At fifteen, I sobbed in the changing room at the sight of purple indents curling their way across my newfound curves. This cry echoes across the world. Just traipse the internet, magazines, conversations and strategic swimwear. The bounty of insecurity and shame is immense.
All these years later, I still see these silly little lines on my skin every day, and they still make me feel ashamed. And ugly, and unworthy. I think of them as a flaw that must be hidden.
My stretch marks began during puberty, but increased significantly throughout my experience with an eating disorder. The rapid weight loss and gain took it’s toll on my body; these etched slivers remain to this day.
They dictate what I wear, how I sit, and how uncomfortable I feel in particular situations.
But what is actually going on with our skin? Stretch marks are harmless, and arise when your skin cannot stretch enough to keep up with growth. The dermis tears, and skin scars as a result. There is no known treatment that is actually effective, although many products jump at the opportunity to claim to be.
Puberty, rapid weight loss or gain, pregnancy and traumatic injuries can all lead to stretch marks. Given how common these experiences are, it is unsurprising that the majority of people share these scars.
I’m not going to proclaim that “all stretch marks are beautiful and I love them,” simply because this is not my reality. When I look in the mirror and I see the silvery lines snaking across my hips, and rippling through my thighs, I don’t feel beautiful. I feel flawed and ashamed.
To those who genuinely do appreciate and love their stretch marks; I admire you. Not because I believe stretch marks are inherently unworthy of love, (for the record, I don’t), but because we are taught from every side that they should be.
And the thing is, we don’t have to feel beautiful in our stretch marks if we aren’t ready to just yet. But we can try and just let them be, both for what they are, and for what they are not.
While researching for this piece, I was hard-pressed to find information that didn’t conclude with “stretch marks are beautiful and okay! But here are ten top products that will get rid of them . . .”
And my question now is, why? Why are they viewed as bad, as disgusting, as something to hide, when your skin is merely just working to accommodate your changing body. And why are they viewed as a flaw unique to insecure women, when most humans experience them. They are a harmless, human experience, yet we are taught that to have them is to bear shame.
This is because from a young age, we are we are bombarded with the message that to have stretch marks is to not be good enough. That we did something wrong. That they are a flaw that is shameful to have. That we gained too much weight, or lost too much weight, or didn’t have the perfect pregnancy body. This is why there are so many products, all competing to make money from our learnt idea that we should not have stretch marks.
In reality, stretch marks are neither good nor bad. And they don’t have to be either. They just simply are. To love them is a mighty feat, not because they are unlovable, but because this is a blatant rebellion to what we are taught. Stretch marks are part of you. They are not ugly, nor defining of character. They are not worthy of hate.
We don’t necessarily have to think stretch marks are beautiful, or of ourselves as fierce tigers who have earned our stripes. But we can learn to accept them, and to remember that being good and worthy doesn’t mean being perfect.
Let’s end with this. Go out and be a force of nature. If thinking about them this way helps, then as Jordan Molineux says, you have the lightning strikes to prove it.