I did not earn these tiger stripes of mine. I am not one of the women who can claim bravery, sharing images of stretchmarks on Instagram. The hashtag is #loveyourlines. Search it and you will read some words that reveal how women really feel about beauty and its social constructs.

“Maybe we’ve been looking at it wrong. Maybe we’re not damaged, maybe these are the brands of our accomplishments.”

“I have struggled with my stretchmarks for years, but today I want to accept them. I’m not perfect, but I’m worthy of love and loving myself.”

“They’re like flames and like the Phoenix, I will rise above them.”

We talk as if the body fights against itself. As if we have fought, battled and finally lost perfection as the prize. Then we call that battle birth and say it must be worth it. Our sacrifice is worth it because of what we made.

If a woman must say she is beautiful because she made another human, because her scars are the product of love, because she sacrificed flawlessness to make another perfect little body to one day be wrecked by scars of love’ – then she does not say ‘Because.’

She is saying ‘despite’.

Qualifying For Beauty.

We are looking for one more way to qualify for beauty and find our meaning. It’s not that our meaning is solely found in our beauty but physical beauty and the popular feminine are entwined without distinction. So our language becomes muddled and unclear. We mistake our words in trying to accept ourselves fully. We are saying self-acceptance and love lies beyond overcoming the obstacle of our physical imperfections, we talk ourselves into self-acceptance by worthy cause and thus; forget – our bodies alone are not our beauty. In fact, our bodies are not our beauty, just a vessel of it. A machine.

If I didn’t know that our bodies are not our beauty, it would be easier to believe. Instead I know our bodies are vessels for beauty not beauty itself. Carriers of beauty and at times beautiful, our bodies are machines designed to slowly burn up as we decay physically, mentally towards death. We ought to use them up, wrinkled and worn down. We ought to wring every ounce of beauty from within these bodies.

Isn’t it strange that our bodies might be loved and yet our True Selves remain untouched, but when we are truly loved and seen, our bodies can be also loved?

Maybe I could stand it if the tiger stripes of birth were my story too. Little silver marks that fall delicately around my curves. Like lace over my hips and gathered like fingerprints under my belly button. Velvety to the touch, in the right light they shimmer, like a roadmap of where to touch me. In truth, the map says – here’s where I stretched. Here’s what’s left behind of the sad and heavy days, here’s what you didn’t know at 17. Here’s what you lost at 28 and found at 30 years of age. Here is my pale Scottish skin over strong thighs and proud breasts. Here is an extraordinary, sensitive machine that carries my self, my soul, my sense.

My marks are not qualified.

They are not beautiful because they came from something worthy.

Nor beautiful because they proved my womb is warm and useful.

They did not mark me as one who is connected by flesh and blood.

They are not battle scars.

They are not the remnants of some hard-fought struggle.

I am of sound mind enough to reason, these marks cannot make me beautiful – though you might tell me that, if I had given birth.

Truthfully, I have nothing worthy to attribute my marks to. Like many women who cover their first stretchmarks with the stretchmarks of childbearing, I grew too fast and shrunk too quickly, my skin could not keep up. Time has passed and those lines are faded. I do not qualify my imperfections to be considered beautiful. My body was made to be used up and I am doing a good job of that, perfecting it’s strength and ability for balance, grace and clumsiness.

In the same way, I am not beautiful because of my age or the lines on my face. I cannot be considered beautiful because I have lived so long, making this body last until my life is etched in leathered valleys.

Isn’t it strange that our bodies might be loved and yet our True Selves remain untouched, but when we are truly loved and seen, our bodies can be also loved?

My beauty is within. Seek it out.