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December 4, 2015

Thank God for my Huge Stretch Marks.

Flickr/Khashayar Elyassi

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for—perfection is God’s business.” ~ Michael J. Fox

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I have huge stretch marks on my chest. I developed breasts at the age of 10, and with them came the marks that would become a daily reminder of just how imperfect I was.

By 12, I was 5’9″—and the stretch marks had spread to my hips, thighs and the back of my arms. For years, I did not wear low cut shirts, sleeveless tops or swimsuits—proud from the neck up, but ashamed from the neck down.

Ironically, I worked in the industry of beauty and perfection, as a successful model and beauty queen. I constantly tried to conceal my imperfect skin with makeup, overwhelmed with panic when I was asked to wear something revealing. Feeling like a constant disappointment to clients, I now recognize my projection of my inability to accept what I saw, as grave imperfections.

I wanted to be the most beautiful version of myself that I could be. 

I remained frozen—focused on the part of my body that I could not change, even with the multitude of products and procedures touted to “cure” my imperfections. In my paralysis, I stopped making any attempt to improve my body. My effort went into self-criticism rather than self-improvement.

I did not have a fit and toned body. 

I did not have a strong and capable body. 

My imperfections became a wall—a black mural, impeding my ability to change that which I could. 

Why was I so driven to hide my skin in the first place? We are all perfectly imperfect. In fact, perfection is a societal construct—manufactured, not born. The stretch marks I saw in the mirror at the age of 12 were not ugly, just different than my warped perception of ideal beauty. I was comparing my natural body to a myth of what perfect skin and a perfect body looked like.

Five years ago, the stretch marks accelerated their occupation of my body with my pregnancy. These lines were different though—they were purposeful. My skin making room for my child. Fear and disgust changed to acceptance. I understood I could choose to wince, or I could choose to appreciate their simple meaning—my skin has a high level of elasticity which did not affect my beauty.

Birthing and nursing my babies transformed my relationship with my body. I began to appreciate it for its ability to nurture these small and gentle human beings entrusted to me. I was in awe of the experience of childbirth and motherhood, and I began to wear these marks like badges of honor. The superficial began to dissolve.

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation…We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

How do we break free from the chains that imprison us in our belief that perfection can be attained?

Excellence—cultivating excellence. 

At this pivotal time in my life, my focus shifted from wishing my imperfections away, to finding things I could do every day to reach for excellence in my physicality.

1. Stop finding imperfections on my body. I no longer look at my body to find things to criticize.

2. Show my body. I now shamelessly wear low-cut tops, sleeveless shirts and bikinis at the beach.

3. Exercise. I believe my form and my strength are a part of my beauty.

4. Gratitude practice. Every day, I thank the universe for the body I have.

When we seek excellence, we strive to live at our highest potential of peace, love, health and kindness. In this environment of compassion, we can explore our true nature—our wholeness. We can present society with our unfiltered and heart-felt gifts, revealing our true loveliness.

Beauty will never manifest through self-criticism. Focusing on our imperfections is an impediment on our path toward excellence.

We can choose to let go of that which we cannot change, and move on in love and acceptance to that which we can transform. I am grateful to my stretch marks for taking me on a journey from focusing on my superficial imperfections to understanding my inner strength and beauty.

What once symbolized my failure now exemplifies my excellence.

For a magical look at self-acceptance after pregnancy:

Perfect Imperfections: 13 Women Show Postpartum Body Love. {Photos}

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Author: N.V. Randall

Apprentice Editor: Lisa Foreman/Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Khashayar Elyassi

 

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N.V. Randall