I must begin by telling you that I have been blessed beyond measure. I was born into a loving family. Through example, my parents taught my younger brothers and I that everything is possible if you dream hard, and work even harder. I am rich in all that money cannot buy. I have friends who are family. I am an educated woman. I have been given the opportunity to travel. I have a job that I love. I grew up with a smile on my face.
It is only in my teenage years, that my smile began to hide a tormented interior. Despite being heavy my whole life, I started to despise my bigger frame. Notwithstanding my confident demeanor, I was ashamed of my appearance. Truth is, I hid behind a big laugh and larger-than-life personality. In the hopes of overshadowing my body, I bombarded those around me with a feel-good energy. Although never bullied by my peers, I was exceptionally cruel to myself. I forbade myself from engaging in activities I felt were inappropriate for a “big girl” like me. Though an avid swimmer in my youth, I avoided any activity that involved exposing my skin. The gym was for the fit. That person who swears she is cold on a 30 degree summer day? That was me. Without knowing it, I became deeply invested in a vicious cycle of wanting to change, yet being paralyzed by a fear of failure. And though I like to think that I have embraced every opportunity that has come my way, there can be no denying that my weight once kept me from exploring an option or two.
For years, I secretly viewed my body as the Enemy. As in times of war, I starved the Enemy. I manipulated the Enemy. I exhausted the Enemy. Despite my best efforts, I was continuously outmaneuvered in the war. Needless to say, the Enemy fought back twice as hard and every single time, the Enemy won. My life was defined by yo-yo diets and unfulfilled promises of change. I did not see my body as an expression of myself. The Enemy was something I had to control and beat. I was wrong.
The change I so desperately craved came with my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) diagnosis. Tell a young woman that there is something wrong with her reproductive organs and I promise it will get the wheels turning. I can tell you that my ovaries are fine. I’m fine, really. But in those first few moments, the truth hit me like a ton of bricks. I have always wanted to touch people’s hearts. I have always wanted to transcend the physical world. Yet, as I took the long way home, I realized that everything I will ever accomplish will stem from my body. My body hugs those I love. My body sings the words I feel. My fingers type these words onto a page. In the hours that followed my appointment, I recognized my body for the temple that it is. The Enemy and I became one, and in turn I became a walking miracle. I vowed to be healthy. I vowed to be strong.
I had avoided looking at myself for years, but that night I looked straight into my own reflection. Staring into the mirror, the truth began to unfold. I have my grandmother’s expressive hazel eyes, my mother’s lips and my father’s nose. I am the culmination of those I love most. Beyond the biological, I am a culmination of every sacrifice my parents, and their parents before them, have ever made. I am the colorful mosaic of every person who has walked in and out of my life. I am the product of all my experiences.Who am I to hate that?
My eyes then focused on my perfectly symmetrical beauty marks. One sits two centimetres from my left nostril, the other exactly two centimetres from my right. As if seeing them for the first time, I traced my beauty marks down my neck onto my shoulders, arms, chest and back. I observed silently at first and then, as I do, I began to laugh hysterically. In those precious moments, I realized that my beauty marks were not just random spots scattered across my body. In a moment of complete vulnerability, my beauty marks transformed into a constellation of self-awareness that danced across the surface of my bare skin. If I had only dared to look at myself, truly see the woman staring back in the mirror, I would have seen what my body was trying to tell me all along. I was. I am. I will always be, Beautiful.
We are all so much more than a number on the scale. I ask myself, when did “skinny” become synonymous to healthy? When did the obsession to fulfill a photoshopped fantasy overpower our need to be strong? Do I have fitness goals? Of course I do. I am in a constant state of improvement. I like to think that we all are. I now know that the real me is not 10 or 20 pounds lighter. The real me is right now me. For years, I believed that my life’s journey would begin once I looked a particular way. In a true expression of life’s irony, my self-acceptance has become the most important part of that journey. I am going to choose to find Beauty in myself, in my relationships, in the world that surrounds and inspires me. If life’s a book, I’m going to take a moment and appreciate this chapter. Heck, I’m going to appreciate this very page.
The day I decided to become physically strong, I re-discovered the inner strength I had forgotten existed. My newfound awareness has catapulted me into a state of transformation. In the months since my realization, I have come to view my body as my strongest Ally. What’s more, I understand happiness as the exquisite balance of both my mental and physical health. I cannot be the first to tell you that you are your own greatest investment. I urge you to meditate, swim, go for long walks, eat dessert, dance, and laugh. I urge you to love fearlessly and sleep in. It is not always easy, but with every passing day, I am learning to be kinder to myself. Treating each day as a brand new beginning has allowed me to move past my insecurities. Now, I am able to observe my changing body with respect and wonder.
If only I could tell a younger version of myself to look into the mirror. I would tell her to honor her sacred home. Most of all, I would tell her that Beauty is kindness and compassion. Beauty is resilience and ambition. Beauty is being unapologetically yourself in a world that will at times make you feel like you are not enough. I would tell her that she is always more than just enough.
I will tell you, my beautiful friend, that you are not an object to be picked apart. Instead, you are magnificent beyond comprehension. A Godly expression of the entire world’s mystery, you are wondrous in all of your forms. You are powerful. You are limitless. You are marked with Beauty.