The past couple of weeks have been unreal, as my heartfelt New Year’s Day Facebook post continues to be shared and talked about. Major news websites in the U.S. and overseas have shared it, as have people like Zooey Deschanel, Ashton Kutcher, and George Takei. I've also had the opportunity to talk about my message with numerous reporters in my local community and beyond. Like I said: Unreal!
Getting this message — loving yourself as you are right now — out to as many women as possible is so critical, and I'm grateful for the way this has turned out, though it truly was not what I planned or envisioned when I pressed "Post" on Facebook that day. I simply wanted to share a happy realization about how far I have personally come, and how it feels to taste this kind of peace and freedom, and in that way maybe encourage other women to consider starting this New Year with a different perspective.
While I haven't been able to read all of the comments on every single place where my post has been shared, I have noticed that some people completely missed the intended message and instead have been very quick to make this post about my appearance.
I want to clear up some things.
I don't pretend to "not know" what I was born with. I'm a tall, busty blonde. I actually feel beautiful (these days!), and am very happy with the way I look. The thing is, no matter what others see now (or saw then), what I saw and felt was never enough.
For decades I let others people's view of me and my body define my view of me and my body. I was riding high when someone called me "gorgeous," and I would come crashing down the instant someone called me "fat."
My body has fluctuated by over 30 pounds over the last 12 years, from health and life stressors (competing in figure competitions, being diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease and PCOS, losing my father unexpectedly to pneumonia, etc. No matter what my body looked like between 152 and 185 pounds, I always wished it looked differently.
I always thought if I could just get "there" then "there" would be enough. If I could just:
...lose 10 pounds
...have leaner legs
...drop a clothing size
Then I would be enough.
When I did those things, when I got "there," it still wasn't enough.
As my good friend, and Girls Gone Strong Advisory Board Member Erin Brown says:
"The trouble isn’t in valuing beauty, but in defining it so narrowly that we cannot possibly achieve it. We value women in parts and pieces, striving for this celebrity’s glutes or that celebrity’s lips. It’s impossible and exhausting, and every time we achieve a level of beauty we believe we will be happy with, we are presented with a new set of rules and standards to live up to. The solution isn’t ‘not valuing beauty’ but rather, expanding it’s definition to include us.”
She's right. It doesn't actually matter what we look like, someone will find a way to tear us apart. Based on that picture alone, I've been called a "whale" and told I needed to lose 40 pounds — because ya know, 125-130 pounds at almost 5'11" is normal!
Even the most conventionally beautiful women in the world are picked apart left and right by the media and people hiding behind keyboards on the Internet.
We tell women to be confident, and yet, when a woman displays her confidence, the world is lining up to tear her down and tell her why she shouldn’t be so full of herself.
I decided a while back that I would no longer let other's words, good or bad, define me, my worth, or my work.
Only I get to do that.
The moment I allow others to do that for me, I'm handing all of my power over to them.
The same rings true for our bodies, how we choose to live our lives, the decisions we make — everything.
The moment you allow someone else's opinion of you dictate how you feel about yourself, you're no longer in charge. They are. And being in charge of you is an incredibly precious job that only you are qualified to hold.
If these sound familiar to you, you are not alone.
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