Yesterday I made an instagram post of a photo of me fully nude (save for censorship stickers). The post has now been removed after 24 hours, because I don’t want the kind of attention that photos like that receives, and I will not be posting the photo here on this blog, but below is the text of that post.

This is me in the raw, fresh from the shower, no filters, no makeup, no flattering camera angles or poses, not even dried my hair yet. Lumpy, frumpy and dumpy. I have cellulite on top of my cellulite, visceral fat deposits that are older than my marriage, and stretch marks in multiple directions. My breasts are triangles, my forearms flap like dumbo’s ears, and I have so much fat in my lower torso that I don’t even have to hide the gross appendage between my legs; it’s been swallowed by my FUPA (sticker placed for posterity’s sake).

This is the product of a quarter century of damage by depression, depersonalization, and the wrong hormone profile coupled with an ADHD fueled eating disorder. Estrogen has done wonders in the last two years to make this body more my own and has repaired so much of the harm testosterone caused, but there are limits to how much that can accomplish. Even if I were to work out every day and starve myself, without significant surgical intervention my body will never look good when fully disrobed.

And yet… you can just scroll back through my timeline and see how much beauty this body can bring. Even this body can look good in a two piece swimsuit, because beauty is not a product of our bodies, it is a product of our souls. Beauty comes from our attitudes and our self confidence. It comes from how we move through the world and what we apply ourselves to.

When my dysmorphia is high and all I see is a man in the mirror, when my belly is bloated and none of my clothes feel like they fit, I remember that I am not the sum of my body parts, I am not the product of the abuse my body has sustained, and I am as beautiful as I believe I can be.

This post is inspired and dedicated to @bodposmami. She’s having a rough time finding her beauty right now, so I wanted to show that it doesn’t matter how bad we look out of the shower, it’s what we do with it that counts. I’m probably going to archive this post tomorrow, just because I don’t want the attention posts of this kind can bring, but I felt that it needed to be seen and said.

It’s telling to me that some people read this post and came away insulted. A few people got very angry at me for saying so many negative things about my body, because they looked at the photos and saw themselves, and in that place I wasn’t commenting on myself, I was attacking them.

Being negative was not the purpose of the post, the opening paragraphs were naming my insecurities; I was identifying the things that as a culture we tell women they should be ashamed of but are completely normal. Things that we compare to other women we admire and are envious of. The triangle breasts comment especially struck a nerve, because so many of us desire that teardrop shape.

But all these things that bother us about our figures, they are all inconsequential to how beautiful we are as people and as women. Our beauty is not hindered by the sum of what we label as flaws, it is enhanced by it. It shapes us and builds us and makes us unique as individuals.

My wife told me last night that her initial reaction to the post was possessiveness, jealousy that other people were allowed to see me that way. You see, the photos turned her on, because she immediately saw past all those “flaws” and only saw the sexuality of my form. This is what we all need to learn to do for ourselves, to look past our insecurities and see ourselves as sexy.

But really even if I was being negative, body positivity does not mean we aren’t allowed to be negative about our bodies. If you’re only in this community to receive praise for your shape, you’re here for the wrong reason. That isn’t going to make you feel better about yourself long term, it just feeds into the vanity. It’s being given some quick calories when what you need is a balanced meal that you can repeat by yourself.

You cannot fight transphobia by staying in the closet or going stealth, you cannot fight racism by pretending race doesn’t exist, and you cannot fight your own insecurities by hiding from them.

Self confidence comes from being aware of your insecurities and knowing that they add to you, not hinder you.