As a young girl, I grew up watching women quickly rearranging their swim skirts or pulling down their shirts so that their stretch marks wouldn’t show. When I was a teenager, I heard many of my friends complain about their stretch marks and stress about how they needed to eat less food or work out more in hopes that they could stop getting more stretch marks. On my wedding night, I remember thinking that I wished my inner thighs weren’t blemished with these lines and that I could present smooth, line-free skin to my husband.
During my first pregnancy, the women around me praised me for the fact that I didn’t have any stretch marks on my stomach. I felt proud of my stomach that was free of stretch marks as I generously slathered my skin every evening. After my son was born and I looked down I was dismayed and ashamed that I actually DID have stretch marks. Those glaring red stripes near the bottom of my belly seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Postpartum I remember my eyes instantly going to my now vibrant red stretch marks, waiting and hoping they would fade quickly. When I think about it, the culture around stretch marks has affected how I feel about myself my entire life. Until recently, it negatively affected me, but in the past two years I have had a mindset shift and it has been revelational.
Society Tells Us Stretch Marks Are Bad
Many people view stretch marks as an outward sign that someone is unhealthy or that they have done something wrong and now they have this mark on them to show it to the world. We assume that stretch marks are a sign that a person is eating too much and their skin is stretching out to accommodate the weight gain or that they didn’t take care of their skin during pregnancy. Women are told over and over that they should hide, cover up, and get rid of their stretch marks. We are told this so much that from a very young age we think this is how it should be; that this way of thinking is correct. In reality, stretch marks are one of life’s most common conditions. Not something that makes us abnormal or gross.
Are My Stretch Marks Bad?
Our brains have been trained by our society to think that healthy, happy women don’t have stretch marks. It’s seen as an invisible badge of honor if you don’t have any stretch marks. The first time I really remember seeing a woman showing off her stretch marks and not trying to cover them up, I was at a beach in Mexico and I noticed a woman sitting beside me. She was wearing the cutest black bikini and talking with one of her friends. Her gorgeous long black hair was slightly wet from the water and her skin was sun-kissed from spending the summer at the beach. She was beautiful and looked so comfortable in her skin. Then I noticed her stomach, she had beautiful red tiger stripes cascading up and down her stomach. They had an intricate design and seemed to adorn her already warm demeanor with intricacy and strength.
As I looked at her baby beside her, I thought about how just a few short months prior that baby was inside of her. I thought about the hard work her body went through to sustain and grow and stretch for that baby. I thought of how cool it was that she was sharing that part of her body’s journey with everyone around us at the beach and vowed that I wanted to do the same.
When it came time for me to have my first baby I had a hard time keeping to the promise I’d made to myself when I saw that lady on the beach. Over two decades of being told to hide and be ashamed of my stretch marks are a hard thing to unlearn. However, with my second pregnancy, I did a lot of mental work. I thought about the beauty of my body changing and growing, of the gift it is to show those around me that I have stretch marks and that they are a normal part of the body that I am proud of.
Postpartum, instead of hoping every day that my stretch marks would go away, I would look at them in the mirror and think about how my skin had done exactly what it was supposed to do during that season of life “my skin” wasn’t bad for getting stretch marks, I wasn’t bad at all for getting stretch marks. I did exactly what I was supposed to do in the season I was in.
Whether that be a season where I was pregnant, breastfeeding, hungry, lonely, scared, depressed, or anxious. Those are all seasons we go through in our lives and stretch marks are a physical representation that can show the world around us a part of our life journey.
READ MORE: I Want Her To Know – A Message To My Daughter About Body Image
Society Wants Us To Hide Or Change Our Stretch Marks
There are so many things in our society geared towards wanting us to hide away or be ashamed of our stretch marks. Swim skirts, shorts, creams, lotions, high-waisted swim bottoms, etc are marketed to us as ways we can minimize or hide stretch marks. So that we can fit into an arbitrary beauty ideal that is stretch mark free. The more of us they can convince that our stretch marks are wrong or bad, the more money that can make selling us products to fix the “problem”.
The only reason we buy these products is that we have been told over and over again that stretch marks are bad, we shouldn’t have them, and definitely shouldn’t show them off. We hide what society has told us should be insecurity. We are trying to cover up and fit into one standard of beauty instead of trying to acknowledge and rock the beauty we already have. Now, I’m all for a cute high-waisted swimsuit, but I want you to be wearing it because you know that you are sexy and beautiful and you feel amazing in it, not because you’re hoping that it will cover up your stretch marks.
READ MORE: Getting Rid Of Stretch Marks
Change Starts With You
Changing this stretch mark beauty standard starts with us. We can be proud of our bodies and their journey, whether that be through childbirth or weight gain. Not hiding our flaws, but instead showing off the physical manifestations of our body’s journeys. The more we normalize women having stretch marks the fewer women will feel ashamed of them. Showing them off, wearing them as badges of honor. As symbols that our bodies have been on a journey, and every bit of that journey has brought us to where we are today. It starts with you. It starts with me. Then it will grow.
The more women see other women showing off their stretch marks the more confidence they will have that they can show off their own. Stretch marks in and of themselves are beautiful. The journey that they show is beautiful. Let’s show off our beauty.
READ MORE: You Are Ready For Swimsuit Season
What Can You Do Today?
Start by looking in the mirror and thinking of the journey your body has been through to get those stretch marks that adorn you. Thank those lines, whether glaring red or faded silver, for doing what they needed to do to help your skin stretch for whatever reason. Know that you are not alone and that stretch marks are common. Then, I challenge you to wear that bikini, buy those shorts, or that tank top. Show off your tiger stripes and let other women see that you have them and that they are beautiful.
My goal is to one day be that woman on the beach for someone else. To let my confidence and love for my body shine as I live my life fully in this body. I am grateful for the journey and my body’s ability to stretch exactly as it’s supposed to. I am going to proudly show off the visual representation of my body’s journey – each and every tiger stripe I’ve earned.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on 6 Pregnancy Workouts To Keep You Healthy And Fit During Motherhood.
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Photo Credits: Photo by Monika Kozub on Unsplash | Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash | Photo by Hollie Santos on Unsplash