My best features

Ritkatmwa Gwan Gwan
Posted January 17, 2017 from Nigeria
Wearing confidence
My first full body picture in a while, a photographer friend took this picture after a church service...that day I had several compliments but I was picking at the flaws I saw...

My best features… I love photography, film and video, the whole works- that's why I work in the profession (broadcasting that is). I love fashion, the feel of trying on new clothes, wearing makeup and generally looking good but I have for several years settled for less, I settled for just loving shoes instead because I don’t like the stares I get from store attendants while searching out a dress in my size. Having dealt with self esteem from adolescence, I have grown into confidence, I am still learning to be perfectly confident in my own skin. My best feature is my face, the fat doesn't show, even the facial hairs aren't so bothering because it’s my best feature. I also love my finger nails, they are beautiful enough that I don’t need artificials to get by. In all of this I am blessed to have the body I have. Despite the love for photography, I avoid taking pictures especially when it’s beyond a close up or medium shot all as a result of self-censoring and self-restriction. I know that it took a combination of poor choices/habits; genes and some medical condition to put me here and I am on a daily journey to be better, but in the meantime I thrive to be as confident and loving of myself as possible. In Nigeria it’s almost as if saying "You're getting fat" has become a part of greeting... Only recently, a cousin who hasn't seen me in a while or knows what’s up with my life runs into me and without even a breath of hello, places her hand over my stomach (the stomach I try so hard to conceal under compression garments) and says...." you're just getting fat"… I didn’t hide my anger and frustration so I walked away not wanting to feed the ignorance of the remark. Body shaming doesn’t just happen when words are spoken, even the awkward stares, glances and unsolicited comments have been a major part of my adult life and I had to grow a tough skin. I work in the media so I know there is a misrepresentation or perception of what beauty is and should be. I don’t fight it; I only try to define beauty from my purview. I share my affirmations of beauty and confidence with young girls, telling my lessons learnt so they can begin confidence building early. I have seen the sparkle in the eyes of some of these girls when I encourage them to say out loud that they are beautiful despite skin pigmentation, lips, curves and finger tips. In my challenge being big, I realize family is the one that hurt you the most. They often feel the need to point out how big you are or how big you are getting not minding or not even knowing the pains they cause. For perpetrators of stereotypes like; ‘slim is beautiful, fat is lazy’ I’d say, get off the myopic mind set and find out the ‘what and why’. You may have genuine concern but your delivery can do more harm if not properly considered. For you enduring the daily journey to healthy living, better health, better balanced hormones and all the stresses of body shaming, look within and build confidence. It’s the variety that makes life interesting. Seek medical help (if needed) and most importantly be your own motivation to get better (the desired body weight or health goal), when you do it for you, it is easily sustainable but when done for someone it can be lost when circumstances change.

Body Beautiful
This story was submitted in response to Body Beautiful.

Comments 6

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Jill Langhus
Jan 17, 2017
Jan 17, 2017

Hi Ritz, Thanks for sharing your important story. I thought body shaming was mostly a western culture thing propagated by the media, so this isn't a good revelation for me. Women have a hard enough life without thinking they need to be perfect, and perfect by who's standard? We all have beautiful bodies that perform a multitude of functions every day that we seem to take for granted. And what's external doesn't even matter. If someone is genuine and a beautiful person; that's what's important. Their looks will fade, but their soul won't; albeit beautiful or ugly. I think, too, it's just as big of a problem if you're considered pretty than if you're considered not pretty, too. I was pitted as the better looking sister when growing up. She could be smart and outgoing, but not pretty; I, on the other hand, couldn't be smart or outspoken. I needed to be the pretty one. It never sat well with me. I felt like an empty shell with no voice.

Tamara Kubacki
Feb 09, 2017
Feb 09, 2017

Dear Rit,

You are beautiful. It's difficult, isn't it, trying to balance our self-criticisms with projecting confidence and loving our own bodies? It's nice to hear that you can inspire girls to feel good in their skins--at some point, we all feel the need to have someone else telling us we are beautiful to help us understand that it is true. You are right that it starts with family, but sometimes the most powerful support comes from the small things, like sharing our affirmations with others. When we help others see their beauty, our own shines through, too. Please continue to learn to love yourself for you--you are worth it!

Ritkatmwa Gwan Gwan
Feb 09, 2017
Feb 09, 2017

Thank you TamaraK, it is those affirmations that get me through difficult  days. I will continue to help others, including the oung girls I work with see beauty in themselves and by helping then I ultimately help myself.... I celebrate you. 

News Bee
Feb 10, 2017
Feb 10, 2017

Woa! thanks Ritz, i only just learnt by reading your write up the extent of my ignorance and the depth of pain i cause my relatives when i pass careless comments about their appeance or size, as far as i've always been concerned, i thought i was helping them keep their excesses under check because i thought its best they hear it from family rather than have strangers laugh at them outside, but little did i know that they probably had silent battles they might be fighting within them. And i have decided to help them overcome, instead of fuelling the fires of damaged esteem. Thanks again Ritz am glad i read your piece.

Araba
Feb 12, 2017
Feb 12, 2017

Thanks for sharing this piece and educating us to be mindful of the comments we pass.

Julia O
Feb 23, 2017
Feb 23, 2017

Hi Ritz,

I loved reading your story and getting your perspective. It can be so hard to not take things personally or to not feel terrible and sad when people make comments or give unkind stares. I find it inspiring the way you are focused on just trying to not let their comments bother you and to focus on what's good in your life. Women have so much to live up to constantly and beauty standards is a big area where it seems many women issues feeling pretty or beautiful enough or proud of themselves and how they look. It's also so hard sometimes to get recognition from others - and from ourselves - for what we do as opposed to how we look while doing it. I loved reading your thoughts on all this. Thanks very much for sharing!

Best wishes,

Julia