Be More Than Beautiful

‘So, I let myself believe that I wasn’t beautiful. I let myself believe that I didn’t have the right to feel beautiful. I didn’t have the right to like a guy. I didn’t have the right to do what I wanted to do. I didn’t have the right to be happy, but I also didn’t have the right to be miserable because “somebody always has it worse.” ‘- the Healing Process

Here’s the thing: society makes it so hard to love ourselves. Everywhere we look we are surrounded by attributes that society tells us we need to have in order to be beautiful. Because, as a woman, society tells me that my worth is encompassed in my appearance.

False. I tell you that it is all false.

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of journaling. I have piles of notebooks filled with 3 am thoughts. I have notes on my phone filled with random “throughout the day” thoughts. I have saved drafts on my computer of writings that I might not ever share.

Last night, I found this one: a journal entry from exactly a year ago, a journal entry from a 17 year old me, crying out in frustration.

look, I’m trying here; I’m trying to be ok and to like myself. But it’s hard to be ok when you don’t feel beautiful half the time. And when you do feel beautiful, people are always so willing to extinguish that thought. As soon as I have the tiniest bit of confidence, somebody comes along and crushes it again. That’s the hardest thing of all.

You know what I want more than anything in the world right now? I want to feel beautiful. I want somebody to tell me I’m beautiful; I want that person to mean it.”

I haven’t felt beautiful in years and on the rare occasion that I did, somebody was quick to criticize something about me. What kind of society is that?

What kind of society do we live in that teaches our children that beauty is looking like her or him? (and you all know the ‘her’ and ‘him’ to whom I am referring: The supermodel with perfect skin, perfect, teeth, perfect hair, and who is skinny, or the perfectly toned Abercrombie and Fitch Model with six-pack abs) What kind of society teaches our children that our value is based on what we look like? What kind of society teaches us that are identity is wrapped up in a guy? What kind of society teaches us that if we are raped, we were asking for it?

Answer: the wrong kind.

It’s taken a toll on me and my self-confidence and my sense of self-worth. It’s taken a toll on my friends and people who I come into contact with every day.

I wake up in the morning and don’t want to look in the mirror. She wakes up in the morning and wonders how many meals she should skip today.

You do realize that despite the years of starving herself because she didn’t feel worthy enough; despite the years of wearing a pound and a half of makeup because she has imperfections that run deeper than her skin; despite the years of staying in abusive relationships, because she believed her identity was found in a guy; despite all of this, all she ever wanted was to feel beautiful.

We are worth more than that.

So, Do not tell me I’m not beautiful, as you walk by with your arrogance on display, drawing the wrong kinds of people to you like a pack of dogs.

Do not tell me I’m not beautiful. I’ve listed the ways on my skin as I cut myself open with my own self-hate, and waited to be stitched together by empty words.

Do not tell me I’m not beautiful. The words running through my mind late at night do a fine job of that on their own.

Do not tell me I’m not beautiful. I’ve eaten my reflections so many times, and I’m still hungry.

Do not tell me I’m not beautiful because I’m not you. Beauty isn’t defined as 1,2,3, and it’s most certainly not a 5×5 grid of attributes to have.

Do not tell me I’m not beautiful because I do not fit in the shoe box of what society deems to be beautiful. Who I am cannot be squeezed into a box with the lid forced on, which is stored on a shelf until I’ve conformed with the rules of manufacturing that society creates to make us all identical.

Just don’t tell me.

Instead, tell your friends and children to be more than pretty.

Tell them to be pretty amazing, pretty smart, pretty kind, pretty funny, pretty eager to change the world. A five letter word does not describe them.

A five letter word does not describe you.

Be more than beautiful.

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The Healing Process

“I think that everyone has scars. Maybe not on their wrists, or their inner thighs, or on their knees; but on their hearts, souls, and between the cracks and crevices of the little universes they’ve created inside of themselves.”

Healing begins with forgiveness: forgiving those who hurt you, forgiving yourself for believing lies, forgiving whoever needs to be forgiven. Unfortunately, this is often the hardest part, as are the beginning of most things.

After I was sexually assaulted, I put up ten foot high concrete walls around my heart. I vowed I would never let myself get hurt again. I pushed so many people away, I isolated myself; I protected my thoughts, my words, who I was, from being used against me. I didn’t want people to know what I was feeling. I didn’t want people to know that I hated myself more than I thought possible. I didn’t want people to know that the image I saw in the mirror was shattered and no longer resembled who I thought I was.

