Tiger stripes, battle scars, cotton candy, tropical fish – for whatever reason and at whatever name, 90% of women face this same issue – the issue is more commonly known as STRETCH MARKS.

Stretch marks are irregular markings on your skin that look like bands, stripes, or lines.

Stretch marks are a common concern, especially for women. The marks can be unsightly and can cause embarrassment if you wear a bathing suit, shorts or other clothing items that may show them. I have always wanted to rock a crop top – what’s stopped me is that my tummy looks like it’s been attacked by a group of hungry lions.

Stretch marks may look like slight indentations or discoloured streaks on your skin. Recently formed stretch marks appear to be red or glossy. Over time, they become whiter in colour and take on a scar-like appearance. Stretch marks clearly have a different texture than normal skin.

While they can actually show themselves anywhere on the body, the most common locations are the stomach, breasts, thighs, hips, and bottom. Stretch marks are not unique to women; many men are affected too.

Stretch marks are most commonly caused by significant, rapid weight gain. Stretch marks often occur during pregnancy as your skin stretches to accommodate a growing baby in a growing belly. But stretch marks may also happen if you gain or lose weight quickly for other reasons.

So – we know why we’ve got them – how do we get rid of them?

While most people on their journey to a better self are thrilled when they finally reach their goal weight, some (like me) are bothered by the remaining marks on their belly or thighs. They are left wondering if the stretch marks will go away.

The good news is that stretch marks may simply disappear on their own after weight loss or childbirth. If the stretch marks don’t go away, they may fade or become less noticeable.

If your stretch marks do not fade in time, there isn’t really anything you can do on your own to make them go away. While some products on the market claim to fade or repair stretch marks, there isn’t really a “cure” for them A dermatologist or plastic surgeon is most likely to provide the best options for you to consider. Microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser surgery may help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. While these treatments will not make stretch marks disappear, they can make them less noticeable.

It’s important to remember, however, that the results of these procedures can vary greatly from person to person and your success with the procedures can be affected by your age and your skin tone. They are also associated with their own potential risks. Since these are cosmetic procedures they are not generally covered by medical aid.

Prevention is always the best medicine (regular use of vitamin E or Bio oil, a healthy balanced diet and exercise routine), self-love and acceptance is even better.

Basically everybody (and I mean EVERY BODY) has them.

So how do I learn to love my stretch marks?

I believe that this journey is as much of a mental and emotional one as it is physical. Stretch marks – for one – is an emotional part. Whether you believe this or not – the only one who notices how “bad” your stretch marks are, is you. Have you ever been to the beach and studied the various women and their bodies in their cozzies? I have –what I found most fascinating is – nearly every single woman has stretch marks and most of them don’t seem to care – and I find that INCREDIBLE, the ultimate liberation of not caring that your body isn’t “perfect” – and it makes me wonder why I (and perhaps you, reading this) spend so much time being so ashamed of these perfectly imperfect battle scars? This is something I’m working on – and thought I’d share a few things to remember while you embark on the journey of learning to love yourself entirely – life lines and all.

1 – Your stretch marks are markers of a life LIVED

Stretch marks are natural. They happen. They’re a sign that you’ve been living your life. You’ve been out there having experiences. You’ve been changing (aesthetically or otherwise). You’ve been growing older and developing, you’ve had a baby, you’ve decided to get fit and healthy and shed the excess weight. These are all good things.

2 – Basically everybody (and I mean EVERY BODY) has them

Whether you’re tall or short, fat or thin, male, female, or anything in between, athletic or non-athletic, young or old, chances are you’ll develop a stretch mark or two. This is because all bodies stretch — and that’s all that stretch marks are! Considering changes in weight and shape are universal parts of being a human, you’ll likely find that you are not alone in having lines. The solidarity is endless. This thought alone should bring comfort – you are not alone.

3 – Gaining weight isn’t anything to be ashamed about

Contrary to popular belief, weight gain isn’t an inherently awful thing. There are plenty of reasons it happens, from pregnancy to aging to changes in hormones to changes in fitness to the desire to gain weight to sometimes life just happening. And while not all stretch marks are caused by weight gain, many are.

Weight gain doesn’t have to be a negative unless you allow it to be one. My suggestion is that we use all the emotional investment we put into hating a part of our bodies into learning to see the beauty in those bodies — all kinds of bodies, at every stage, with all kinds of marks.

4 – You’ve grown a baby

There’s a reason childbirth is so often called “a miracle of life,” right? While I’ve never personally done it, I’ve seen it happen. And it is intense. And messy. And beautiful. And totally life-changing for everyone involved, mostly for the individual doing the actual child-carrying and delivering. Yet we put so much emphasis on “fixing” the post-pregnancy body — its stretch marks sometimes at the forefront of that — instead of realizing that your body is not supposed to look the same. I mean, you literally just grew, and then pushed a human being out of you (or had said human being cut out of you – which is just as intense). Personally, I think being able to go through all that pain and joy and living is cause for a big party, not a run to the aforementioned miracle creams and body shaming yourself – in my opinion.

5 – You’re probably not going to get rid of them

No matter how many miracle creams you buy or laser treatments you invest in, it’s very, very difficult to get rid of stretch marks (not unlike their cousin, cellulite). No matter how many promises that tube of miracle cream makes, or how smooth the skin of the lady on the TV looks. It’s likely just not going to happen. Some things just aren’t meant to be fixed. But more importantly, some things just don’t need to be.

6 – You probably only hate them because #beautystandards

Let’s be honest: Beauty standards and ideals are just not based on fact. The only beauty standards one should abide by are the ones we set for ourselves, based on our individual preferences and unique interpretations of beauty. It’s nothing short of an absolute shame that we’ve been taught otherwise, but we can break the system. All we have to do is learn to stop the body hate. I know, I know. Easier said than done. But once you make a conscious decision to treat yourself with a little more kindness, love and respect – to stop saying those horribly negative words to that woman in the mirror, who is so desperate for your love and affection – begin to treat yourself as you would a close friend. Friends don’t hurt friends.

The beautiful thing about beauty standards (because they’re completely made up) is that we don’t have to listen to that little voice in our head that says we aren’t pretty enough, smooth enough, flat enough, perfect enough. When we learn to love our lines, we learn to say no. We say no to damaged self-esteem. We say no to being made to feel less than worthy. We say no to the perpetuation of aspirational beauty. We say no to it all.

And lastly…………….

7 – There is nothing sexier than embracing your body

When consciously deciding to love yourself a little more – things will change.

So let’s pledge – let’s aim to no longer find yourself concerned about wearing a bathing suit in public and wear that crop top with your head held high. Let’s not worry about bending down in case a co-worker spots the lines on our backs and sides. Let’s not live in fear that people will find our line-covered rolls repulsive. Because if they do, it’s their problem and not ours.

The thing is, loving yourself is hard work. The world makes sure of that. It’s scary to fight against the norm. It’s scary to admit to finding yourself beautiful, when you know you might be deemed vain, narcissistic, or selfish. But your stretchies? They’re pretty innocent in all this. They aren’t really responsible for your woes or body hate. No, that’s a little thing called society. But showing them a little love will mean you’re showing yourself a little love.

And let’s remember – WE ARE WORTHY AND WE ARE ENOUGH!!!