This has always been a sensitive subject for me. Mostly because I spent a majority of my life criticizing myself in the mirror. It has taken a while for me to look at myself and not feel like I needed to change something.
It all began in the fourth grade. One day after gym class, I was my elementary school bathroom with my best friend at the time. We were standing in front of the mirrors that hung over the sinks, and she looked at herself, turned to me, and said:
"Ugh, I hate my butt. It's too big. I wish it looked like yours."
Keep in mind this was around 2006 before the "big booty craze" started. I was confused. In my mind I thought, "That's weird. We both have butts, what's the difference?" I had never thought to ever compare myself, or my body, to someone else. In fact, most of us aren't born to think this way. Thought patterns like these are taught.
Television, movies, advertisements, music videos, and magazines were using their platforms to tell me, a 9 year old kid, what is considered to be beautiful. It. Messed. Me. Up. I started comparing every little part of me to these images of flawlessly airbrushed women. My stomach wasn't flat enough, my hair wasn't straight or shiny enough, my eyebrows weren't the right shape, my teeth weren't white enough. I was on a downward spiral. All because I let other people brainwash me with what was supposed to be beauty standards and because I didn't look like those girls, I wasn't beautiful. This led to irregular eating habits, anxiety, and using exercise as a punishment for what I considered to be overeating. There were all these voices in my head that made me feel less than human.
"She's skinnier than me. Why is she skinnier than me? Does that make her prettier than me?"
"She has bigger boobs than I do, are my boobs supposed to look like that? Is there a reason why mine don't look like that? Is there something wrong with me?"
I remember staying up until 11 p.m. pushing myself to run the extra mile because I felt like I over-ate. I would put sticky notes on the cabinets in the kitchen and on the refrigerator reminding myself that if I snacked I would gain weight. I downloaded apps that helped me calorie count. There was a point where I was eating less than 1,000 calories a day which backfired completely because I would be starving and end up binge eating which made me feel terrible all over again.
It's been a bumpy road to get me to the place of acceptance I am in now. I've learned to be more conscious with what I consume media-wise. I choose not to read magazines that say "Get Your Best Body in 4 Weeks" on the cover. I choose not to follow "Instagram models" that promote "skinny teas" on their profile. I have chosen to wake up and I have realized that these ideas of beauty are not my own. They have been force-fed to me by industries that are gaining a profit off of me not feeling like I'm not good enough.
Today, I choose to run and do yoga because it makes me feel good. I choose to feed myself a plant-based diet because it makes me feel alive and because I know it's better for me, the animals, and the environment. I eat until I'm satisfied. I choose to not wear makeup on some days because I don't feel like it. I choose to wear makeup on other days because I do have the extra time and I do enjoy the process. I live for myself. I remind myself that every bump, bruise, dimple, stretch mark, and freckle is a reminder that I am alive. I am human and this is the only human body I'm ever going to get.
Don't get me wrong, there are days that are worse than others. Those are the days that I have to take a deep breath and remind myself:
I am human. I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I am strong. I am confident. I am healthy.
I've always dreamed of having children of my own one day. My dream for them is that they understand and truly believe that they are beautiful. I dream that they strive to be more compassionate, loving, generous, kind, strong people and they will make that their priority.
I hope that you find the beauty in yourself too. I hope you learn to love your hair and your legs and your smile. I also hope you learn to love the purity of your heart and the way you can make people laugh. I hope you learn to love everything that makes you, you. You are beautiful and you are enough.