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.

I Am Grateful for This Spot

It’s called being comfortable in my skin, fully confident in who I am. It’s being able to ignore the haters, avoid reading the comments and giving zero fucks.

Guess what? I am not for everyone. This is a lesson that I continue to struggle with on a daily basis. I grew up a people pleaser. It was drilled into me from childhood that it was important to be aware of what other people thought of me and my actions at all times. And by trying to cater my life and decisions to everyone else besides the only person whose feelings mattered (my own), I drove myself into an unhappy place in an impossible attempt to make everyone else happy. I’ll never be able to please everyone and that’s fine. There will always be people who don’t like me, possibly people who outright dislike me. But I’ve wasted so much time trying to get everyone to like me that I never figured out that’s not actually what’s best for me.

I finally figured out in my personal and professional life, it’s actually a good thing to drive people away. That may sound weird, but let me explain. Each person who criticizes your ideas and business, draws you closer to your ideal clients. Each friend that walks away, draws you closer to the people who share your beliefs and passions. Being disliked by some is simply a byproduct of being authentic to who you truly are. And the more you embody your true persona, the more incompatible people will pull away from you. That’s okay, because at the same time, the more you embrace your true self, the more likeminded people you’ll draw towards you.

You are not for everyone and that’s not just okay, that’s fucking amazing!

Play a Bigger Game

This recent series of life events has encouraged me to take a long hard look at my life and I have made some important discoveries.

I’ve been silently suffering through an extremely volatile love-hate relationship with certain aspects of my work. Trying to find a balance while maintaining an exhausting schedule has been impossible. Especially when my efforts continue to go unrecognized and I feel under-appreciated, suspecting that the same individuals who are supposed to be in the position of supporting my growth are actually setting me up for failure and tearing away at my confidence. And all of it comes at a huge cost. Relationships have failed, my social life has suffered; I haven’t been happy.

Because I’m tired of playing small. Tired of holding back and not taking up enough space. Tired of hiding my light, my enthusiasm, my accomplishments and glory to protect other people or to stay where I’m comfortable. I’ve been afraid of looking good, shining too brightly and overshadowing others. But even worse, I’ve been afraid to see and acknowledge my own brilliance. Moments when I catch myself realizing how truly amazing I am, appreciating all that I’ve been through and done, all that I continue to do, knocks the wind out of me — it feels huge, too much to handle.

I have always felt like there was something more meaningful and creative inside of me, but I had no idea what. And without clarity, I was scared. Do I have to start all over again? How will I support myself? What if I get stuck here forever?

Creating an authentic life based on your intuition and desires is never an easy thing to do, especially in the beginning. Following your heart and living life on your terms means being able to roll with the punches, dealing with setbacks and surprises along the way. You have to surrender to something bigger than yourself; stay strong, fearless and faithful. Make time to connect inside as often as possible, listening to your heart and intuition. Over time, the voice within will become louder than the naysaying voice of the outer world. Build a community of like-minded individuals, limiting time spent with those that don’t support your vision.

All of these practices are showing me how to slow down and make space for getting clear on the life that I want to create. It’s helping me step up to play a much bigger game. How will you take your life to the next level? It’s time to get real with yourself and there’s no time like the present. Don’t waste another day playing small. Remember, there is no set path; just follow your heart.

We Are Enough

Most individuals know that as a fitness and wellness professional, I have a pretty impressive resume; I’m comfortable talking about those tangible qualifications and experiences. But not too many people know that I have spent countless years immersed in the study of energy medicine and the fascinating world of self-improvement and personal development with a handful of amazing mentors. These mentorships and experiences have given me the unique opportunity to build an incredibly valuable skill-set that has been the ultimate compliment to my work with the physical body. And this knowledge allows me to coach from a vastly more well-rounded perspective and sets my methodology and practice apart from the majority of my peers.

However, I will admit to suffering by comparison, feeling unworthy and not good enough to stand in the company with the mentors that I’ve worked with because I’ve held onto this ridiculous belief that I still need to be fixed. I mean, how could I possibly help others if I still require help?

And here’s the uncomfortable truth about the industry that I work in, every single day it makes me, an average-sized woman (with a little extra here and there) feel insecure about how I look and how I’m perceived by potential clients. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. We know this, but we still have the tendency to assume that a fitness professional should come in a certain package. Some of you may look at me and question what place I have in this industry, because you mistakenly equate fit with a thin body. If you’re one of those individuals that clings to that belief, I’m sorry, but my body is not my business card.

There is no wrong body for fitness professionals; I wish I could liberate people from this belief that fitness purely exists to make people smaller. So many individuals struggle with feeling comfortable with their bodies, which has a profound affect on how they live their lives and show up in the world. And the worst part is that they don’t even know it’s possible to feel differently.

