It’s difficult to own your own body, more so to accept it as it is and love yourself. Loving your physical self is a tough daily commitment. There are days that I feel my clothes don’t fit, my body betrays me, or I hate that my waistline seems to defy every abdominal workout I’ve done.
From a young age, I remember hoping to be accepted, wanting to be beautiful and longing so desperately for the admiration of others. For my lovely little sister, this came so easy. Her natural metabolism did not let a Big Mac stop her from being a size 00 (even after having a child). I was constantly comparing my body to hers. Did we not have the same genes? My mother’s regular refrain that she had never weighed over 100 pounds until after high school merely perpetuated the lie I had come to know as truth in my head. I was at a loss as to what was wrong with me.
By 14 years old I was 5’7”, and I could not reconcile my body to the world’s expectations. Playing tennis, riding horses, and joining a soccer team did nothing to alter my body.
Tears would well up when I stepped on the scale — 142 pounds sounded huge to me. I never let this internal struggle show unless my mother told me how beautiful I would look if I lost “X” amount of weight. I felt and believed that my worth and my beauty was contingent on numbers. My mom and I have since discussed her words, and while I don’t believe that she intended them to cut as deep as they did, they were lacerations that weren’t easily healed.
At 16 I was told that I was beautiful and should model, but I didn’t believe them. I assumed that they were just being “nice”.
The self I had come to know in my head and the image I saw in the mirror were so vastly different that I had difficulty loving either one of them.
When I felt upset, I ate and as the problem became bigger, so did I. I became secretive about my eating habits, and while I never was formally diagnosed with an eating disorder, I had one: Binge eating wasn’t a properly recognized eating disorder until May of 2013 when it was published in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
When I started dating, I found temporary acceptance through romantic relationships, but my confidence was attached to their admiration of me rather than my own.
It was easier to borrow body confidence than to develop it for myself.
Out of curiosity, I signed with my first agency in Nashville, TN. Elated to officially be a “model,” I tried losing weight per my agent’s request, but my hips wouldn’t budge. Even when I booked jobs, I was made to feel ashamed of the shape of my body and after a year, my agent suggested the plus size industry.
My saving grace during this time came from the university ballet class I audited. My instructor reminded me every day that my body was an instrument and that you only get one. Every day I practiced I felt stronger, more courageous and slowly built self confidence. I began to see my body as a source of strength instead of weakness and I was for the first time, able to see my reflection clearly.
With a new perspective and a new manager, I became a newly minted curve model focusing on body advocacy.
Hoping this was the answer, I was surprised and crushed when I still felt that I was not enough. I started to gain momentum and signed seven international modeling contracts, but the ups and downs were difficult to process. Every agent and/or director seemed to have a different opinion of who I was, who I should be, and what made me desirable. One day I would be too big and too pretty, and the next I would be too small and not pretty enough.
I began to see that the acceptance and approval of others was never going to be enough because no one person’s opinion is going to be the same.
Over time I began unearth a revelation:
It was my responsibility to acknowledge my own worth and beauty and not allow “industry standards” dictate how I feel about myself.
I discovered that self love is a devotion to owning every fiber of your being and loving yourself despite what others may tell you.
I no longer go to the gym or choose certain foods for anyone else. I choose to do them because of the relationship I have with my own body. My body is not a work in progress, but a work of art that allows me to do so much.
My body is mine; it’s more than enough and it is beautiful.