Today, I was working on the last page of my new website - the "About Me" page. I had to choose two photos of myself. I wanted them to show who I am. I wanted them to express that deep inside I have compassion, heart, and am able to show up with love. I also wanted to demonstrate that I am creative, fun, joyful, honest, effective, and highly professional. I went back into the folder of head shots that the talented Kyria Lydia Abrahams took for me back in 2011.
By default, I scrolled down the hundreds of images searching for the same ten that I have used repeatedly over the years. The same group that I mentally "approved" of. In fact, the only group I felt was reasonable - at all - to show to anyone else. In my mind, these were the pictures that thinned me out, where my face was not too full, and where I looked, in my perception, "good enough."
I didn't show the rest to anyone else, and even asked Kyria to take photos that I didn't think were beautiful enough off of her website.
The experience I proceeded to have forced me to sit down, right away, even though I have a million other things to get done today, and write this article. I needed to write it in honor of my quickly growing nieces and nephews. In honor of my friends. In honor of anyone who has ever felt this way.
I realized that my vision had been askew. How had I not seen all of these other photographs?
I am not talking about vision of the ocular variety, but my spiritual vision. Vision of my essence. Vision of the truth.
I am smiling. I am curvy. I am glowing. I am laughing. I am bright. I am beautiful. How did I miss all that?
Of course, I have had this experience before. The one where looking back you see so much that you could not see before. In more ways than just physically. But, in keeping with the physical nature of this experience, I will offer one other example - my freshman year of high school. I'm sure most of us remember our freshman year of high school. The excitement, or the fear, but of course the hope that it would go well.
I walked into this huge new place, with all of these new people. I looked at the girls around me. To me, they seemed so....I don't know the right words, but I could say - fashionable, pretty, cool, things seemed easy for them, they could talk to each other and the boys. But, the word that is the truth, that I wasn't able to find, is that they seemed worthy.
Worthy of what?
Love. Good things. Joy. Acceptance. General, Universal, divine-right love.
How could I compare? I didn't measure up. Why couldn't I diet hard enough? Why did I have a belly like that? Why did my face look like that? Why were my breasts that way? Why did I have stupid braces? Why did I say stupid things? Why didn't people like me? Why was my smile so awkward? Why? Why? WHY?!
Why was I not good enough? And, how could I become good enough? For a while, it was easiest for me to think that I might be able to become good enough by focusing on my appearance. The "if onlys" began. "If only I were thinner." "If only I looked like that...then everything would be better." Or, in other words, then I would be worthy, valuable, beautiful... and happy.
Homecoming was quickly approaching. I wished that I looked better in my dress. I wished I could fit into a tight dress, like the ones I knew other girls were wearing. I wished I was a size 4 or 6. I felt so self-conscious, so out of place. I tried so hard... so... hard. I got my hair done. I got fake nails. I bleached hair on my face and burnt my skin off. I spent money. I dieted. Oh, how I dieted. I plucked. I sucked my stomach in. I abused my body repeatedly. I took classes in makeup and how to stand like a model. I tried to become what I thought I should be.
I had just turned 13 years old the month before.
Here is that little, young, lost girl the night of her first high school dance.
Okay...Isn't she flipping gorgeous?! Can't you see past all that makeup, that pose, that fake smile into her heart? To her essence? Can't you see how amazingly beautiful and pure her essence is? I couldn't see any of that, at all.
It didn't matter that I had a new boyfriend, my first boyfriend, who surprised me at the dance with a white rose and told me I was so beautiful. It didn't matter that he said he loved me. It didn't matter that my parents told me I was pretty and wanted to take lots of pictures. It didn't matter. I was sure I was unattractive. But, now I know what I meant. With all of that misplaced focus on everything on the outside, what I really meant was that I was sure that I was overall deeply defective; that I was broken.
I can only wonder how many other beautiful souls - child or adult - feel unworthy? Like me, you are not. Never have been. Never will be.
Today, I think about that little girl who stayed small for so long, and release tears of gratitude that I am not that little girl anymore but that I recognize the inherent beauty inside of me and can use all I have learned to see it so clearly in others. I realize that I am just now able to see the magnitude of my own inherent worth. From that place, I see beauty and light shining out of my eyes.
Sure, three years ago, I found ten pictures in that folder of hundreds where I thought I looked beautiful, but what about all of the rest? I can see them more clearly now. I accept this process as part of my awakening. It's a journey, but I'm on it. I see so much beauty, Everywhere. All shapes, all sizes, all abilities, all colors, the wind, the ocean, the grass, the roads, technology, a hug, a word, vulnerability, a spirit. I am overcome with the beauty of the essence of everything. Daily, I look up at the sky and thank the Universe for this vision and its growing clarity.
I will continue to see it and embrace it more in myself and in the world. I hope that you all can see yourselves the way I do - beautiful, extraordinary, glowing, full of spirit, lovable, and absolutely, unconditionally worthy of the very best things in life - the joy that is rightfully yours.
Here are some of those omitted photographs. Thank you, Kyria, for capturing my true beauty and worth that is always there - my essence.