The beautiful and talented August McLaughlin is hosting the very first Beauty of a Woman Blogfest.  Her posts never fail to delight, but August has created something very special with this collection of authors.  You will definitely want to check out her website tomorrow, February 10th and tour through the blogs of the gifted writers participating.  In addition to the lure of the posts there are prizes to be won, including a Kindle and a $99 Amazon gift card.

I’m almost 45 years old, and it took me a little while to stop mourning the loss of my 20-something body.  You see, I used to be a gym rat, lifting weights, cardio, swimming; I worked out almost every day to keep my body looking like the girls in the magazines.  It helped that I had a very physically demanding job that kept me moving and on my feet most of the day, working as animal trainer.

But somewhere betwixt there and here, I picked up a few extra pounds year after year.  I was curvier, and not entirely sure I wanted to be; I was used to thinking of 125 pounds as the end of the world, and now I was a bit beyond that.  Hub was happy with me, but was I happy with me?

No mystery in the why.  In the ten years between leaving the animal field and now I had moved to another state, changed careers, got married, and worked long hours on the night shift.  I had spent my days off doing nothing but eating McDonalds and chocolate comfort food, reading, and sleeping, too exhausted to exercise, then too broke to keep the gym membership.  Excuse after excuse.  I spent a fair amount of time trying this fad pill or that exercise gimmick to try and lose the weight quickly.  You know how well those work, right?  Even though I left the night shift and joined the ranks of the daytime, Monday through Friday workers, I’d lost the habit of exercise, and picked up the habit of picking on myself, and spent a lot of time not feeling very pretty at all.  Yeah, that’s also a big help isn’t it?  I had a bunch of family drama in my life, and I pretty much turned into a hermit.  Yes, the stretchy pants are my best friend.

I wanted to exercise more and eat better, but I was never very good at sticking with it.  It took me months of self-castigation before I realized I was working against myself with the negative talk.  I gave myself a stern reality check.  Why would I avoid working out because I couldn’t go lift or run for an hour and half every day?  Because I would hear:  What’s the use?  Anything less won’t do you any good.  Oh that little voice in my head!  I was trying regain the body I had 20 years ago, and I was using phrases like, you’re so ugly and fat, and you are such an idiot to try and get myself off the couch.  For all my time spent meditating and working on my spiritual self and trying to practice love and compassion for my fellow beings, I had precious little to give to myself.  Why is it that we are always hardest on ourselves, using words we would never dream of repeating out loud to another person, to bully and browbeat our inner self?  I forgot that our strongest power comes from accenting the positive, not the negative.  Instead of berating, I turned to offering myself love, and support.

Then came the real shocker.  A friend recently posted a picture from that time, and I didn’t even recognize my own form at first.  Seriously, the first thing that flashed across my brain was, sheesh, why doesn’t she eat a cheeseburger?  With extra bacon?  Although I didn’t consider myself unhealthy at the time, I remember a co-worker telling me that when I first started at the zoo, she didn’t think I’d be able to handle very physical quality of the work, that I looked so frail.

I was trying to squish myself back into a square hole when I’d become a round peg.  My mental image of the younger me didn’t match the reality of who I was now, not just physically but mentally

Seeing that picture was a turning point.  That ultra skinny and well-nigh unobtainable magazine body was not what I thought of as attractive or healthy now.  I’d been beating myself up for not having something I didn’t really want anyway.  I stopped thinking of the former me as something to be longed for, punishing myself because I was no longer that shape.

When I next looked in the mirror I saw my curves as beautiful, not ungainly.  I wasn’t a stick skinny girl; I was woman in her prime.  In that moment I was gorgeous in my eyes, and I learned to love my body all over again, when I’d been a fair way to hating it.  I stopped whispering hateful messages in my ear, and instead switched to empowering phrases, and looked for ways to adapt my lifestyle to incorporate healthier eating and multiple, shorter bouts of exercise.  I realized I was comfortable with who I am now, and while I saw room for improvement, now it was for me.  I would define my body as beautiful, not give that power away to the media or the magazines!  I can’t tell you I’m perfect at eating right all the time, and sometimes I get so lost in my story I completely lose track of time, but I am consistent about getting back on track, because now I am comfortable in my skin.

Every woman should be able to look herself in the eye, say I love you, and truly mean it.  Don’t try and conform to the media’s narrow definition of what looks good, the beauty of a woman lies in her soul.  Learn to love yourself and see yourself as a true child of the Spirit, and you will see the beauty we all carry within.  Then will shine it for all to see.

How do you find your beauty within?

27 Responses

  1. We can be our own worst enemy. I used to do that and I really try hard not to undermine myself now. We all make mistakes and the best gift we can give ourselves is acceptance which is exactly what you did!
    Great post!

