Can we just take a moment to appreciate these beautiful illustrations by Kelly Bastow? For the past few years I’ve been on a personal journey to accept my body fully and genuinely feel comfortable with every inch of it.
In the past, I had a problematic relationship with my body and hinged my feelings of femininity and adulthood on the fullness of my curves. I felt lacking because the women in my life (my mom, sisters, aunts, friends) had fuller breasts, hips, and thighs, and I began to idolize those parts of their bodies. These feelings were also compounded by the proliferation of body shaming in mass and social media. I developed a complicated relationship with food that I still struggle with today, cycling between restricting my eating habits and exercising semi-regularly, to binge/eating with the intention to rapidly gain weight for a curvier body.
I internalized self hate by believing that “real women have curves” when in actuality, all women (because what the hell is a “real” woman?) are extremely diverse, with differences in skin color, body shape, ability, sexual organs, hormones, etc. If you identify as a woman, you are a real woman, regardless of what society says you should look or feel.
I was introduced to Kelly Bastow’s illustrations via Instagram and instantly fell in love with the themes of self love and body positivity inherent in her work. Her depictions of women who are comfortable in their bodies are ones that I want to be exposed to every day, and I especially love her illustrations of quintessential carefree black girls. You can view more of Bastow’s work here.
Now, I do want to take a moment and say that I haven’t yet run across an illustration of hers that also celebrates self love and beauty in bodies that have a diverse range of ability, but I still appreciate the work she’s producing. Also, I want to acknowledge that embracing beauty is not a part of everyone’s definition of self love, and that the concept of beauty is not an ideal that everyone aspires to apply to themselves. With that being said, I want to be intentional in the ways in which I highlight and describe my own self love journey while also being careful to not prescribe those ideals onto other people.
I’m embracing my own body by implementing a few rituals in my life. One, is that at night when I want to relax, I will take a long, hot bath and immediately after exiting the bath I will massage an oil into my skin. Right now, my favorite oil is avocado oil because it soaks into the skin rapidly and it’s moisture lasts all day. Afterwards, I will spray on my favorite perfume, light my candles, turn on my string lights and turn off my room lights and begin stretching and/or dancing while looking into my floor length closet door mirrors.
Naked yoga is a huge part of my self love ritual, as it reconnects me to body, brings attention to body parts that need attention and relaxation, and makes me feel confident and strong. Also, over the summer, SH and I decided to embrace our bodies by having our own nude photoshoot while hiking in the woods. I love the photos he took of me and I’ve begun to really accept my body’s lumps, rolls, and angles. I’m including a few of my favorite shots below (censored), and I hope to find the motivation to work on a more recent self portrait of myself using some of those images.