I recently enrolled in a 21-Day Self-Love challenge, because—let’s face it—who doesn’t need more love?
For today’s challenge I was asked to share a physical quality about myself that I love. I chose something that I haven’t always loved, or even liked for that matter. Quite honestly, it’s the one thing I grew up hating about myself.
The theme for today was embrace and just the thought of this word sent my heart racing.
It has been a very long and tough journey for me to fully embrace myself as I am and love my qualities wholeheartedly. Growing up, I started to develop lots of freckles and moles due to my genetics—I’m a fair skinned Irish/British gal. I grew up hating them and felt ugly, dirty and nothing like a “girl”.
At age 11, I had a mole removed from my face due to a skin cancer risk. At the time, it was the scariest thing to go through. I remember crying during the procedure and my mother consoling me, telling me it would be over soon and I wouldn’t have to go through this ever again. What she didn’t realize is that as I grew up, I would have 14 more moles removed and some would be pre-cancerous. I remember feeling relieved after removing that first one because it meant the ugly spot was forever gone from my face.
I used to look at other girls and envy their mole-free, porcelain complexions. I always wondered “why me?” Classmates would make comments about my skin fairly regularly and I’d cry for days on end believing their remarks as truth. I would research natural ways to get rid of them and even talked to the doctor about removing all of them, as I would have preferred scars over moles. My friends and family would tell me they were “beauty marks” and I’d respond by saying “It’s impossible for me to be beautiful with the amount I have.”
Recently, I was approached by someone while working a booth at a health and wellness event. This person identified himself as a healer, asked me my age and said he could heal my moles. He then told me I was aging very fast. My stomach sank. I felt embarrassed and humiliated.
All those years of the little girl hating her skin rushed back like a wave of emotion.
I thought the days of bullying about my appearance were over, yet here I was, being of service at an event, faced with it again. I was angry. Actually I was enraged. I thought about all the years of self-work that could be taken away from me with a single comment. That is, if I let it.
It was in this moment that I knew I was being tested. This was my moment to fully embrace myself in love to make up for all those silenced years of tears. I stood up, placed my hands over my heart (and skin) and asserted that I loved this quality about myself. I wouldn’t change it for anything as it makes me who I am and that is unique. He kept trying to persuade me otherwise.
I again stood strong in my truth, looked him straight in the eyes and simply said “I love them”.
This was a defining and pivotal moment in my life. I was finally stepping up to my worth, power and value. For the first time, I was not allowing another person’s opinion of me to hold any weight towards my own perception of self. We so often define ourselves based on other people’s perceptions. Why is it that we hold other’s opinions in such high regard over our own?
In this moment, I loved myself fully and completely. I was not just simply stating an affirmation in the mirror, but rather, fully embracing and experiencing this love. It was palpable beyond measure.
It’s never been easy to love myself. I think for most of us it’s a struggle at times. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with images and messages about looking, behaving and living a particular way. So how do we get to a place where we can live comfortably amongst all the pressure and harness a true sense of self love?
I certainly don’t have all the answers and don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but what I can share is my personal experience and nuggets of wisdom I’ve gathered along the way:
1. Let go of the idea of being perfect. It simply doesn’t exist. And all it really does is cause a whole lot of unnecessary stress and chaos.
2. People are not as interested in you as you may believe. We walk around wanting to blend in with the crowd, but truth is no one is really noticing. Everyone is way more concerned with themselves than they ever will be about you.
3. You are in the driver’s seat. You, and only you, get to decide if and how someone else’s opinion is going to invade your mind and wreak havoc on your self-esteem. It’s no one else’s responsibility to take ownership for your feelings. And that’s pretty darn empowering, right?
4. No one else’s opinion of you is fact. We put so much weight in what others say, but really it’s just a reflection of their own subjective experience. Neither right nor wrong, just a simple judgement.
5. We are already whole. Think of all the people in your life who love and adore you just as you are, and wouldn’t want you to change a single thing. Listen to them.
6. Begin to cultivate a sense of compassion towards yourself. It’s normal to dislike things about yourself, but what’s more important is having the ability to look at ourselves through the lens of mindfulness. Get descriptive and notice all the little details. I would look at my moles and notice their shape, colour, size and texture. As I did this, I began to let go of the storyline that I had created about them, one that was not serving my highest good. Slowly over time the story began to move from dislike to love.
7. Take time every day to reflect on the things that make you amazing. A characteristic, a quirk, a physical feature or all of the above. Say out loud exactly what you love and enjoy about yourself. Write it down on a sticky note and put in somewhere around the house as a little reminder. Maybe even say it in the mirror. It will feel awkward at first but the more you practice, the more your mind begins to believe it. And the more you will develop a true love with yourself.
Over the years, I’ve learned to love my moles and freckled skin as uniquely mine. I would miss their presence if they were gone. Our markings are part of our journey and our story, each one with its own unique essence that has transformed us. They serve to remind us how far we have come.
It’s been a long journey to get to this point with lots of work and self-love and self-work. And I still repeat my mantra, from India.Arie’s song “Video”: “every freckle on my face is where it’s supposed to be.” But by embracing our thoughts, emotions and inner criticisms, we begin to create a space and cultivate radical acceptance for what is, which is the essence of true healing.
Because in order to arrive at a place, we must first move through the very places we have already been (tweet that, I dare you!).
What story does your skin tell?
Use your voice and share your skin story below. You’re beautiful!
Author: Laurita Gorman
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Cristian May/Flickr