It starts at home. It starts in school. It starts with t.v. It starts with the stranger on the street. It starts with a magazine. It starts with positive affirmation. Where ever it may start, it must stop.
I was lucky to be raised in a home with two loving parents who taught me that I was valuable, and I was worthy. Despite this upbringing, I sought acceptance and validation from my peers. I was a very confident child who quickly grew into a less than confident teenager. It’s always interesting to me, how completely surprised adolescent friends are, when I reveal those insecurities, because they saw me as anything, but. I performed regularly in a singing group, I wasn’t afraid of trying out for solos, I had a great group of friends, I won awards for speaking and competing with my speech about Multiple Sclerosis- all of these things that shout confidence- and while I was sure of myself, confident WHO I was, my talent, or my abilities- I was unsure of myself, and unsure if I was accepted by my peers.
My desire to be a stylist grew strongly during this time due to these circumstances. Popularity is a funny, fickle, ridiculous thing, but it is what it is, and sadly- in a very small school, it ruled whether you were accepted. If you were accepted- life was easy. If you were not- life was NOT easy. You avoided certain groups of people, or certain hallways, or certain parts of the school- because you didn’t want to put yourself in a situation that might hurt your heart and make you feel like you are less than worthy. I watched things unfold.The guys in the hallway that would yell things out at people as they walked by- the girls who were your friends when you were younger, but now, would do anything to rip you to pieces- if that meant they might get a little higher on the totem pole. As an adult- I can see it for what it is- but when you are in that situation- you see it as your world. I began to understand things from a young age- that High School was such a minute in the span of your life; that what these people thought of you was really nothing compared to who you really are; and I think it changed me in the best way. I knew from that time on, that I didn’t want to just be “good at hair” or “good at makeup” but that I wanted to truly change people. I wanted to affect them- show them how beautiful they really are on the inside- and bring that to the outside. I didn’t want to just cut hair, or do an updo- I wanted to make them feel better, make them feel special, I wanted to be a Day Maker.
This, however, did not change the fact that I was still a teenager- and still affected by those silly boys who lined the hallways, or those girls who made fun of you or talked about you. It hurt. We can all pretend like it didn’t- that what those people said didn’t matter- but it did. Somewhere deep down you knew what they were saying “You are not ok. You are not accepted. You are not worthy.” The hard part is-we carry those internal messages with us through life. Yes, I have forgotten the names of many of the people I went to High School with, and am likely only reminded because of Facebook. But you know.. I still remember the name of the boy in 4th grade who made a joke about me the day I wore a yellow dress. I will forever hear the words that fell out of his mouth as he was trying to make other people laugh, but secretly broke my heart. I may have forgotten the first boyfriend I had, but I still remember the girl who was my best friend one day, and then spilled all my secrets at a 7th grade birthday party the next, or the family member who laughed as she retold what the boy next door said about me- and she knew it was hurtful. We remember those things that hurt the deepest, and it creates an internal message. Unfortunately, I let those things attach themselves to me, and I carried them with me through my life. I have been very honest about my health on here- so let us address that.
I was not over weight in school, contrary to my personal belief. However, because all the other girls around me were very thin, and I had started to become curvy in school, I decided I wasn’t accepted. I dressed in baggy shirts. I did every array of diet – Atkins, Weight Watchers, calorie counting at it’s finest, brief stints in eating disorders either way… but eventually, after school, I started to put on weight- as most of us did (YAY FOR FACEBOOK! Now we all feel normal! 🙂 ) One day I was at a specialist’s office to try to correct a misdiagnosis of an ankle injury- and I expressed my desire to run and I quote him, “You do not have a runner’s body, you will never be a runner.” Attach another message that I am not worthy.
I began to decide they were all right. I wasn’t worthy. I would avoid eye contact with people- typically men-in social settings-because I wasn’t going to give them the chance to tell me (or look at me ) I wasn’t worthy.I am lucky to also have a fantastic husband who has loved me from the moment he met me. Literally. That is a story for another day. He has consistently told me that I am beautiful, worthy, valuable- but his words couldn’t change the story that started in 4th grade. My path of feeling this way continued into a form of sadness that I can’t even understand. I couldn’t buy that makeup, because there was no point. I am “losing weight” and once I lose weight- I can buy it, because then I will DESERVE it. I didn’t deserve those pretty clothes, because I was unworthy of them -until I lost weight. It’s self hate in it’s purest form, and ALL. OF. US. DO. IT.
