I was 15-years-old when I first noticed my stretch marks. It was summer and I was wearing shorts, and I noticed several faint markings on my legs – kind of a silvery, off-white colour. In all honesty, I didn’t know what they were and at the time I don’t think I particularly cared either.
To put it simply, stretch marks usually occur when you have lost or gained weight and the skin has stretched. They can appear anywhere on the body, from the arms to the stomach, to the legs and the hips. Generally, they fade over time and anyone can get them, for example, they can appear when you are pregnant or during puberty.
Being a 22-year-old, growing up in an age where social media is so prominent, it’s hard not to notice that stretch marks have been perceived as a flaw – that’s how I used to think anyway. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having stretch marks and I know this now, but it wasn’t something that I ever saw much in my day-to-day life on other people – let alone being celebrated. I never liked talking about them, I didn’t like showing them and I certainly didn’t embrace them.
In the last few years, social media has definitely had a change in the way we view them. Body positivity movements have made it easier to accept different body types, along with whatever they may bare for all to see. Many influencers will now proudly show their stretch marks, sometimes small and sometimes big – badges of honour showing that their bodies have grown and changed with time. As someone who has struggled to accept their stretch marks, it’s so refreshing to see people embrace them online.
My experience with my stretch marks has been a rollercoaster, with mostly downward slopes. During the time period between being 15 and growing into a young adult, I started to get a complex about my stretch marks, as more and more developed all over my body. They were, at one point, my biggest insecurity. I stopped wearing shorts, and skirts would always be worn with tights. It wasn’t even about what other people thought, I just didn’t like knowing that they were there.
There was a point last summer (the first summer during the pandemic) when I visited the park near my university house. It was a really bright day; everyone was wearing their summer clothes. I sat in my room and despaired – what could I wear that hid my stretch marks? During lockdown I’d gained more, and my stomach and legs were now decorated in small pink marks. I think at that moment it was almost as if a realisation had begun to set in, after months of anxiety about them, why did I want to let something I couldn’t control, a natural occurrence, affect my day?
The June 21st deadline that will hopefully mark the end of lockdown now takes up a bigger space in my mind than my stretch marks. Drinks in a beer garden with friends (cliché but after almost a year indoors, it’s one of the best plans to celebrate a lockdown-free summer), belated graduation ceremonies, birthdays… The list is endless. So I ask myself, why let something like stretch marks get in the way? Stretch marks don’t physically hinder my ability to have fun – I can still swim in the sea, I can still read my favourite book in the garden, I can still travel to see friends in different cities, so why should I let them affect me so much?
If I had to offer any advice for anyone suffering from an insecurity over stretch marks, I would probably say that you are definitely not alone. It took me a long time to accept them and I still have days where I dislike how they look, but I tell myself that they are extremely common and you can’t prevent them or get rid of them entirely anyway. My attitude towards stretch marks has changed – I no longer look at them and feel ugly, I just see how my body has evolved. My advice would simply be: wear whatever you want to. Of course, it’s hard to break bad habits and my hang-up on my stretch marks was exactly that, but by learning to accept the little things about yourself that won’t change, it makes it easier to enjoy the other things in life.
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