Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: Treese

Today’s journey of body image transformation comes to us from Treese.

My Beauty Journey

I spent my formative years being told explicitly and indirectly that I was ugly. My nose and lips were too big. I was told repeatedly my eyes were too small and skin too dark. The biggest clincher to my ugliness was I was (am) FAT! Taking this psychological abuse into my cells, I believed every negative word, look, and comment. The words I could not hear were my mother’s, who had been countering all of those negative messages my entire life. You see, she grew up an “ugly ducking” as she used to say. What was always amazing to me was she did not look ugly to me. She always looked like the butch, caramel skinned genius I had known her to be.

She would tell me constantly how beautiful I was, but my ears were only attuned to the negative messages. Every day for years I would fret about how I did not see myself reflected back in my mother’s face. I felt disconnected from her and my brothers, whom I saw looked just like her. And then one day at age 26 I was doing my hair in the mirror and I saw her. I saw my mother in my own reflection. I looked harder because I was sure I was not seeing correctly, but I still saw her. I saw my mother in the thickness and curl of my lips, the broadness of my nose, the shape of my eyes, and the highness of my cheekbones. From that moment, I started to reshape my body image from the inside out. I could now share my features with a woman I worshipped since before I knew what “worshipped” meant, and if she is beautiful then so am I!

It was only after I could see my own beautiful, as connected to my source, that I could find partners who saw me as more than sex on two legs. The gift I had opened up in myself allowed me to meet one of my partners, whom I have been with for 7 years. One of them is an artist photographer, and the reason he is integral to my beauty journey is he captured me for the first time. Now don’t get me wrong, I had some pictures of me, but most of them showed me as a dark blob in the corner or the dreaded white teeth and eyes shot. I hated taking pictures so much so that I shied away from taking pictures until I became sort of non-existent in my family photo albums.

And then I met S. He took 100s of pictures of me doing everything from talking to taking a shower. And every once in a while I would turn the camera back on him. I would always ask him why he took so many pictures of me, and he said because “I can see you”. I did not understand that response until I started looking at the pictures and realized he was able to capture me as animated as I am in real life through his lens. I could see the million parts that make up me, from the curl of my hair to the arches in my feet. It was not the fake smile pictures, but the pictures with my mouth agape in laughter. It was the pictures that captured the pensive furrow of my brow and the loving admiration when I was gazing at him. Not only did he see me, I SAW ME!

– Treese- PhD Student, Initiative Coordinator, and Bad Ass Black Girl