Selfies

I used to hate, I mean, HATE pictures of myself. Every photo was an opportunity for me to see all the unsightly parts of me. To critique myself. To dislike myself. To remind myself of how much work I needed to do to look acceptable or be “pretty”. I could spot the smallest hint of cellulite or a double chin. My gray hairs were so obvious to me. When I looked frumpy or my butt looked too big. Whatever it was, it was all I saw.

And I didn’t need a photo to see how unattractive I was. I felt it all the time. It defined me. Every person I met, I compared myself to. Skinnier legs, more muscular arms, prettier hair, nicer skin, better put together, more fashionable, stylish, you name it. It was the foundation of my life. How did I measure up to someone else’s outsides?

I never did…..

I never felt sufficient. Ever.

A few years ago, when God began shifting my heart to align with His, I started to see glimpses of my worth. I got a tattoo on my side, the Hebrew word for sufficient, meaning if He is enough, then I am enough. I thought I was beginning to really learn to like myself but I was just finding new ways to mask my disdain. I could lift a lot of weights and post a cool video of that. I could make intentionally silly posts to hide the fact that I was uncomfortable with myself. I could edit and filter things to only present my “best” self.

Or…. I could just be myself and share only who I truly am, and be more than ok with it. I could truly love myself and see all the beauty within me and not focus on my flaws. But that seemed like an impossible feat…..

For a while I would try to shift my thoughts. Whenever I judged myself, I would say nice things in my head to combat the negative. There’s this guy, Gottman, and he did a study about relationships. Apparently, for every 1 negative statement, you need 5 positive ones to balance out. This is true for all relationships, even the one with yourself. If I looked in the mirror and said I was ugly, I would immediately force myself to say something kind. And if I found myself judging others, I would muster up a compliment and hand it out as fast as I could (and it had to be genuine). I would remind myself of how I ran a half marathon or how I loved deeply or served others well. I tried to find ways to convince myself that I was attractive and “good”. As much kind words I said to fight my mean self, it was never enough. I couldn’t convince myself to see anything differently.

My husband is a photographer and I have always forbid him from taking pictures of me. Professional cameras would capture my hideous appearance with even greater detail. I had no interest in seeing all of my skin and body with such great design. That decision always made me feel sad inside but my sorrow was not stronger than my dislike for myself. I don’t know if it’s me approaching my 40’s or the heart shift with my ankle break or just God revealing things to me, but something recently has changed. Maybe you just stop caring so much about this sort of thing at some point. Probably some people never cared much about comparison. Not only do I like the way I look, but I don’t even have to convince myself to approve of my appearance. Somehow, I actually see myself and see the beauty in me. My belly, which often times is fuller than flat, reminds me that I grew a human and it makes me smile. Sometimes it even makes me laugh because it’s so stinking adorable. And my legs, which are softer because of my ankle break, don’t gross me out even with some stretch marks and cellulite. I can’t even explain why it doesn’t matter, but it just doesn’t. My hair is in need of some fixing, my grays are showing through horribly and the fuchsia color has faded to show dry, blonde-ish ends but that’s ok! I genuinely still like myself AND see a deeper elegance than all those things.

I used to think I needed to present myself as perfectly as possible to be ok. In order to be alluring and like myself, I needed to strive for model type, high level athlete, unattainable fashionista, perfection, well groomed, organized super human. Now, I see true beauty in the authentic, sometimes messy, not always put together but always working hard and loving version of me. The one who puts people before things, who accepts and loves others as they are, who encourages and supports friends in their darkest moments and cheers on strangers in the day to day.

I will probably never be someone who constantly is obsessed with myself, posts selfies all the time or even checks the mirror a bunch. I don’t think I’m in any way giving up on caring about my appearance or going to quit working out to improve my physical health. It just doesn’t mean as much to my value anymore and that feels really good. Seeing myself for the first time, as a fascinating and lovely being, is so strange yet freeing.

