I felt beautiful this morning when I woke up and saw my reflection in the mirror. Not like Narcissus, when he saw his reflection in the lake. More of a sense of recognition of the light within me, shining brightly. When I feel happy, unburdened by stress, depression or self-doubt, and full of self-love I feel truly beautiful. For once, I didn’t feel the need to wear makeup in order to feel more beautiful in front of the camera.
This is huge for me. If you’ve read my older blog posts, you’ll know why. The first time I allowed myself to be photographed ‘naked-faced’ was for a challenge, and I wasn’t wearing glasses in the picture (you’ll see my transition through some of my previous posts.) This time, I’m doing it just for me.
As as an adult survivor of childhood sexual and ritual abuse (http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/07/ritual-abuse-an-agnostic-gnostics-story-of-survival/) I was already conditioned to have low self-esteem from the get go, but the last few years of recovery have been transformational. I’m well-aware of the fact that many people, women especially, have self-esteem issues for various reasons, including body-shaming (I wrote about my own struggles with battling body image as well.) However, I’ve done a lot of healing work to combat negative stereotypes, both internal and external, and to raise my self-esteem and my standards. Not just my standards of beauty, but also of what I will and will not tolerate in terms of behavior from others. I’m seeing my own worth, and while I’m not completely there yet in terms of defeating the ‘inner critic’, I can honestly say that I DO love myself, in the most unconditional way that I know how. Kinda like a dysfunctional best friend, who’d do anything for me, even go to battle for me, but who still has a sarcastic tongue. This friend isn’t a ‘frenemy’ by any means, just a BFF with a few “issues.” Not as many issues as Vogue, but perhaps more than a literary journal. I’ve learned more lessons about acceptance of others and their foibles, so why not accept and love myself as I am?
This has been a long, very bumpy road less-traveled for me. As a kid who was already groomed to be a victim, I was further shamed by my classmates, who made fun of my height, my shyness and my bad eyesight. I was an overachiever until I encountered more challenging math classes, because I was too ashamed to wear my glasses to school after being called “four-eyes” one too many times by my “esteemed” colleagues at school. I couldn’t read the chalkboard, and I was too embarrassed to admit it, and too ashamed to ask for help, so I ended up doing really badly in classes where seeing a chalkboard was essential to my studies.
Unfortunately, it continued throughout high school, as I was made fun of for daring to share with the class that I wanted to be a model. Not only was I body-shamed, (I was also called ‘thunder-thighs’ by several ‘kind’ souls), but I ended up just barely graduating from high school because of unscrupulous bullies. So those old “tapes” run deep within me, but I’ve fought tooth and nail to win my sense of self-worth and self-love. I refuse to be a victim anymore, and I will defend myself without hesitation or guilt, because I deserve to be treated with nothing less than kindness and respect.
My true, undeniable beauty and resilience wins out over petty inner squabbles, sarcasm and occasional bitchiness. Even when it gets a little “schoolyard,” I can tangle with the inner beast. Because I love both the best and the worst of me.
Stay tuned for more, as I’m about to conquer yet another old demon and possibly even get paid for it! Read this post to get an idea of what I’m talking about: