I wasn't going to permanently post this photo on my Instagram feed because when I looked at it, I didn't think it was me at my prettiest. It was really a PSA about taking advantage of the sunshine to get as much vitamin D as possible. I didn't realize that this post sun tanning sweaty face, no makeup, no filter picture would get so much positive feedback. That's when I realized, why did I think this picture was unattractive when others said the opposite?
It made me realize that I still have a lot of self-love and self-image issues I need to work on. Since it is mental health awareness month, I want to share my story. I have been fighting depression and self-love since the age of 13. It stemmed from being told for years that I wasn't the prettiest of the daughters because I was shorter, fatter, and had smaller eyes. My saving grace was that I had a brain. For years I was told to pinch my nose every night in the hopes that the bridge of my nose would grow so I would have a prettier face and one day have a husband who would think I was attractive. Who can relate? When that didn't work, I tried my best to be good at school. During my 8th grade graduation, I was surprised when I received a lot of awards. My grades weren't the best but I realized I participated in everything. I was so in love with learning that the teachers noticed. You can only imagine what a 13-year-old girl felt when she was told that her work was recognized and she was worthy. I felt like I was on cloud 9! On the way home from graduation, one of my parents told me "all those awards don't matter unless you get all the awards when you graduate college otherwise in the eyes of everyone, you're nothing. Just another person with a degree." That's when I fell off my cloud and realized again I wasn't good enough. If I didn't have looks or a brain to make it through life, then why was I even here? Why did God make such a huge mistake with me? Having been ingrained with the idea that I wasn't good enough over and over and over again only left me searching for "love" with partners who weren't good for me. At the time, I thought any "love" or attention was better than no attention since I wasn't pretty or smart to begin with.
Flash forward to today and I realized my parents said what they said because they wanted me to be accepted in society. That the closer I got to the European idea of beauty or what was considered "beautiful" at the time would make my life easier. That the idea of a person's appearance will define his or her success. What they could have never imagined is the body positive movement which has shown men and women around the world that you ARE BEAUTIFUL no matter what you think your flaws are.
I decided to post this photo to show young women that you don't need makeup, fake lashes, a different hair color, tape on your eyes or face, fake boobs, or butt to be beautiful. You are beautiful no matter what. That your true beauty begins from within starting with a strong mind and a loving heart. When you learn to love yourself, you won't let anyone stop you or bring you down. You will be so connected to who you are, that you'll achieve goal, after goal, after goal.
To all the amazing mothers and fathers out there who tell their kids they are beautiful, strong worthy, and loved, I applaud you. We need more parents like you. If we had more loving parents in the world, there would be fewer people feeling unworthy or feeling like they have to be someone else just to make it through life instead of being their true selves. I am still working on loving myself every day and I shared my story with you to show that no one is perfect. You have to learn and heal from your past so that you can kick ass in your future. I'm here to help break the stigma about mental health by showing that addressing your past and even going to therapy is okay in order to be your best possible self. As always, if you need someone to talk to, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.