It wasn’t until after the birth of my son, and devastating loss of my father, that I decided I was going to take my health into my own hands. And over the course of 1 year I lost almost 100 lbs. (Did I just actually type that, for the world to see?! Did I just admit how much I actually needed to lose?! YEP. ) In June of 2011, I started walking. So very slowly. By October of 2011 I ran my first 5K. Since that date, I have run the Peachtree Road Race 2 times (10 K) and continued my practice of running. While, my best distance was 7 miles, on average, I maintain 3 miles. Apparently I don’t have a runner’s body, and I will never be a runner…. wait…. 3 YEARS RUNNING NOW.
Through that journey, I discovered things about myself, and about others. I started forcing myself to look people- all people- in the eye, because I am worthy. I started wearing clothes that actually fit, because even though my arms weren’t as toned as I wanted them to be yet, or my legs weren’t as skinny as I wanted them to be- I am worthy. I began to realize this hate speech; This mantra that I told myself daily. I went so long saying it internally, that it was a part of me, and I didn’t even realize it. I was great at telling other people how beautiful they are, how worthy they are. I was great at bringing out their best features as a stylist- but I was horrible about myself. How could I spread joy into people’s lives- how could I be a Day Maker, if I couldn’t even accept the words as truth in my own heart- for myself.
I recently worked on a client. Such a fantastic client, who is so very beautiful inside and out… and she sat in my chair and revealed something to me- she said that as she took payment from customers where she worked, she wouldn’t look them in the eye. She was kind to them, greeted them, but she didn’t make eye contact. When I asked her why… she got very quiet. I could tell she was starting to tear up, and she said to me:
“I guess, I’m afraid, if I look at them, they might look back at me and think I’m not pretty. They might think, I’m ugly…”
A SLAP IN THE FACE. Literally. Her words were a slap in the face. How could this beautiful, kind, loving woman, who has grand children who adore her, and children who adore her, who is so obviously valuable, and worthy, feel exactly as I have felt so many times? I stood there, speech less for a moment, and then I began to tell her how beautiful she is on the outside, but more than that how valuable and worthy she is. How she can affect a room with her calming energy, just by walking into it….
We spend our whole life saying things off hand, and not even realizing how NOT OK it is. “I shouldn’t have eaten that dessert, now I’m going to have to go run a mile, just to work off the calories.” “Ugh, I wish I looked like I did in High School.” “I indulged today by eating.. xyz.” These kind of conversations are light hearted at times, but they are rooted in the deepest self hate we have in this culture-
“Who I am, is not ok. “
We MUST change this. It starts with me. It starts with you. We MUST change the way we think of ourselves, so that we can change the way our children think of themselves. We MUST realize that when we say some thing around our children that puts another person down, they will hear it, internalize it, and eventually SAY IT TO ANOTHER PERSON, and feel it about themselves in some way. We must realize, ourselves, that we are perfect just as we are. I make no excuses for poor health- not taking care of yourself is never ok, but I do believe even that, is rooted in insecurity. We have to stop being ok with other people making comparisons, we have to stand up against that, or this will continue. Most importantly, we have to change our internal voice. We have to stop thinking that we are only valuable if we reach a certain number on the scale, a certain dollar in the checking account, a certain number of comments from friends on our status on Facebook, a certain number of cards at Christmas, WHATEVER our issues is- it is never ok to spread hate, whether externally, or internally. We must be choose better. I must choose better.
I am worthy. I am valuable. I am beautiful. I am not a measurement on a scale. I am not defined by my friends, my family, or by an ignorant little boy in 4th grade. I am worthy, exactly how I am.
This has been growing in my heart for a while…, but today a video was posted on Facebook that sent me into a writing mood.
Have a beautiful day – C