Erykah St. Louis

Body Is That You?

Erykah St. Louis
Body Is That You?

I didn’t think I had body image issues. I knew there were insecurities there, I just didn’t know they were deep enough to be considered full blown ‘issues.’ I still don’t even really know what that means.

At what point do negative thoughts about your body become issues?

I have had unpleasant thoughts about my body for many years, they were tucked away, ever so neatly in the recesses of my mind. Dealing with them felt like a disempowering exercise I had no interest in participating in. After giving birth, I found myself facing the mirror with a heaviness I never felt before.

Body Image Origins

I trace ideas about my body back to my parents. It’s funny (and scary) how all our ‘issues’  go back to childhood. I love my parents and most of their ideas but some of them I can do without. I grew up in a Caribbean family and in some (I believe many) pockets of Caribbean culture the way you look matters. Curvy and voluptuous is loved and considered sexy. But so is lean (not too lean), athletic and petite.

It could go either way, depending on the family you’re born into. My parents were more on the lean end of things. Growing up, they had no qualms letting you know your waist was rounder than usual or if you were “putting on the pounds.” I can hear my dad’s voice right now. It actually makes me laugh, it’s comedy when he says it now but during adolescence it was unpleasant to hear.

That is a big part of Caribbean culture though. People make jokes and comments about your appearance, you learn to survive by developing your own comeback or laughing it off. The other option is to spend the rest of your days sad and hurt. In the end you would just get teased for that too, so I chose to suck it up and tuck the bad feelings away.

Postpartum Body

It wasn’t until five months postpartum I started to think about my body, its new shape and what it was not. Before that, I was in a newborn fog. I could not even compare the new body to pre-baby body because this new body truly was a stranger to me.

I didn't  know her. We had not previously met. I was stumped for months on how to dress her, not only was she squishy, she was weaker and slower.

I had little to no brain power to think about clothing or what to wear. I went the easy route for almost two solid years. I wore tons of black with a sprinkle of gray in between. It got so bad, on a recent trip to Canada my cousin revealed she was bored with my black. She was tired of seeing this new wardrobe that lacked the colour and vibrancy of the old me. I missed her too but didn’t think anyone else noticed.

(Shouts to family, who will gently tell you when you look boring).

She told me she wondered to herself why I was wearing so much black, that it was uncommon for me to drape myself in one colour for months. At that point I was already thinking about how I looked and the struggle to get dressed in the mornings, but I still wasn’t aware of how much this new role pulled me from colour, textures and patterns.

And while I love that “all black” look I can’t do it for months on end.

I like colour, I like patterns, shapes and textures. I like to have flexibility in what I wear. I don’t like to be limited to one particular style. If I want to serve couch potato vibes one day and Beyoncé Homecoming the next, I need the freedom and options to do that.

What is style?

I don’t even know anymore. I am approaching clothes and fashion and all things beauty with a fresh set of eyes, as though I am learning for the first time.

I have found that trying to be who and what I was before motherhood is too frustrating and limiting. I am letting this new body become whatever it needs to become. I can mold and craft it just the way I imagine, free of past thoughts, opinions or ideas. It is a body made up of all aspects of me.

This new body is made up of the old me and the new me, I see this stage in life as an opportunity to create something that didn’t exist before.