I met Chelsea last year in August in the midst of “running away from home”. She had an opening in an apartment she was sharing with 3 other humans at that time–and I was looking for a place to call my own. A place to heal. Chelsea took me into her home with open arms and created a safe heaven. Dear reader, I want you to know that Chelsea is affectionate. She’s the type of person that can fill an entire room with light and comfort. Chelsea is amiable and compassionate. She’s reliable. She’s sincere. Chelsea is beautiful.
“You think I’ll be the dark sky, so you can be the star? I’ll swallow you whole.” – Warsan Shire
I’ve stared this series because through my own self acceptance search/journey I’ve realized that we, as humans, all have problems with our skin suit no matter what it looks like. The point of this series is to confront our flaws AND to highlight our excellence. I hope one day we’ll all be able to wake up and that voice in our mind which lists all our faults on repeat will be much quieter if not silent. The mirror will be less scary. We’ll smile as we pass our gorgeous selves. We’ll have a bounce in our steps. One day we’ll love our bodies exactly as they are right now. We might have bad days . We might have bad weeks. Yet once we unlock that key, that key of self love we’ll know we can get back to a sanctuary within our bodies. Our bodies and our selves are waiting for that love, waiting for that permission to just be. As I said to Chelsea, (and as I say to all my future spotlights), be gentle with yourself, you are meeting parts of yourself that you have been at war with.
1. What makes you feel beautiful?
I’m not sure why, but I feel so beautiful when I step outside and the sun is shining and the weather is so beautiful and I just can’t help but smile. It’s less about looking beautiful I think and more of just embracing this all-encompassing, warm and beautiful sort of feeling.
2. What makes you feel powerful?
I feel most powerful when I’m around friends who challenge me and push me to imagine alternative ways of existence. The sort of power I feel when I’m engaged in these kinds of transformative relationships can be embodied in the song Female Energy by Willow Smith (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZKsYBunNkY) – look it up, it’s a beautiful song! I also feel powerful when I’ve accomplished something creative, like writing a poem or a paper or planning an event.
3. What would you tell your past self about beauty and bodies?
Young Chelsea: things won’t always be like this, I promise. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but there will come a time in the future when your definitions and ideas about what beauty looks like change completely. You do not deserve to be treated badly because of how you perceive yourself. It will be a long process of unlearning self-hate, but in the process, you will find so many things that are more beautiful than….beauty (the physical construct that is). In the unraveling of capitalist thought, you will learn to find camaraderie, not competition, in the women who surround you. You will learn to find relationships that feed your energy not drain it. You just gotta keep surviving.
4. How does your skin color make you feel?
As a white person, I have had the privilege of not thinking much about my skin color, especially since normative beauty ideals are often based on a European colonial standard.
5. How have you struggled with your body?
I have struggled so much with my body over the years, and it isn’t something I really talk about very often because it brings up a lot of emotional memories. I think I was in seventh or eighth grade when I really started to feel the intensely low self-esteem that would characterize the next 5 or 6 years of my life. I love my mom, but she kind of fueled this new self-hatred I was developing by constantly making remarks about my body and my appearance to the point where it began to take over my life. I thought about how much I hated myself every day. I wrote obsessively about every body part I would change on myself if I could in my journals. I started to self-harm because I believed I couldn’t feel happy unless I became “beautiful.”
After a while, I became convinced that the only way to make myself feel happy was to be admired by men. Early on, this led me to get involved in some pretty reckless and potentially dangerous situations. Later, it contributed to a series of unhealthy relationships in which my lack of self-worth was used against me. I have many good and positive and loving memories from some of those relationships, but there were also some really bad times when I felt so worthless. On those days I just remember telling myself, like, wow, this is all my life is ever going to be. And I thought I deserved it because there was no one else who could possibly love me the way I was.
6. Complete this sentence… “In my body is a safe place to be because….”
In my body is a safe place to be because it holds memories, conscious and unconscious, that guide me toward new and transformative ways of surviving and existing. In the words of Cristina Peri Rossi in her poem “Invocations”: That your body might always be a beloved space of revelations…a beloved space of revelations, and not of repetitions.”
From Chelsea, with love.