On January first, my dear friends over at Darling Magazine posted up a challenge on their Instagram. The challenge was to share a photo of something you once, perhaps, disliked about yourself (from your heritage) that you now love and accept. My heritage, was a foxy little minx who traipsed across the EU from Germany and landed in America, that is to say, I am a european highbred.
As a kid I felt out of place. I was big boned, muscular, dark haired with green eyes and I had a rather non-distinctive skin tone that left me feeling mousy and awkward; I was different. I grew up in Dutchville USA, land of the tall, slender, blonde haired, blue eyed beauties, who were faire skinned in the winter, tan in the summers. I didn't fit the mold of the midwest and I hated it.
When I was ten and eleven years old I had to have two separate emergency surgeries for a hip condition that left me on crutches for close to three years. You try being a prepubescent girl who already has image issues, and now can't even walk... it was a very interesting time in my life to say the least. I went from being strong and adventurous, to weak, over weight, and scared of my own shadow. Kids made fun of me, joked about my scars, called me names, and critiqued my style. I made the best of it. Built up walls, pretended it was all ok, but at the end of the day I was broken and hurting. So I hid, deep inside myself so no one would know the real me.
Fast forward a decade or so. I am now a girl becoming a woman, figuring out who I am, how I am to be as an adult, still fighting the childhood fears, the voices from my youth who picked me apart, piece by piece. I am no longer the awkward, misshapen kid, but for some reason I still see her when I look in the mirror. I still feel the extra weight hanging from my now slender frame and see the flaws those around me were so quick to point out.
These days it is hard to look at yourself without critiquing some aspect of who you are. Photoshop, celebrity, super models, build up unreal expectations which we overlay onto ourselves. We need to loose five more pounds to be happy, change our nose, tame our hair, shape, tone, sculpt, chisel, build, alter. An entire generation has developed a mild case of body dysmorphia and it is threatening to ruin our lives.
It has taken years for me to stop calling myself 'fat'... I still catch myself saying it from time to time. Decades of bad habits, walls now being torn down. I may still critique myself when I look in the mirror from time to time...
I now refuse to listen to the voice that tells me my scars are ugly, my stomach isn't flat enough, my arms are too big, my teeth are crooked, and my hands look like they belong to a 90 year old. Some of these things are true (my hands really do look 90 years old... it is crazy) but none of them define me. I am more than my outward appearance, I am more than my size, my shape, my flaws. Acceptance of self is a life long journey, but I promise you, it is a trip well worth taking.
So, I ask you, will you join me? Will you put down the criticism and take up acceptance? Here are a few things I am currently doing to move forward:
Step one- strip down (skivvies or birthday suite, your choice) and give yourself a good look in the mirror.
Step two- acknowledge your faults and let them go. Don't dwell on the negativity.
Step three- affirm yourself. Remind yourself that you are beautiful, strong, and confident; even if you don't believe it at first, reminding yourself of these things will change your frame of mind over time.
Step four- find one feature you love about yourself today. Do people comment on your smile? Do you love your eyes? Your collarbones (weird I know, but seriously, I love a good set of collarbones!)? Your legs, your hair, your ears! It doesn't matter what it is; it could even be a nonphysical feature, such as your laugh. Hold on to that attribute and cherish it. Make it more a part of who you are and your confidence will grow.
At the end of the day, you are who you are and that is all that matters.
*Thank you to everyone who showed me love and support on instagram. Your kind words mean the world to me.