I have always been self conscious of my arms, hips, thighs - basically anywhere where my stretch marks can be seen. It seems like I have had stretch marks for the majority of my life, which is probably true. Although I have probably had them for most of my life, you would think that I would be comfortable with them, but I am not.
Two of my fondest, and most cringe worthy memories, of my stretch marks came from a comment at the hands of someone younger than 10 year old; don't worry, I was slightly younger than 10 at the time too. To keep my busy during the summer, I was enrolled in a day care program run by my mom's job. I looked forward to day care every summer because, in my eyes, it was more of a way to get you involved in activities than a way of having someone watch you 24/7. We would play games in the morning (both for fun and educational), go outside after lunch and play basketball, swing on the swings, and every Friday we would go to the pool (I enjoyed this even though I couldn't swim).
Field trips were also part of our weekly activities and on this particular field trip we were also celebrating our summer close out. We went to a lake, which isn't an ordinary lake, because it doubles as a swimming pool (they treat the water with chlorine and it has a sandy bottom). Along with the lake there are paddle boats, fishing areas (not in the chlorinated water), horseshoe pits, mini-golf, and more (it is basically a water park based on everything they offer).
My friend and I (at that age, who isn't your friend) had just gotten out of the pool and were going to get some lunch. We sat together and I kept my towel around my arms because of my self consciousness, I couldn't even escape that at such a young age. Unfortunately for me, my towel fell when I went to reach for something and the first thing out of her mouth was 'what happened to your arms'. I was really embarrassed and didn't want to explain what they were, so I told her it was the way water dried on my body (in lines) and once I put on lotion they would disappear. Other than in today's society, what child less than 10 years old would ask a question like that (and that was over 11 years ago!).
My second memory once again involved swimming. Every Friday we went to the pool and we always got dressed in bathroom. The only problem is that there were so many girls you had to split up which bathroom you went to and even then you may have to share the handicap stall (we weren't handicapped, you could just get 3 girls in the stall at a time, which made the process easier) with someone. We were changing into our bathing suits (sometimes parents would dress their kids in their suits before they left so you could go straight to the pool) and one of my friends (again, who doesn't have friends at that age) asked what happened to my hips and legs. I immediately knew what she was talking about and this time my response was, 'bugs bit me in lines all over my body'.
The more I look at it, I was pretty quick on my feet at the age when someone asked about my stretch marks, but looking at it now, my answers would never pass now.
Fast forward over 11 years and I am still self conscious about my stretch marks. I don't like wearing anything sleeveless. For years I avoided it at all costs. My mom and I would be out shopping (one of our favorite pass times) and she would see a shirt that would look nice on me and once I saw that it was sleeveless, I would quickly disagree and use the same excuse 'I don't like my arms'.
That is the same excuse that has stuck with me for years. I just don't like my arms because of my stretch marks.
Since I have been working out and increasing weights into my workout, my arms are slowly getting defined and that is something I don't mind showing off. Any definition is a welcome change to help combat my dislike of stretch marks. I have been wearing more sleeveless shirts and because my arms are getting a little more defined I haven't been as self conscious as I once was. There are still times when I find myself crossing my arms in an effort to hide my stretch marks from the world. There are even times when I will just wear a short sleeve shirt just to avoid having to hide them.
I have heard this statement numerous times when it comes to having stretch marks, 'either you were small and gained weight or your were large and lost weight'. Either way it came from a change in your body. I have also heard this statement about stretch marks, 'your body is not ruined; you're a goddamn tiger who earned her stripes'. Both of these statements are meant to make women comfortable about their bodies but there will always be negative people who are so focused on bringing you down and ruining your self confidence.
My problem is more psychological. Society has always instilled that stretch marks are not beautiful and that is how I have treated mine; like something was wrong with me. I always feel like people are only starring at my arms when they see me, which makes me feel worse.
Where do I go from here?
I have tried coco butter several times, lotions meant for stretch marks and many more products that haven't worked for me. I am on this journey to feel better about myself and in the process I want to prepare myself for my upcoming college graduation. I want to wear a sleeveless dress under my gown (I know it will still be under my gown but I won't be wearing that all day) and feel good about myself when I take my gown off, regardless of if I have stretch marks or not.
In order to prepare myself for that, I plan on doing more with weights. I use free weight because, honestly, the thought of me trying to bench press anything scares me. Increasing the pounds of the weights, more reps, anything to tone my arms up, is my initial goal for my arms. More definition and toning is what I am working towards. In the process, I want to work on feeling better about my arms and my stretch marks.
It will take a long time for me to fully accept my stretch marks but I am a work in progress. Each day I get stronger on this journey and feel better about myself and no matter how long it takes for me to feel good about my stretch marks, it will be well worth the wait.