I can’t believe I wasted so much of my life focused on something so insignificant. Imagine what I could’ve been doing with my time if I hadn’t been so preoccupied. I hope to inspire others to see their true beauty and value

because it’s there…

Dreaming (and my lack of posting)

I haven’t posted in a while. Things have been happening. I’ve felt compelled to write. I’ve had a lot of thoughts run through my mind and at times, I’ve wanted to pour them out, yet I refrain. I want my posts to be well written, to be powerful, to be meaningful, to have proper English. I get nervous as if it matters that much… but I guess it does. People write some pretty awful things at times and have huge effects on large masses of readers. I don’t think my blog is on that level (I mean, I know it’s not) but what if I wrote one thing that wasn’t great? I don’t know why that lingers in the back of my mind and somehow hinders me, but it does, or it has. Like I said before, authenticity is vulnerable and can be messy so I need to just embrace that and see what happens.

On to the second, more important topic: dreams and dreaming. I have had a decent amount of conversations about aspirations and hopes over the past few weeks. All of them have been encouraging ones, me reminding others to not give up or agreements about the value of dreaming and dreaming BIG!

Last night I was watching America’s Got Talent. There was a 71 year old woman competing as a ballroom dancer. As she is telling her story, she said something that struck me and as you can imagine, I began to cry. She said she only started casually dancing 10 years prior but through her dance lessons, she realized it was her dream to be a dancer. And here she is, on television, competing to win a million dollars, as a dancer.

It struck me so deeply, the pursuing of an unknown ambition at such a late stage in life and what was even more impactful was the pending success! I envision all the people who doubted her or told her she was crazy, too old, whatever and the determination and drive she had to continue on. I think of all the younger dancers she was probably surrounded by, that maybe stirred up insecurity or doubt in her heart.

In my life, as I’ve mentioned before, I grew up without dreams. I vaguely remember a time, between three and five years old, where I danced around in my backyard, singing songs and pretending I was on broadway. That was a desire in my heart that was quickly erased by years of abuse and neglect. I was taught early on that not only did I not matter, but my yearnings were unimportant, my thoughts were irrelevant and my sole purpose was to serve others and be whoever I needed to be to survive. Every dream that had been placed inside me was gone. Cravings I never knew, wants I had never unearthed, all obsolete.

When I became an adult and had a son of my own, I reinforced that belief within myself. I didn’t have time to even contemplate what I wanted out of life. I had a child to raise and my whole goal was to help him live out his passions. I needed to work in order to provide for him, to go to school and get an education in whatever field I could and to find a husband to have a family modeled for him.

It wasn’t until maybe five years ago that I began to tap into my buried hopes and what has happened since then is nothing short of miraculous.

My goal setting began slowly, with small things, like a belief that I could run a race or lift a heavy barbell, climb a rope or even get one single pull up (haven’t accomplished that yet, but one day). Things that maybe other people never debate or even consider an objective but to me, were at the top of my list. As I began to find success in those small things, my ambition grew larger and more outlandish. I found myself believing that I could do big things, that everyone around me could accomplish the unthinkable, that nothing was out of reach or impossible. When others would say statements of doubt or negativity, I could confidentially encourage them with my truth. And as I watched others conquer their fears, I grew even more confident in the power of dreaming.

Sometimes I look back (actually often) and feel sad for the little girl who had all those things taken from her. I think about what could have been if I grew up understanding my potential. What if I knew the greatness within me from birth? What would I have attempted? How many more amazing things would I have experienced? And I find myself feeling angry for everyone who has in some way been told that they needed to “just get a good job and make money” or pick a college and career at the young age of 18. I feel like I want to protect everyone who has been fed notions of self doubt and cheer them on to victory. My voice raises and something swells up in me when I hear the lack of belief in our society. When did we decide to just give up and fall in line?

I am not someone inherently greater than anyone else. I firmly believe that we are all amazing, talented individuals capable of unfathomable feats. I am someone who is just figuring out the depths of that ability and in that growth, realizing how desperately so many need to see their own potential.

And let’s be clear, this post is not to say we should all quit our jobs and irresponsibly pursue something. The pursuit of happiness and fulfillment of dreams can be done with intention and intelligence. But if there is no conscious dream in your heart, I’d suggest taking some time to truly listen to that small voice inside you that houses all of the magic implanted within you in your mother’s womb. And then take the wildest dream you can conjure up and run with it! And if anyone tries to tell you that you’re too old, out of shape, not good enough, not smart enough or that it’s not realistic, remember that you were not created on accident. The person you are born to be is on purpose and the dreams you hold within you are there for a reason.