As Destiny’s Child said, “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly cause my body’s too bootylicious for you, babe.”

The 2001 hit “Bootylicious” has been the anthem for embracing what your mama (or father) gave you, for many over the years. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done, but I’m here to tell you it is possible. I am a woman who has big hair and a big booty, and it’s all natural. Today I embrace my fro and booty, but that was not always the case. I had to learn to love myself, and like everything in life, it’s a process.

Just like any other black girl, at some point in their lives, I was confronted with the gnawing narrative of wanting my hair to look like all of my white friends’ hair: all long, shiny and flowing in the wind. All I had was a tangled mess that was a constant struggle (sorry, Mom, for putting in your hours of braiding and tears; it wasn’t fun for either of us). I begged my mother to let me get my hair relaxed and after much persuasion, she gave in and put down $60 every four months so I could get the look I desired. This went on for four years, and boy, do I regret it. I regretted it so much that one day after school, I decided to cut off all 20 inches of my hair, thus beginning a journey I call “my natural hair journey:” an acceptance of who I am.

Being natural can be intimidating at first. Strangers will come up to you and shove their hands in your hair without permission with comments such as, “So this is what it feels like.” Forget trying to walk out in public; all people do is point and stare. Now fast forward to being natural for eight years. People still point and stare, but the narrative has changed. Instead of thinking (in the voice of Damien from Mean Girls) “Don’t look at me,” one is basking in the attention from strangers. By all means, look at the hair, admire it, but DO NOT TOUCH IT. Never touch someone’s hair without their permission, but especially, hear me clearly–especially, do not touch a black woman’s hair unless you want wrath unleashed upon you. A black woman’s hair is an extension of her soul, her fire, her confidence. It is her crown.

Confidence. One word, but a whole concept that has the ability to cripple one’s psyche. As a woman who bloomed earlier than her peers, confidence was not something that I was able to exude for a good while. My curves were a problem to society and a hindrance to myself. In middle school, I couldn’t wear certain shirts because my chest would be too distracting. In high school, I couldn’t wear certain jeans because they defined my behind. People would poke fun at my booty (no, like literally poke) because it stuck out further than other people’s. It got to the point where I would hide my curves under baggy clothes. Eventually, I stopped being ridiculous and embraced my superfluous buns with the wonders of skinny jeans.

Ugh, jeans! The wrath of every person with a booty. We’ve all perfected the grunt and wiggle dance of putting on jeans. Oh, and gappage! (Gappage is when your pants fit your hips and thighs, but they don’t fit your waist, so there is a gap.) Don’t get me started on the amount of times my thighs and booty looked great but the waist was waaaay too big. Finding the perfect pair of jeans is like trying to find a four-leaf clover….it’s almost impossible, so we have to settle. Settle for what society has set as the beauty standard and try to fit ourselves (literally) into what we’ve been given. However, this narrative is changing. Society now wants women to have curves. Kardashian clones clutter our Instagram and Twitter feeds, giving unrealistic ideas of what being curvy means. Being curvy isn’t just defined by having a bust and a sculpted booty. It’s including everything around, inside, outside and in-between: the growing narrative of beauty.

You may ask, “How can I embrace my natural beauty with society telling me I’m not beautiful?” First of all, forget what other people say. They cannot define your worth. Second, do some research. There are many online communities that are dedicated to celebrating you in your natural form. And lastly, love yourself. Be beautiful. Be you.