The whole culture of trying to get women to love themselves still tends to isolate and alienate women in some way (fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, colorism, etc.). The body image project is a series that highlights what real, everyday women (and some men) have done to develop a positive perception of their physical appearance thus far — how they’ve gotten to a healthy place, what they’ve done to get there, struggles and setbacks they still experience, and what they’re doing to get to a place where they feel the best about themselves and stay there.
With editing by Adwaa
Coley is a wife, mother of two, non-Muslim teacher at an Islamic School, and MissMuslim Lifestyle Blogger who loves all things pink and is a proud supporter of messy hair and sweatpants. Sunshine is her favorite accessory, she can’t control her laughter, and is admittedly a hopeless nostalgic. She loves routine, but gets bored with redundancy and needs constant change in her life. She’s an over thinker, always running what-if scenarios through her head. Thanks to MissMuslim, she’s been given an outlet to de-clutter her mind and a space to channel, process, and release negative emotions. It’s been a place where she can confess; a place to explore new ideas and perspectives; a place to be inspired and meet new people; a place to find herself again.
What issues have you had with your own body image that you’ve learned to love and appreciate about yourself?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt self-conscious about my body. I have battled weight changes since forever and felt that the number on the scale defined me more than anything else. The weight roller-coaster was truly a reflection of my imbalanced thoughts. Whenever I felt unloved or unworthy, my body would become my #1 enemy. Growing up, I nitpicked every single perceived failure and flaw — from my nose to my curly hair/brown skin (Why Did God Paint Me Brown?), to my athletic legs to my chest size. Reaching my ideal weight is still a work in progress for me, but I now celebrate my natural facial/body features and rock my curls like nobody’s business.
What has been your experience with learning to be comfortable in your skin and love yourself?
Although it has been an absolute struggle to stop the negative thoughts and embrace my body the way it is, I finally took the time to deal with the root of the issue when I turned 30. It wasn’t until I realized that the problem wasn’t my body after all, but rather the internal conflicts within myself (Wherefore Art Thou Daddy Dearest) that I began the work of loving myself from the inside out. Combining a healthy eating lifestyle with fitness has been the best decision I’ve ever made for my health and self-confidence. Nothing is sexier than a woman who is confident and comfortable in her own skin — I strive to be that woman every day.
Whenever I felt unloved or unworthy, my body would become my #1 enemy.
What comments have you heard over time about your weight, height, or other physical aspects of your appearance that have made it difficult to develop that self-love and acceptance?
I’ve been called “curvy” on and off my whole life. When I was younger this term would bother me because society and media images caused me to feel that because I’m not a size 0-2, I must be fat. Fortunately, as I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve come to realize that we can’t really control what people call us, but we can control how we interpret it. I believe all body types are worthy of respect. And, I, for one, think curves are sexy as hell. Shout-out to all the curvy ladies who embrace their bodies!
What would you say to someone who came to you about their own struggles with self-love and acceptance?
It’s so HARD being a woman and trying to navigate this whole self-confidence thing. We invariably go wrong somewhere along the way because we’ve been taught to value the completely wrong things. I strongly believe that how we feel on the inside will come through to the outside. So, the only way our negative body image issues fade into the background is if we constantly address our thought patterns, broken ideals, and the painful experiences that created them. Loving ourselves comes down to acceptance – excellence and flaws – it’s a process and a journey, but one so worth it.
Since these issues never disappear completely, what are some things you currently grapple with and what do you do to overcome them?
As women, our relationships with our bodies are dysfunctional at best. Unfortunately, we are our own harshest critics; we notice our flaws, while others see our beauty. Like everyone, I still have bad days when it comes to positive body image – I have to constantly remind myself that true beauty is not about fitting into a cultural stereotype, but a quality that shines from within. I also try not to obsess about my weight because it prevents me from living fully and it only causes me to be trapped in a vicious cycle of emotional eating.
In a short sentence or phrase, create and share your own personal mantra for positive and healthy body image.
Marvel in your body’s strengths and embrace your imperfections – Self-love for the win!