It had started with a skipped meal here

And a delayed snack there

Had started with the discontent

And the promise for self-improvement

It had started with the exercise, the countless hours

And then the purging, the binging, the restricting, the hating

Soon after not surprisingly, came the self-loathing

Yes it had progressed to self-hate,  a self-hate so deep and so strong

Yes so very deep and rooted that it frightened her

Yet she continued, continued with her rituals, all the harrowing efforts that she tried to tame her body with

And before long, she had labeled herself a disgrace

A disgrace,  and one that hated

Hated her shapely thighs

Hated her womanly hips

One that hated her ample breasts

And detested the curve in her backside

One that hated her size

Constantly telling herself that she wasn’t good enough

Convincing herself that the blessings her mother had given her

The blessings of her black shapely body

Were a mere disgrace

And with this cognition

Came guilt and shame

Shame with the realization that she detested herself

Wanted to destroy herself

Guilt that she was supposed to—

Supposed to be a strong black woman

Was expected to be confident

Confident with the sway of her hips

And the richness of her sun kissed skin

Yet she was ashamed that she wasn’t—

That she didn’t fit this expected label of a strong black woman

Instead she felt weak

Weak and ashamed

And so this all ate at her

Slowly gnawing on her bones

From the inside  out

And on the out, she slowly began destroying herself

Thinner and thinner she got

Until before long she was just a shadow, a skeletal silhouette

And with this, further and further she got

From that commonly portrayed image of a strong black woman

Until one say she didn’t recognize herself

And she realized how far she had gone

How far she had gotten in destroying herself

And how close she had come to killing herself

Ridding herself of her as she so desperately tried to run away

Yes as she tried to run away from what she was supposed to be

A strong confident black woman

One that was revered for her shape, her confidence, and her sass

Yes she had tried to run away

Tried to get rid of her intended wide hips

Tried to destroy her thick strong thighs

And her curvy derriere

Yes she had tried to destroy these

Yet she one day realized that she could

No longer deny herself—

No longer deny herself of who she was

Of what her body wanted to be

And it wanted to that

That strong black woman

Both mentally and physically

And as she thought about this

As she really thought hard and pondered on what she would do

She came to a realization

Yes a decision, a life-changing one really

A decision that she would have to begin loving herself

She would have to begin rebuilding herself

Yes she would rebuild herself

Rebuild by nourishing herself, caring for herself

No longer permitting self-inflicted assault to her body

No longer allowing for the venomous abuse, the deep seated self-hate

She would have to work on accepting herself

And she wondered how long it would take

But she put that aside and simply began

Simply began to feed herself

And as she sits here writing

Writing and looking back

Writing and looking at the moment—feeling THIS moment

She realizes that she’s come so far

So far in how she used to be

As she writes, she pauses

Pauses and looks at herself

Yes she looks and takes note—

Her hips are coming back

Her behind is taking its destined shape

She notes that her thighs are slowly growing

Growing in size but to her she now reframes this as growing in strength

Yes as she writes, she realizes her intended black body

The body that she was destined to have

The one God blessed her with

Is slowly waking, is slowly blooming

Repairing and coming alive

And as she continues to write

She’s surprised

Surprised that she no longer wants to fight against her destined body

No—she no longer wants to destroy it nor detest it

She wants to finally accept it

She wants to love it, embrace it, flaunt it

She realizes that though her mind is not there yet

Is not free from the years of mental chains

Is not there yet in loving her body completely

She knows that she will however get there one day

And as she prepares to put her pen down and rest her head for the night

She realizes something– an epiphany really

She realizes that she doesn’t have to control her body

That the One who created her controls it

The One who formed her knows where her beautiful body wants to be, is supposed to be

Knows where it is destined to be and

She trusts that it’ll be at a place where she is happy

She knows that the One who molded her will not leave her unhappy

She knows that He’ll bring her to a place of equilibrium

A place where she is happy and healthy in both body and mind

She knows that she has to let go, let go completely

Let go of all that gets in the way of achieving this process

And allowing the One who sculpted her to take control

She knows that she is slowly rebuilding her trust in her maker

And that He will not disappoint, he will not leave her hanging

He will not leave her miserable and running back to her old ways

And she then realizes that her body, yet beautiful in its form

Is not what makes her a strong black woman, is not what defines her

Yes she realizes that she doesn’t have to fit the expectation

Of being a strong black woman simply defined by her body

But rather

Yes rather she is a strong black woman

A strong, courageous black woman for the battle she has gone through

The battle that she is going through

And the battle that she has already won

Won through the direction and victory of her Maker

Yes she realizes that she is a strong black woman

Simply for fighting, pushing on

And slowly recovering, slowly regenerating

Yes she is a strong black woman

For simply being her and learning to accept that

Yes she is a strong black woman for no longer—

No longer hiding her struggle, her battle, her fight with this demon

Yes she is a strong black woman for speaking out

Speaking out, and spilling her heart out

Speaking out and reaching out to others hurting

To others fighting their own battles

Yes she is a strong black woman for encouraging others

Uplifting others and praying over others

Yes she is a strong black woman

One that is learning to love herself

Be herself

And now as she finally puts her pen down

She realizes

Simply realizes

That she’s okay with her own definition of a strong black woman:

One that never gives up

She realizes that she has always been a strong black woman, and always will be

And she is mind-blown

And her heart flutters, it somersaults with a deep joy

For she’s reinvented the definition of a strong black woman

One that encompasses and includes all

 And with this, all she can do is smile

By Wangui Muya

Written January 2, 2015 and revised June 9, 2015

In response to the original Strong Black Woman and in declaring God’s breakthrough amidst the current struggle of remaining in recovery; and trusting that He will bring her to a place where she is happy and no longer detests herself or regrets recovery or wishes she could go back to what was once killing her.