Once upon a time I executed a perfect pirouette and felt myself beautiful...until my body type was shamed as "not right" for a ballerina. Those shaming moments that came time and again beat down my sense of my own beauty. A sense that already came far too infrequently and already carried baggage with it.
The first sexual assault on my child body was when my body's beauty became used for someone else's exaltation of power and control. I was four years old and no longer innocent. The pattern continued, one perpetrator after the next, using my beauty for their pleasure. Beauty became something that needed to be hidden. Every time I started to reclaim my own beauty there was another perpetrator stealing what belonged to me.
In my pain I harmed my body. Cutting it hundreds of times in a vain attempt to purge the evil in me. I hid my body and my beauty. I buried it with clothes and when that didn't work, I buried it with fat. Now I could shame my body, to tell it how disappointed I was, how it had failed me in this too, that I now could never be beautiful again. There will always be scars and stretch marks - my life story written on my skin.
I believed that I had destroyed any beauty that was left in my body. I desecrated it and now what's left served only as a mockery of what could have been, of what was intended to be.
Over the last three years, I have journeyed with my body. For a long time I've referred to it as "my ugly". It wasn't mine. It doesn't look like me. As I've learned to let go of some of my self-hate and the false blame, my relationship with my body has come front and centre. I could see that who I was might be beautiful, but the skin it was housed in was deemed ugly and not suitable. My awakening heart wanted to feel beautiful, to be beautiful and I resigned myself that it would never happen.
I began belly dancing about a month ago. After that first lesson I walked out sore, alive, and more connected to myself than I had ever felt. I felt like a woman. Each lesson connects me more and more to my body. Every time I practice I see glimpses of how right now, in this moment there is beauty in my body. Beauty in the movement. Movement that comes from MY body.
As I learn to dance again, I'm learning that my beauty matters. Deeply. In times past when I felt my own beauty I was authentically and unashamedly myself. Feeling my own beauty, embracing it grounds me in my body and in the moment. Time seems to hold it's breath as my essence twirls in celebration. I owe my body an apology for the abuse I heaped on her and compassion for the abuse that was inflicted on her by others.
I cannot change what has come before. However, I can learn how to see myself right now as beautiful.