It used to scare me to think about spending a lot of time on myself.
I learned from the women around me growing up, how to give others the spotlight all the time and so much life was happening that I took the back seat for a long time.
I know now that the women in my life gave me a gift. Seeing that much compassion at work and the exposure to some amazing teachings (Danielle Laporte‘s Desire Map being one of them), helped me realize that there is safety in saying, I’m beautiful and it’s okay that I act like it.
Secretly, I savored the feeling of being sexy; that sensuality oozing from some women when they walk into a room like they’re beautiful and know it but don’t have to wear it on their sleeve. I never used to watch movies or TV shows and identify with women for their fashion sense, but for the way they carried their energy. I longed to carefully emulate that, but kept missing the key ingredient: confidence.
I wasn’t interested in having anyone chase me, tongues wagging, because I knew that wasn’t something I could give to myself and would always be dependent on someone else to provide. It was a sense of worth born from the inside, shining outward that I longed for but had no words to describe yet, because I didn’t know what that self-respect felt like.
Yesterday I had an opportunity to come face-to-face with a fear I needed to let go of. You see, I grew up being the “ugly duckling” out of my friends…
I didn’t dress particularly feminine and wasn’t wearing makeup until I was about 16 and even then, I didn’t wear it well because I wasn’t wearing it for me- I just thought that it would make me sort of pretty like my friends. I found myself looking to my friends and then back at myself, wondering why I never looked that nice. I wore baggy clothes to hide the weight I carried in high school and remember that in University I was comparing myself to all the women around me, wondering why I couldn’t be as skinny or as good looking. Luckily, it never escalated to an eating disorder or body dysmorphia, but it still haunted me. I don’t have many really good pictures of myself from that time because I made a point to avoid photographs because I didn’t have the words for it, but I did say to myself, “Just sit that one out. Pretty isn’t quite for you.” I took a lot of pictures with funny faces or ridiculous getups but it was because I didn’t want to sit tall enough or straight enough for the camera to get my hopes up by capturing something I didn’t think was really there.
Beauty standards were not my friend growing up and as a result, I had a hard time being my own friend.
I always felt more comfortable in athletic clothes but never felt like I had the body to fit into them, based on what I saw in magazines. I remember making a workout motivation board when I was younger, filling it with pictures of too-skinny women and rock hard almost-unachievable abs, because that’s what I felt I should look like if I wanted to wear the clothes I longed to fill my closet with. And so, instead, I used clothing to hide until my moment came and I would be able to wear the clothes I so desperately wanted. Moreover, I tried all the workout routines and though I never fell into the diet trap, I did fill my body with Slimfast and filled with self-loathing ate those awful tasting slim fast bars because I thought, “This will make me beautiful.” That was how I started my day for two years of high school- eating food I hated to “fix” my body.
I wish I could go back and give that girl a huge hug and say, “Screw their beauty standards. You are so stunning and you have no idea.”
Fast-forward to yesterday, where I came face-to-face with the way I used to feel about myself. It wasn’t with great intention that I did a photo shoot with a friend doing my make-up and hair for a few hours before taking pictures, but the aftermath had me feeling a mixture of emotion. I was buzzing with excitement during, exclaiming, “HOW IS THIS REALLY ME?!” and, “I’M ACTUALLY REALLY HOT!” It was an entirely new respect for my appearance. Some imperfections came through, like the scars from my glasses, and the lipstick not being completely even but I love that about these photos. They are mine, they are me and I adore them to the moon and back.
I ended the war with my body once and for all last year, when I took up running and realized what this mighty temple is capable of and how good the strength of my body felt. When it came to my appearance however, I wasn’t entirely sure of how to decorate her to match the growing confidence I was feeling on the inside but yesterday broke that wall down.
I remember telling my room mate about the day and he said to me bewildered, “So, you don’t just take pictures of yourself sometimes because it feels good to know you’re beautiful, even if no one tells you? Like doing that just for you. You don’t?”
I stared without saying much, thinking, “Me? Selfie like that? Hell no.” I was still trying to shirk away from the impulse to apologize for the three pictures I posted on Facebook as a move to overcome these last qualms about self image. I was so proud of how I looked though, and when I looked into my eyes in the photos, more than anything else I felt a sense of pride at how far I’ve come and how much strength it took to look society’s standards in the face and say, “Not for me any more but thank you for working so hard to fight the idea that my value comes from something other than my appearance.”
So please, consider these words and my experiences and if you’re reading this, know that it is okay to say that you’re beautiful and that you deserve to feel that way about yourself.
Put on a ton of makeup without any immediate reason other than taking a few amazing pictures of yourself.
Put on no makeup and know that you’re the exact same kind of beautiful and capture that spark within you.
Take your best clothes out of the closet and try them on just to feel that sexiness that’s palpable when you go out in them; for no reason other than to feel that delicious kind of sensual or maybe take yourself out on a date.
Look at pictures from when you were younger and instead of focusing on what’s missing or mistakes you’ve made, think about all the things in between that you’ve done for yourself. Do you even know how far you’ve come?
There’s a difference between narcissism and becoming more comfortable in your own skin; you can tell it from a mile away because the ones who make excuses and justify why they took some photos are usually the ones least likely to feel like they’re pretty enough to be in them. Confidence is in season and it’s something you won’t find on runways or sales racks. It starts with what’s inside of you.
Here’s to strength, courage and feeling comfortable in your own skin.
Even if it scares you to remember, don’t lose sight of your beauty because my dears, you are unbelievably stunning.
Spend some time on you and act like it’s maybe-possibly-really-true?
On The Wings of Miracles,