My body is here to support my clients, not to be a goal for them. I will continue to show up in this body and give my clients an authentic, safe experience. I will continue to walk my talk about self-love and self-care. Because here’s a reminder of one fundamental truth for myself and everyone else that’s struggling with this — WE ARE NOT BROKEN! And unfortunately, our society sadly assumes that individuals who are not the ideal body type, need to be fixed.

With this honoring, I have come to terms with how much I have been selling myself short in my professional life. I have to remind myself that my legacy is limitless and I am free to dream big and create an impact on the world in my own wonderfully unique way, utilizing every single tool in my kit. I don’t have to wait until I gain more experience or obtain another certification. And I certainly don’t need to lose 25-pounds to gain credibility and prove that I’m worthy enough to do this work. I have everything that I need, right here and now. I am enough and I can choose to stop the self-criticism and victimization, rewriting the story without ceilings or boundaries.

And in case no one else has told you this, you are more than enough too.

Let’s Choose Love

I believe we underestimate the power our words have. Perhaps some of the most powerful words are three very small, but meaningful ones — “I love you.” Maybe we say it a lot. Or maybe we don’t say it very often. But those three little words have more significance than we know. As a child, I never heard the phrase “I love you.” Now, I hear people say it all the time — at the end of phone calls and whenever parting ways.

By allowing myself to be vulnerable, being open to give AND receive love, “I love you” became part of my everyday vocabulary. Every morning, I start my day with a promise to use those words as often as possible; I encourage you to do the same. Tell the people you care about how much you love them. Tell your enemies and the ones you don’t particularly care for that you love them. Life is precious, don’t waste any more time holding on to resentment; always find a way to love.

Flawed and (Still) Worthy

When we let go of something that is taking up a lot of space, it creates a lot of space and that empty space can be scary. It can be uncomfortable and make us want to shrink back into our old patterns and ways of being. Why? Because it’s comfortable; our dysfunction is comfortable and we don’t know any better. I consciously work at unraveling the limiting-belief of being unworthy every single day. As an adult, I know this conversation stems from the unresolved feelings surrounding my adoption. 

“I am not enough.” Because if I was enough and worthy of love, my biological parents would have kept me. They didn’t. I wasn’t chosen and not only did I not feel chosen growing up, I also had the privilege of hearing this belief and fear from the mouths of my (adoptive) parents directly. I was 18-years old when it was officially revealed that I was adopted. During that conversation, my father told me that my adoption was a burden — I was a burden on the entire family. For reasons I will never understand, from the day I was born, my adoption became this dark family secret and everyone in the family was told to avoid interaction with me because they didn’t want to risk anyone telling me the truth; the adults pointed and stared while gossiping amongst themselves, the children refused to play with me. Can you imagine how insecure I felt as a child? 

I grew up in a dysfunctional home with a lot of verbal and emotional abuse. I grew up believing that I was worthless, unlovable and undeserving of anything good in life. Childhood sexual abuse and trauma further damaged my self-worth; leaving me feeling violated, disconnected and degraded. It took years for me to realize that the abuse didn’t stop when those experiences ended. I took over where they left off and continued to abuse and punish myself with perfectionism, harsh self-criticism and by seeking out abuse from others. For years, I have been vividly aware and accountable to playing small. I have countlessly acknowledged the belief of my unworthiness and each time had to find the strength to tell it to fuck-off. And on most days, I win that battle; I’m resilient and I know how to fight. But when I lose, it’s devastating and it drags me into an extremely dark place. You see my strength, but it’s rare when I let you see my weakness.

They say the greater the struggle, the higher the purpose. I truly believe that every single challenge and obstacle that I have endured has made me stronger for the purpose of teaching others how to be resilient. As a result, I live and breathe a life of contribution because my wounds are my message. My professional life, service projects and mentoring are the new horizons that my worthiness have allowed me to venture into. I’m excited to extend the “why” of my life’s work, but it’s a space I’m still maneuvering — a space where fear and limiting beliefs always sneak back into the picture, making me question whether or not I’ve even learned anything.

But then I remind myself… 

We are not the result of our actions; we are our actions. And when we act in alignment with ourselves and with truth, authenticity and love, we will never fail. When we do what we love we will always be a success, regardless of the outcome because we are walking in our power. Over the years, I have grown to appreciate that this is why risking, starting before we’re ready and taking big swings are so important. My limiting belief of being unworthy was a huge fucking crutch that was allowing me to shrink and stay small — in friendships, relationships and business. It took up a whole lot of time, energy and filled my life with scarcity, low self-esteem and relationships with absolutely no boundaries. But rest assured, the work of letting go of unworthy has already been done. My heart is open and I am ready to fill that big empty space with something seriously fucking awesome.

Abundance, success, connection and love are all waiting for you in that space once you let go of the need to be a victim to your past. These things can’t enter into your life unless you create a place for them to grow. You’ve all heard the expression, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” For those of us battling the unworthy conversation, I implore you to ask instead, “What would you do if you felt 100% worthy?”