What is Beauty?

When someone tells me that they think I’m beautiful, it makes me completely uncomfortable because what I’m hearing them say is, “You have a wonderful heart. You’re a good person.” Here is my confession, I have never felt beautiful. And I know that I’m not alone in that sentiment. If you have ever struggled with feeling beautiful, this message is for you. These pictures represent years of shedding layers and growing comfortable in my own skin. Truthfully, I hate seeing myself in pictures; I have only recently grown comfortable being in front of the camera as opposed to standing behind it.

There’s a lot of pressure these days to love your body, to love yourself and embrace your unique beauty. Truthfully, I see beauty all around me. It’s not a matter of not being able to recognize beauty when I see it. It’s a matter of not seeing beauty in my own face or my own body.

I grew up constantly feeling like the ugly-duckling. My awkward phase was not the endearing kind that people laugh about later in life, but the kind that makes you want to burn all evidence of it. And it didn’t help having parents that reinforced my insecurities by consistently pointing them out and instilling within me a belief that I had to make up for my lack of beauty in other ways. If I couldn’t be beautiful, I could be smart, ambitious and driven. If I couldn’t be beautiful, I could be selfless, compassionate and caring. If I couldn’t be beautiful, I could be a good friend and shoulder to cry on in times of need. If I couldn’t be beautiful, I could be strong and athletic. And I became all of these things. Underneath these successes was the fear, the anger and the sadness of a lifetime spent believing, knowing, breathing unworthiness — of telling myself, to the core, that I don’t measure up. Because of this, I could never fully appreciate my accomplishments. Because of this, I always felt perpetually stuck and unfulfilled.

For most of my life, I have struggled with eating disorders. Saying this out loud and making it public offers some relief from the daily struggles that I have faced since early childhood. It began with purposely not eating, followed by exercising too much. With so much of my identity wrapped up into weight-loss and workouts, what better way to punish myself and carry a sense of self/hatred, than to become someone that works in the fitness/wellness world? Don’t get me wrong, I am truly grateful for this amazing career that has blessed me with the opportunity to improve countless lives. I am grateful for the connections and friendship that I have made through this work. But truthfully, I am tired of working in this broken industry that earns millions of dollars by exploiting our collective pain and insecurities. I’m tired of burying my head in the sandbox, wishing there was a better way. Because on most days, I would rather hug your inner child than teach you how to perfect your push-up or explain the nuances of proper nutrition. I would rather hold sacred space for you to get vulnerable and go deeper on a soul-level than encourage you to push your body harder or get in that extra workout. I would want you to know that you will be the same person 20-pounds lighter or 20-pounds heavier if you do not actively embrace your true beauty and essence.

Beauty is a daring action. One that is built on your authentic intention instead of being attached to the outcome. You are beautiful when you are afraid to do something and you do it anyway. If you have been to hell and back, your resilience is beautiful. Strong opinions are beautiful. Respecting other people’s strong opinions is beautiful too. Humility is beautiful. Wisdom is beautiful.

And in case you haven’t been told lately or just need to hear it again, you are beautiful — just as you are.

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