I drip some cold body lotion on to my hand and rub in gently on my upper arms and elbows—the part of my body that no matter how many times I drench it in lotion probably hasn’t been hydrated a day in my life. When I was a kid the dry bumps embarrassed me so much that I’d sometimes try to pick them off (this never ended well). And eventually I swore off tank tops in order to keep the dry bumps under wraps. Rubbing the lotion into my arm I take a moment to whisper, “You’re beautiful.” Yes, you. With your super dry skin and not-exactly toned arms. You. Yes, you.
I squirt some more lotion onto my knees and work it up to my thighs. I used to refuse to wear shorts in the summer because I thought this region of my body was too knobby, too dry and bumpy, too flabby and cellulite-y to be allowed out in public. It was too ugly to be allowed to run free and wild about town; it might frighten the children or the old ladies. But I work the lotion in, gently, and whisper kindly, softly, “You’re beautiful.” Yes, you. You don’t need to be hidden and kept out of sight.
Rubbing the lotion into my stomach feels like a silent apology. I’ve said so many unkind, hurtful things about it. I’ve called it ugly, called it flabby and fat, and declared it the most embarrassing region of all. I realize as I work in the lotion that I’ve never been gentle, loving with it before; I’ve tried to suck it into jeans that were too tight, grabbed at the bits of loose skin in disgust, and I’ve put it on several diets. But never been gentle. I rub it with lotion and whisper softly as before, “You’re beautiful.” Yes, you. I’m sorry. I love.
I nearly, accidentally, skip my breasts completely. I’m so used to trying to ignore and conceal them. The goal for years was to minimize and hide them because breasts, I was told, caused men to stumble. They were the part of my body, more than any other, that could cause sin. When puberty hit, I hoped they’d barely be visible when they were done growing because that would make the goal of hiding them easier. Every time I had to go up a bra size I nearly cried. “Please, stop growing,” I remember silently pleading. Curvy. That’s never seemed like a good thing. But I said it to them as well: “You’re beautiful.” Yes, you.
I rub the leftover lotion that’s on my hands on my neck and under my ears. The skin under my left ear is bumpy, scared from an old surgery. I’ve tried every type of scar-be-gone cream from the drugstore on it. But it’s still there, hiding just under my ear and jawline. I’ve always planned my hairstyles and haircuts around hiding it; I’ve never wanted people to know it’s there. But I tell it, for the very first time, “You’re beautiful.” Yes, you.
I pull out my face lotion and squirt some in my hand, starting by rubbing it into my cheeks and then working outwards. I’ve spent so much time analyzing that face in the mirror. The scar from an old pimple I shouldn’t have picked at; the large pores around my nose; those hairs out of place; the dark lines under my eyes; the uneven patches of skin. I’ve spent so much money and time on trying to fix it or at least hide it. But I gently rub in the lotion and say, “You’re beautiful.” Yes, you.
As I put the cap back on the lotion I look over my skin one last time and remind myself, “You’re beautiful.” Yes, you.
This originally appeared on Kelsey’s blog KelseyMunger.com.