek, loving her helped me love myself. I remember defiantly putting up her photos on my bedroom door, to the constant ire and frustration of aunts who insisted that darkness was abhorrent and that I was the ugly smart one.
There were moments of self-doubt, of hate and crying at my sight in the mirror. I loved myself.
I think this photo was on my walls and my door for at least four years. 
Eight years ago, I read Malcolm X’s words and in a series of questions started to undo for me the conditioning of whiteness as a standard of beauty, intelligence, and of being:

Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? To such extent you bleach, to get like the white man. Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to so much so that you don’t want to be around each other?  

That year I shaved off all my relaxed hair and went natural, to the ire of my mother, who insisted that how I look naturally was abhorrent.  But I thought I looked amazing with no hair, I loved myself.
Yet there were still moments of self-doubt, of hate and crying at my sight in the mirror. I loved myself

6 years ago, I started university and moved to Cape Town, I restarted my locs, after the ones I had started the previous year my mother forced me to wash out. I started to wear a head wrap everyday- to the ire of everyone around me. It was the year I fell in love with redemption, though not the first I had heard them, it was the first time I internalised Garvey’s words in Marley’s song: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”

Yet there were still moments of self-doubt, of hate and crying at my sight in the mirror. I loved myself

5 years ago, I learnt Negritude, I learnt more about African History, not colonialism. I unlearnt the thinking that colonialism is the extent of our history. I stopped learning about myself from the moment white people think they imagined us into existence. I became more unshackled.
Yet there were still moments of self-doubt, of hate and crying at my sight in the mirror. I loved myself
La Jungla by Cuban born Afro-Chinese Painter Wilfredo
2 years ago, Rhodes Must Fall, started. Fallists made me brave to constantly unshackle, be unafraid of constantly undoing of myself: The learning in unlearning. With all the pain that the movement brought, this was the year that I fell completely, inextricably, euphorically in love with black people. It was the year, I fully committed to free forming locs, the year Yannie the locologist taught me: “stop with the rolling, stop with the twisting”- I learnt the freedom of ungovernability.
Yet there were still moments of self-doubt, of hate and crying at my sight in the mirror. I loved myself
Last year, I immersed myself in the body-positivity movement on social media. I learnt last year to love Sara Baartman, to not allow people to use her as a slur against me, undo the conditioning that makes abnormal the bodies of normal black womxn. I fell in love with Baartman
Yet there were still moments of self-doubt, of hate and crying at my sight in the mirror. I loved myself.
But yesterday, I still cried.

 I know better now, I have known better for a while. But its not a complete process, everyday we are bombarded with racism, colourism, fatphobia, queerphobia. Every day, we have to fight for our right to exist as bodies that exist outside of the standards of hegemonic idealised standards of whiteness. Existing is resisting. But sometimes the weight of it all is too much, existing is painful, I stare in the mirror and all I see reflected at me is pain.

I look at old photos of myself 10 years ago, eight years ago, 7,6,2,1- and oddly enough I want to be in those bodies again, and then I realise: I am happier now. I am dark, my ass is bigger, I’m getting weirder (what is weird anyway?), I have gained 20kg, my hair is kroes as fuck. And I love it! Sometimes its difficult, sometimes their words ring in my ears, and I can’t love me. But that is okay. Sometimes it is okay to admit that we are not okay.  
2017: Learning to breathe through it all. 

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