Darté Lamptey, 25, Teaneck, NJ

This year, as part of our Take Back The Beach program, we are asking YOU to tell us about your experiences with body talk and self-perception. Below, one reader's story.
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"Maybe You Shouldn't Wear Those Shorts, Because All Your Thighs Are Showing"

When I was younger, I never thought much about my body or size, because I was a pretty active child and I felt pretty average. When I got to high school, my perception of myself began to change. I gained a substantial amount of weight and limited myself to wearing only sweatpants, basic jeans, and big tees to conceal my legs and stomach. It wasn't until senior year that I wore leggings for the first time, in order to break out of my comfort zone and begin my journey towards self-love.
When I began college, I started wearing whatever I wanted because, honestly, I didn't care about what other people thought anymore, until one weekend when I came home to visit family. It was a very hot day and my family was preparing to go to a barbecue. I decided to wear denim shorts and a nice T-shirt, because the outfit was simple and easy. But before I left the house, a family member said to me, "Maybe you shouldn't wear those shorts, because all your thighs are showing."
At that moment, all the self-confidence I worked so hard to build over the years disappeared, and I began to feel very negatively about myself. Why was it such an issue that I was comfortable enough with my body to wear shorts? After that incident, I realized I can't control other people's perception of me — but I can control my own. There were times after that statement when I fell into a depressive state and felt ugly, but I knew those perceptions weren't valid.
I continue to wear mini skirts, dresses, shorts, and even bikinis in the summer, because it's my body, whether or not everyone likes it. That's just a simple fact. But I love how I look more than ever. My curvaceous shape shows the beauty of my roots, where the women are naturally voluptuous and considered beautiful. I wouldn't change that for anyone's idea of what an "ideal" body should look like.
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#TakeBackTheBeach essays are meant to reflect individual women's experiences. They have only been lightly edited (if at all) by Refinery29 and do not necessarily reflect the company's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Have a story of body image and self-perception that you want to share? Submit your essay to our Take Back The Beach contest here.
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