Most of us would admit there are things about our bodies or ourselves we are not that fond of. I have been on a journey since childhood that has taken me all the way through my late 30s. It has been a journey of learning to love myself.
It Starts in Childhood
Somewhere in my childhood, I accepted the lie that I wasn’t beautiful. I truly believed I had no beauty to offer the world in any way. While a focus on beauty was seen as vain, if I didn’t fall into society’s standard of beauty then I needed to try harder, look a certain way, or take more care in my appearance.
I was never a “girly girl.” I preferred comfy clothes, had a perm so I could leave the house with a wet head, and cared nothing for makeup. My weight fluctuated a little, but looking back at photos I was not the “fat” teen I thought I was at the time. I was, however, bigger than most of my peers. I couldn’t share dresses for special events or fit into their clothes due to my bra or pant size.
Over time, my inner voice led me to own this belief that I wasn’t beautiful. The more damaging part of this belief was that, since I wasn’t beautiful, I was unworthy of real love. Hearing things like, “Boys are visual,” after asking why I was always the friend and not the girlfriend led my practical brain to hear, “You are not beautiful enough and therefore not worthy.” I was also told I was “too intimidating” because I was smart, had strong convictions, and spoke my mind. I owned these damaging beliefs deep in my soul.
During my school years I had good friends and was overall happy. I gained quite a bit of weight through college due to stress, working several jobs, and school. I was determined to find someone who would love me for me, regardless of how I looked. I then met the man who is now my husband and we started our life together. He is wonderful and I tried hard to hide those insecurities and believe that I was lovely.
I finally got to a point, after hitting the highest weight on the scale I had ever been, where I thought to myself, “How could anyone love someone who looks like this?” I didn’t understand how my husband could even want to touch me. It was one of the lowest points of my life. I prayed hard. I knew my faith told me I was precious, loved, and cherished but I didn’t feel that way. I hated mirrors and was barely able to stand my own reflection.
This is when my real journey of learning to love myself began.
Self-Love Through Dance
What I heard that day was a catalyst to change how I thought about myself. The instructor, Rita, spoke throughout the class about how everyone’s dancing would look a little different and that was okay. We all move in different ways. We all have beauty to offer the world regardless of bra size, pant size, skin color, religious beliefs, age, etc.
These words washed over my battered soul like a balm. It was one of the first times I had affirmation, especially as a plus-size woman. Rita exuded acceptance, grace, strength, humor, and love. After a few sessions I joined her dance troupe, Oasis. I found a safe, nurturing place that affirmed me in so many ways. These women have become my biggest supporters, friends, and dance sisters. I began to connect more to my body and how it moved.
My thoughts started to shift: maybe I do have some beauty to offer the world.
Changing My Mindset
I started reading a few books along the way that fed my faith, and helped me work through and discard this old belief. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, God Loves Ugly by Christa Black, and The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown were profound for me. Every night, I also read myself a children’s book by Max Lucado titled You are Special. The message in that book is that other people’s “stickers” of approval or disapproval only stick to me if their opinion matters to me. They fall off if I remember that I was lovingly created just as I am.
I started doing affirmations approved by a trusted coach. I worked diligently to retrain my thoughts from negative to positive.
It has been a long, hard-fought battle but worth every minute. Tackling my beauty was one thing, tackling who I am is another altogether. This is becoming easier as I get older. I continued to work through this process through pregnancy, parenting, and aging. I have never been more comfortable in my own skin or owned who I am more than I do now. I am on a journey to be healthier and happier.
The World Needs your Beauty
So now, the girl who had to have a “security blanket” flannel shirt on at all times in high school just had boudoir photos done for her 40th birthday by Boudoir Photography by Yvonne Denault. I can’t tell you how empowering that photoshoot was for me. It was a celebration of this journey to love myself. My husband was told lovingly but in my blunt honesty, “I love you and I hope you enjoy these photos, but I am doing this for me.”
This is a journey of continual acceptance and loving me… ALL of me. Loving my body and it’s changes through pregnancy and postpartum, hormonal acne and grey hairs; owning who I am as a person with my quirks, imperfections, and gifts. I don’t think I will ever arrive at a final destination on this journey. Life is always changing; so is my body, and so am I.
So if you struggle to love your body or yourself, know you are not alone. I hope you can start by looking in the mirror and finding one thing you love about yourself and building on that. It will be a journey and difficult at times, but also so beautiful and freeing.
Find those groups of women who build you up, affirm you, and celebrate you. Read those books that speak to your soul and make you dive deep. Listen to the music that meets you where you are and then calls you higher. Have a boudior photo session and celebrate the body that does so much for you every day. Join a fitness group or whatever speaks to you.
The world needs your beauty, your quirks, your gifts, and your voice. Your children need to see you loving yourself. Speak to yourself the way you would speak to your best friend or your children. You deserve to love yourself better.
Looking for other self-care ideas? Check out our post here!