And I blamed myself.

If I hadn’t looked this way; if I hadn’t worn this hoodie today; if I hadn’t been alone… maybe, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

And I believed the lies.

You asked for it; you’re worthless; you’re ugly; no one will ever love you.

Slowly, but surely, these lies chipped away at my soul. They left nothing but a hollowed out shell of who I once was, who I wanted to be.

And I did nothing to stop it.

So, I let myself believe that I wasn’t beautiful. I let myself believe that I didn’t have the right to feel beautiful. I didn’t have the right to like a guy. I didn’t have the right to do what I wanted to do. I didn’t have the right to be happy, but I also didn’t have the right to be miserable because “somebody always has it worse.”

After High School Graduation, I was finally able to begin the healing process. But that would mean forgiving: forgiving the guys that hurt me, forgiving myself for believing the lies, forgiving myself for the physical harm done to my body by my own hand, and apologizing to God for being mad at him.

(notice I said “apologize” and not “forgive.” God did nothing wrong, but I thought he did.)

This year at College has taught me more than I can possibly share here.

I have learned that it is ok not to be ok. I don’t have to be happy all the time. I don’t have to wear a face that isn’t mine to mask the sadness. Because, despite what people tell you, it is possible to be both happy and sad at the same time.

I have learned that it is ok to be so focused on breathing in and out that you forget to place one foot in front of the other. Everybody falls sometimes.

I have learned that it is ok to be uncomfortable when there are more people than I can count on one hand in a room. It is ok to feel uncomfortable in your own skin. It is ok to feel as if your lungs are filled with water when in large groups of people; it means you are alive.

It’s ok to be mad at God; He can take it.

It’s ok.

I am indescribably uncomfortable when among a large group of people.

I am sometimes so focused on breathing that I forget how to walk.

I am still sometimes paralyzed by fear: fear of falling, fear of judgment, fear of becoming.

I am weird. I laugh more than I should. I sometimes forget how to use my tongue to form words, and I sometimes get so star-struck by cool people who talk to me that I forget what words are all together. And I am still utterly convinced that I will never find a guy who has a sense of humor strong enough to put up with my family.

But, that’s ok.

Because, I have forgiven, which doesn’t mean forgetting, but it’s learning how to use what you’ve been given to help someone else.

And the Healing Process has begun.

When I was Young

When I was young, I would curl up on my Grandma’s lap and read books for hours. By the time I had grown up, I had memorized 4 joke books and had read enough books to open a library. I believed that friends would last forever and that my reflection in the mirror would always be on my side. I believed that Super Man chose to exist in the form of my Dad, and that Band-Aids could fix everything. I believed that life was all rainbows and unicorns, and that life would last forever. I believed that if I tried hard enough, I could be anything and do everything. I believed that magic made the world go round.

It’s funny how time changes a person. It’s funny how mean words are remembered more than kind words, and how people have the ability to destroy others. It’s funny how people are so willing to change themselves to please others—they give pieces of themselves away until nothing but a small fragment remains, and then they spend years trying to get them all back; once they do, they are all misshapen and don’t fit together anymore.

I remember waking up one morning and hating the face in the mirror. Five years later, I am still trying to love it again. When I was little, I would pretend to be a princess, until I found guys that told me I was, but then treated me like the stepsisters treated Cinderella—as if everything I wore, my body and clothes, was made from their unwanted scraps. Five years later, I am still polishing off my tiara and mending my tattered Cinderella gown.

I remember waking up one morning and believing that my identity was found in a boy who was not yet a man: A boy who treated me as if I were property, like someone who didn’t need friends besides him. I remember waking up one morning and realizing that I didn’t need a guy to make me complete. I didn’t need a guy to make me special and worthwhile. I didn’t want to be Bella from Twilight, who relied so heavily on a guy that when he left she threw herself off a cliff.

I’m stronger than I think and braver than I believe. When I was little, I would run around the house in my Superhero cape pretending that I could save the world. Sometimes, I believe that I still can. When I was little, I believed that if I jumped high enough and flapped my arms hard enough, I could fly. Sometimes, I still try.

Sometimes, right after I wake up, in that moment between awake and asleep, I believe that I can be anybody and do anything that I want.

I am strong.

I am single. (you’d have to be pretty awesome to change that).

I am independent.

I am woman.

Hear me roar. *

 

 

*And by roar I mean laugh like a little kid in a candy store.