It pains me to admit that for most of my life, I’ve struggled with body image. I never felt like I measured up to the other girls in middle or high school. As an adult, I continued to dress to hide the parts of my body that I was ashamed of.

But with the help of my real friends and loved ones—and a huge helping of body positive Instagram posts—I am finally free. I have made the decision to radically accept that I have talons.

What is “normal” anyway? Where does society get off saying that women should have fingernails and not the appendages of an extinct velociraptor or very large osprey? I still have value, even if the patriarchy begs to differ. Sure, I may never be able to play piano, but who else in my apartment building could have taken care of our rat infestation that quickly?

Sometimes, of course, I do get a little down on myself. It’s normal. The media and society have conditioned us so well to believe our bodies should look a certain way and that evolution intended to produce humans with skin-covered hands and feet with ten fingers and toes, that it can be difficult to break that narrative. When that happens, I make some time for self-care. I get myself a nice Pinot Gris from Trader Joe’s, unwrap a couple of Dove dark chocolate pieces, and fire up my belt sander for a little at-home manicure. Sure, I can’t buy nail polish at the drug store like most girls, but when I get the high gloss exterior paint in sample size at Lowe’s, they match it to any color I want. I’m running the show.

Illustration by Andrew Haener

Illustration by Andrew Haener

And, unfortunately, the trolls sometimes come out in full force. The things I’ve been called on Twitter over the years make my skin crawl. But now, when the haters get down on me about not “looking feminine” or tell me to “stop perching on the guardrail of the I-5 overpass,” I say eff that noise! You just need to turn out the negativity and focus on being your best self.

I realize that every day I live my truth makes an impact. When I wear what I want, it’s a radical act. When I speak up without worrying what people will think of me, I’m changing the world. When I see a garter snake flicker in the bushes and then reflexively rip it to shreds, I’m living without apology.

Make yourself a mantra and say it every day. You don’t have to live life by someone else’s rules. I’m a friend, a daughter, a sister. I am a boss bitch. I love myself. I love my talons.

Illustration by Andrew HaenerFull-size image here.