As a teenager I was always very shy and awkward. Being bullied because of my skin colour, my hair, my height and my skinny frame really affected my self esteem from a very young age. I would always hide in pictures or try to look shorter by bending my skinny knees.
When I started at Uni I remember walking pass a little crafts market inside the campus where other students were displaying their projects. One of the kiosks really caught my attention. It was displaying some really beautiful clothes with african themed fabric and I approached the lady to ask a few questions.
After a few minutes of her explaning she was a graduated clothing designer and she asked if I would like to do a photoshoot with her clothes. I remember feeling very confused and telling her I was not a model. She said I was pretty and my features matched her brand. That was the first time I felt pretty.
When the photoshoot day happened I was so nervous. I did not know what to do with my tall skinny clumsy body but when I saw the results I was shook. I looked so beautiful and different.
I have never felt that way before. I have never felt pretty and listening to all the compliments from the crew was a very new and exciting experience. That was the first photoshoot of many to come.
I moved to Dubai in 2011. A very good friend of mine, which was also a very talented make up artist and photographer asked if I would do a few photoshoots with her which I obviously agreed.
That was when I started feeling more confident in my own skin. It was really amazing to see how professional some of the pictures came out even though I had zero experience.
For this shoot I was not comfortable at all. I remember feeling so self conscious of my stomach I sucked it all in as much as I could and I was 100% sure I would absolutely hate the results.
It wad the first time I was showing this much skin in a professional shoot and it was absolutely terrifying. Turns out I love it so much and here I am 10 years later wondering what I was trying to hide and why I was so ashamed of my body for!
And then another opportunity came up and I had the absolute pleasure to photograph with another very good friend of mine. This shoot was so empowering and I have to admit I felt pretty incredible after receiving the pictures. I didn’t even recognize myself. I was buzzing and slightly addicted to seeing myself on pictures.
Then I got pregnant and with that a lot changed. We all know our bodies will change. We will put some weight on, stretch marks, our skin changes and with all that our confidence also shifts. The first few weeks of a new mum were a blur.
I do not remember much of my daughter’s newborn stage. What not many people talk about is this deep unprecedent shift you feel inside. I remember looking myself in the mirror, whenever I had time, and not recognizing myself.
I can’t quite explain that feeling but is very daunting. It feels like that pre motherhood version of yourself died. It’s very similar to grieving someone you lost, but that person is still there somewhere.
Like losing someone you didn’t have time to prepare or say goodbye to. I was not ready for this new version of myself and it took me a long time to learn to love it.
For 3 years my sole focus was my daughter. Everything was for her. All my energy was directed to making sure she was safe and healthy and my own wellbeing is put to the side.
You barely remember to care for your own self. I remember reading many things about it saying that if the mother isn’t ok she can’t look after her children properly. I did see the truth in that but at the same time it was a very hard theory to implement.
Once she started nursery things started to slowly change. All of a sudden I had a nearly 3 hours for myself! Any parent out there will relate to my excitement. That was when I started doing some serious self care. Not only mental but also physical.
I wanted to look after my hair, my nails, I was meditating and doing yoga. Things were starting to feel a bit more familiar again. I would put some make up on and actually feel cute. I also started to dance again, for no reason, at home. Put some 90’s hiphop and dance in my kitchen.
Then lockdown happened and things got very weird. We were all locked in the house with not much to left to do. I discover Tik Tok and fell in love with it. I also started to take a bunch of selfies.
At first it felt really childish and awkward. But after a few dozen of shots I would see one and really appreciate how good it turned out. It was such an amazing feeling to look at yourself and feel attractive and a be more of how you used to look and feel like.
I started getting really brave and now with TikTok I was not only taking selfies but also recording myself dancing and learning the trends. My brain was re-engaging and I was slowly reconnecting with my self. I even took some lingerie pictures and posted on Instagram.
That confident version of myself has always been there. She just took a step back so the mother version could come through and do what it had to be done. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Eventually you will reconnect with yourself again. Take a deep breath and keep going. Remember to slowly push yourself out of your comfort zone little by little.
Anna is a Wales-based writer and graduate from SOAS University of London.
As the voice behind On Your Journey, she empowers women to embrace holistic well-being and spiritual growth through her expert insights into wellness and symbolism.
When she isn't writing thought-provoking articles, you'll find her busy crafting and raising her 4 children.