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By the age of 12, I had internalized the message that I was not beautiful.
I also believed that in order to achieve any kind of beauty, one must suffer. In fact, we had a family saying, “It hurts to be beautiful.”
I remember dieting as early as 12, secretly lightening my hair with peroxide in the sun, using anti-acne face wash, and wearing make-up. I read teen fashion magazines and watched television. The message I ingested during the 90s was the thinner the better. I am naturally curvy and muscular—not really the body match of Kate Moss.
As I grew up, my relationship with my body image was a roller-coaster. Sometimes I didn’t hate myself and sometimes I did. But I never loved my body. By the time I went to college, I was in a better space in many ways, but I still believed that beauty had to hurt. I believed that I must take from my body in order to be beautiful. I must take the unwanted hair away. I had to use face washes that stripped my skin of acne. I had to dye my hair, sometimes really hurting my scalp. I had to exfoliate any dead skin. I had to constantly diet and deny my body the food it craved. I had to exercise until my body hurt—removing any softness.
Then, I had children and the relationship with my body remained mixed. On one hand, I was amazed that my body carried and then fed new life. But I hated it for staying “fat” for so long. Then I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and I really hated my body. I hated it for turning on me. I hated it for having no energy and making me feel constant pain. I became desperate to feel better. That’s when I turned to alternative healing approaches including a diet change, yoga, meditation, and prayer.
Three years later I can for the first time say I love my body and I have no hate for it. In fact, I don’t think about it much. I don’t spend time obsessing on how to fix it or how to do my hair or make-up to look better. And here is the key that changed everything. I decided to start giving to my body instead of taking from it. My entire life I have taken from my body and demanded from it, but last year I listened and I gave.
I changed my hair care and face washes to natural products with nourishing ingredients. I read the labels to see what they could give to me instead of do for me. I started practicing yoga with the intention to feel good in my body instead of looking good in a bathing suit. I began wearing clothes that felt good on my body and made me happy instead of ones that hid my problem areas and would make me look “better.” I started eating whenever I was hungry and having fresh fruit all around me. For years, I believed that sugar was bad and would deny myself fruit. Now, I get my full servings of fruit and then some. I also rest when I need to, instead of drinking caffeine to try and change my energy.
And you know what? For the first time in my life I can grow long, strong nails, I don’t have any split ends, and haven’t had a trim since February of last year. I have more energy and can keep up on my family adventures. I feel confident for the first time in a bathing suit. And my husband tells me I am more beautiful now than ever.