Brenda DeRouen found body positivity through an Instagram post. (Photo: Instagram)
Brenda DeRouen struggled with her body image for years. But now the 26-year-old mother and recent law-school graduate aims to expand everyone’s definition of beauty with proud photos showing off her stretch marks while wearing a pair of Calvin panties — à la Kendall Jenner’s recent ad campaign for the fashion brand.
Since the tummy photo, shot by Houston-based photographer Deun Ivory, hit Instagram just two days ago, it has been liked more than 22,000 times and has garnered nearly 1,500 comments. Always a fit woman, DeRoeun says she was “horrified” to discover her body was sprouting stretch marks during her pregnancy eight years ago.
The tummy shot. (Photo: Instagram)
According to a post on DeRoeun’s blog, she was riddled with postpartum body insecurities and did everything to rid herself of the remnants of her pregnancy. “At one point, I researched creams, lotions, and pomades (none of them worked) and surgeries and laser removal treatments (I would never purposely go under a knife), and then I just decided to ‘tighten my skin up’ by working out,” she writes. “I managed to get a 4 out of 6 pack, but no matter how hard I tried, the skin stayed saggy and the stretch marks would not go away.”
For years, she said she did not love herself. “I was self-conscious in relationships, and I hated my body,” she writes, noting it wasn’t until very recently that a friend finally helped encourage her to break free of self-doubt. “[She said,] ‘If you can’t learn to love yourself, then how can you expect anyone else to?’ I’d heard the statement before, but the context in which it was said made me really reflect,” DeRouen says. “How was I going to start a blog and tell people to love themselves when I didn’t even love myself?”
“So I decided to no longer feel self-conscious about my body, having Ivory take those photos of her stretch marks in all their glory,” DeRoeun writes. “I felt a sense of pride and liberation. This moment was bigger than any photo shoot I had ever done. This was personal. This moment was a defining moment to erase years of self-hatred and revel in self-acceptance. I removed society’s standards of beauty and stood tall in my truth.”
According to Sheila Viers, a health and lifestyle coach who specializes in helping women feel a sense of freedom in their own skin, our limiting beliefs about beauty can hold us back. “Judgment blocks us from what’s important,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “No matter how much we exercise or try to change, we can’t see results because we think we need to ‘get there’ to get happy. The truth is, there is no finish line for the perfect body. You’ll just keep setting unhealthy goals for yourself.”
In other words, you have to love your body now — not when you’re 10 pounds thinner, not when you lose the stretch marks, not when you change. “You have to decide that, regardless of the images out there in the media, I am good enough right now,” says Viers.
She suggests starting by identifying what your own limiting beliefs are, zeroing in on negative thoughts. “First, you need to have an awareness phase,” Viers says. “You recognize a thought about your body as unhealthy so you can start to disconnect from it. Pretty soon, you’ll push them out of your mind — almost like they’re coming from a third party and are not your own. Then you can replace these thoughts with positive thoughts from a loving place.”
Viers says to try repeating “I am” mantras. “I am beautiful, I am healthy, I am good enough,” she says. “It might feel strange at first, but negative thoughts cut deep. When you replace with positive thoughts, you’re creating a new groove.” Those thoughts, she says, will begin to boost your mood, affecting your attitude and behaviors.
DeRoeun seems to be embracing that place of positive self-talk in her writing — and preaching it as well. Although the stretch-mark shoot was originally meant to be a celebration of a mother’s real postpregnancy body, she hopes the photos represent something bigger.
“You may not have stretch marks from pregnancy,” she writes. “Hell, you may not have stretch marks at all. But I guarantee you there is something that you are struggling with. … Just know that there is no such thing as a perfect body. … You are beautiful. Every scar and every imperfection has a story that makes you uniquely you. Your body is your temple.”