Growing up, I only thought there was one kind of beautiful.
When I thought of someone that was beautiful, a tan, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl came to mind with a tiny waist, big boobs, a big butt, perfect skin, thick eyebrows, and a perfect smile.
When I looked in the mirror, I was the exact opposite of what I had told myself beautiful looked like.
I am painfully pale with dark hair and freckles. While my eyes are blue, they are framed with overly plucked, awkward eyebrows that I have loathed my whole life. I have always been pretty skinny, but the kind of skinny that comes with a flat chest and a flat butt and hips that seem to hold a little too much weight. I am tall and lanky with a crooked nose, acne, and a far from perfect smile.
I have always been extremely hard on myself. I would never let anyone know it, but my self esteem has pretty much always been at rock bottom. I could have a million people tell me I’m beautiful, but I would never believe it. I hated how I looked and because of that, I would feel even worse about myself.
In high school, I took drastic measures in order to make myself feel worth something. I thought that the standard for feeling pretty or beautiful, the feeling I so desperately craved, was through boys telling me that I was.
While I would give pieces of myself away to boys that didn’t deserve it, I would hope that they would take that piece of me and build me up even stronger. “Just make me feel pretty, give me confidence in myself, tell me I’m beautiful …” I would plead silently to myself while each boy took their piece of me, and never gave anything back. I would leave those boys feeling less about myself than before.
By my senior year of high school, mirrors were my worst enemy. Not only did I not like what I saw physically, I didn’t like the person I was on the inside either. I vowed to myself that something needed to change. I didn’t like feeling this way. If I was going to find confidence in myself, it had to come from me and no one else.
My senior year I focused on me. There were definitely some bumps and bruises along the way, but I really did improve. I started to focus on all the things, that didn’t always have to do with the way I looked, that I was proud of.
I had a full ride scholarship to play college volleyball. I graduated in the top 5% of my high school. I was close to my family. I had good friends. I worked hard in everything I did. There were so many amazing things about myself I was missing because I was so focused on other things.
This was the changing point for me. I started to believe in myself, and in turn, I started feeling better! I started feeling more confident!
I believe this change lead me to let my husband into my life when I did.
I was surprised that when we started dating, he would compliment me, tell me I was beautiful, smart, athletic, funny… and I would believe him. This was the first time in my life that a boy built me up in the way I had so desperately hoped for. But the key was that it started with the change I had made before I even met him. It started with me.
There is a quote that I believe strongly in that says, “The people that have love and belonging in their life are the people that believe they are worthy enough for it.” –Brene Brown
Nothing about my appearance changed. I still had all the quirky features I listed before. The difference was that I believed I was worthy of his compliments and his love and it lead me to actually believe in them.
I know not everyone has someone in their life that can help them through those tough times, but the key is that it starts with you. Build yourself up, find confidence in yourself, even if it starts with something small, and let it grow. Focus on all the good on the inside, because eventually you will see it will radiate out.
I still have my hard days… my appearance will always be something I struggle with, but I believe I am worthy of love and belonging,and that is what has helped me get through.