Model Iskra Lawrence's Guide to Loving Your Body

(Photo courtesy of Iskra Lawrence)

Iskra Lawrence is a model and the Managing Editor of RunwayRiot, a new fashion-focused website that is “dedicated to serving an underrepresented and often overlooked community of curvier women who deserve to have just as many stylish choices as everyone else.”

“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” ~Buddha

My teenage years were a battle with my body. I didn’t understand why it was changing, or why I couldn’t control it so that it looked like the models I so badly yearned to work alongside.

As soon as I started aspiring to model and absorbing images in glossy magazines, I started comparing my body to others’. This meant I was never happy and, in my eyes, never good enough to be a model. It didn’t help that I was being told by the industry I was too fat, that I couldn’t fit into the samples on shoots or catwalk shows, and that I was subjected to humiliation in front of my peers.

I became obsessed with researching the latest diets and cleanses (which I now know are extremely bad for your body). I would work out so hard, tracking my calories and trying to achieve a calorie deficit. I remember one time, while working out in a morning gym class, my eyesight went fuzzy. I nearly passed out because I didn’t have enough energy.  

Yet, I was still looking in the mirror and battling with myself. “Why don’t I have a thigh gap?” “Can I get an operation to make these huge calves smaller?”

Related: ‘Straight/Curve’ Film Aims to Change How Size and Beauty Are Seen

But when I’m honest with myself, I know my size or shape was not the reason for my turmoil. My real problem was a lack of self-acceptance. I thought my body was to blame; in my mind, it was why I got dropped from my modeling agency and therefore, would never make it in the industry. It was why the girls at my school were intimidated by my height and adult-like curves or why I didn’t get the acting role. Because I was too heavy.

Finally, after being rejected from numerous top agencies, I tried to become a plus-size model. There, I was also told my body wasn’t right. I had had enough, and I decided to take control of my thoughts. This shift from letting others determine my self-worth to deciding that I needed to accept my body for what it is and not try to change for anybody else changed my life.

(Photo courtesy of Iskra Lawrence)

The battle of self-discovery was unavoidable for me. But it’s why every day, I now wake up with purpose: to try and help educate young women and share my experiences, in hopes that they won’t have to go through what I did. It isn’t easy, and most of us will go through periods where we don’t like what we see in the mirror. But we do not have to let this define us. Your body is your home, your vessel in life. It needs to be respected and loved. I hope all women can realize they are more than the number on the jeans. Each one of them has a unique gift to give to the world, and when you love and believe in yourself, you are capable of anything.

Once I accepted that this was my body — it wasn’t perfect, but that’s why it’s so beautiful — I started focusing on self-care. That meant I put a priority on looking after not just my physical health, but my mental health, too. And now, after years of rejection and going against fashion industry norms, I have a Times Square billboard and a million followers on social media who let me know, every day, they are grateful to see someone to whom they can relate. I wanted to create this guide to loving your body so no one lets their insecurities or lack of self-acceptance hold them back from achieving their dreams. So here are my top tips for loving your body this year — and always.

Your health is not determined by your size.

I learned this from working with size-zero models who were actually less healthy than some “plus-size” models (who, even though they were larger, they were more active and their diets were filled with nutritious fresh foods). Health starts from within. I work out and incorporate clean foods into my diet to feel good and look after myself — not to lose weight.

Idolizing the “dream body” will not make you happy.

One of the biggest thieves of joy is striving for “perfection.” Firstly, it does not exist, and it trains us to think there’s something wrong with ourselves. “She” may look flawless, but the airbrush tool can be pretty deceiving. Beauty is in our differences and I love celebrating the diversity of our bodies.

Related: How I Became Confident

It’s not your body’s fault.

Stop blaming your body for all the “no”s or negativity you have in your life. It’s not why he didn’t call you back or why you didn’t get the job promotion. Try to look in the mirror and say, “Thank you, body, you are all mine and you’re my home.”

Don’t let anyone determine how you feel about your body.

It could be a certain look or comment thrown your way, but the person who made it probably wasn’t judging you. You are judging yourself. Try to remind yourself, “It’s OK to be you. No one else can ever be you, so that makes you very special.”

(Photo courtesy of Iskra Lawrence)

You are meant to be you.

Stop thinking you are meant to look a certain way or like someone else. You are in the best body for you. There is nothing more perfect than you just the way you are. Listen to your body and look after it.

You are more than a label.

…Or the number on a scale. I haven’t weighed myself in years because it matters most how you feel, not how you look.

Celebrate your body’s strengths.

Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to do something. Instead of being hard on yourself, rejoice in all the incredible things you can do. Most limitations are created by our negative thoughts. Start saying “I can,” and watch how positivity transforms your life.

Stop letting you and your friends self-deprecate.

Nothing good comes from friends comparing and trashing their own bodies. Instead, if you encounter any body-bashing, turn it into something positive. Celebrate their recent successes, compliment them on their natural beauty, or comment on their cute bag. (Who doesn’t love a good accessory?)

Related: Why So Many Women Body-Shame Themselves

Don’t let your body hold you back.

Life can be much easier if you stop battling with your body. Beauty comes from the inside, so enjoy the miracle that is you.

Dress for your body.

Not the body you did have 10 years ago, or the body you dream of having. Ditch the clothes that don’t fit. It’s a subconscious reminder that something “needs to change.” Celebrate the perfectly imperfect body you have now.

Give love and receive love.

Fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, tall-shaming, short-shaming — any sort of shaming needs to stop. By highlighting what you think are flaws in others, you are simply projecting your own insecurities. When you learn to love and respect others for who they are, you can begin to love yourself.

Enjoy your body now.

Your life is happening now. Every day should be cherished. You can choose to hate yourself or love yourself. You and your body deserve love.

Practice self-care.

Refocus your thoughts about your external appearance or obtaining the “perfect body.” Start recognizing how it feels to be healthy and alive each day. You’ll find a deeper sense of gratification and more motivation to stay on track. I also like to see exercise as a reward, not a punishment because of how great I feel after working out. I also incorporate nourishing foods so I worry less about my health or disease. I love relieving stress, releasing endorphins, and fighting anxiety with exercise. Also, if you don’t meditate, I recommend trying it to get in touch with your emotions, connect with the bigger picture, and to feel at peace.

When you begin to love your body, you will glow from the inside out. You will start realizing you deserve better than those unhealthy lifestyle choices, and reward yourself with what your body needs to be fit and healthy. I now look in the mirror, and I’m at peace with what I see. This is my body — no one else’s — and I will look after it. I love all my imperfections because I am human and no two people can ever be the same.

If you don’t already, I hope you all learn to love your bodies in 2016. You and your body deserve it.

Body-Peace Resolution is Yahoo Health’s January initiative to motivate you to pursue wellness goals that are not vanity-driven, but that strive for more meaningful outcomes. We’re talking strength, mental fitness, self-acceptance — true and total body peace. Our big hope: This month of resolutions will inspire a body-peace revolution. Want to join us? Start by sharing your own body-positive moments on social media using the hashtag #bodypeaceresolution

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