  2. I’m so glad you stopped trying to squish yourself into that hole, Serena! Such a lovely and honest post—one I bet many will relate to. I hope everyone who reads it leaves with this:

    “Every woman should be able to look herself in the eye, say I love you, and truly mean it.”

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  3. What most people fail to truly understand is this: That 20 year old body is not the ultimate woman’s body, it is only a promise of the glory that is to come. It is merely the hint of the potential that lies in the years ahead. True beauty continues to grow along with the curves. Yes, my 20 year old friends, the best is yet to come.

    Great post. Love it.

  4. This is a beautiful post Serena. My fave line–I was trying to squish myself back into a square hole when I’d become a round peg.

  5. Serena, this is wonderful. I enjoyed reading it. Your love and dedication to animals radiates beauty. And I agree that every woman (every person actually) should be able to look into the mirror and say I Love You. So powerful and I bet really hard for a lot of people.

  6. You had me with “I’d…picked up the habit of picking on myself.” Hoo! So many of us fall into that trap. And then you wrote, “Why is it that we are always hardest on ourselves, using words we would never dream of repeating out loud to another person, to bully and browbeat our inner self?” I’ve done–and still do–the same.

    I’m glad you escaped the trap. I’m close to managing the same. Thanks for this post, Serena.

  7. Amen sister! Women in their forties (or approaching 50 – yikes) are stronger, smarter, and wiser than those 20 year old skinny girls. We rock and we secretly run the world!

    I’m glad that you’re embraced your curves. You are beautiful and don’t you forget it.

    Thank you for participating in this wonderful beauty blogfest!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  8. Thanks for this, Serena. I am a firm believer in the saying that you can’t truly love others until you love yourself. This post is all about that process. I admire your courage in sharing your journey.

  9. Bravo! What a BEAUTIFUL post 🙂 Our job her is to shine our light on others but we must first, as you say, find that light within. And to allow little “imperfections” (according to society’s distorted projection of beauty) to get us down and dim our light is such a loss not only to us but to the world as a whole.

    I am so glad you found your inner radiance. I know how hard it is to beat those inner voices so congratulations on successfully winning the fight!! You go girl 😉

  10. Oh, Serena, I completely understand this. Those terrible voices have been my companions for far too long, and it’s only recently that I’ve been able to kick them to the curb. I am so happy to hear that you are comfortable in your own skin, and that you’ve decided to take back your power from a world that only wants to make us all miserable. Many hugs!

  11. I love your post! Don’t you wish you could write your younger self a letter with the wisdom of maturity and self-love you have now?

    Of course, our younger selves probably wouldn’t listen now, would they?!

  12. Awesome! That you could look back at that picture and see it was somthing you didn’t even want anymore. Well done! If you can’t be honest with yourself then how can you project truth to others?

  13. I’m overwhelmed by all your comments and support. You are all simply amazing and I’m honored to know all of you. Thank you for sharing your stories and words of wisdom, thank you for being your beautiful selves!

  14. “For all my time spent meditating and working on my spiritual self and trying to practice love and compassion for my fellow beings, I had precious little to give to myself.”
    This holds true for many people including myself. What we don’t realise is, that by showing more compassion for ourselves, we make ourselves more worthy of giving to others.
    Great post Serena and great tribute to the BOAW blogfest.

  15. I love what you say in this post. I recently found an old pic of myself and I had abs! Abs, three children later they are no long present and for a brief moment I wanted them back. Then I realized, no I didn’t. What I really wanted was to be healthy and happy with the body I have almost 20 years later:) Thank you for the reminder that our beauty is truly found in our souls.

  16. I loved your post. I’m at a point in my life where I’m very happy with myself. I can look back on earlier photos and appreciate who I was at the time but have no desire to be that person, now.

    All the seasons of our lives brought us to our present place and that is beautiful.

  17. So powerful Serena! I have to say after reading so many of these posts it makes me angry that we women are so hard on ourselves first and foremost. I’m glad August hosted this blogfest so we could recognize it not just in ourselves but in others. We are ALL beautiful and as you said, we need to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I love you.” Otherwise, how can anyone else?

  18. Serena, Man, what is it about seeing photographs of ourselves that feels like a punch in the gut? What’s really weird, is I just saw some photos of me when I was in my 20’s, when I was convinced I was a big fat cow, and I look at those photos now, and I’m fine. Thanks for a great post and reminding us of a very important truth: All women are beautiful.

  19. I sure can relate to your post, mourning the loss of that girlie figure, dealing with weight gain, constantly picking on our flaws. I’ve gone from sickly skinny to plump with cellulite taking over my body. The negative self-talk is a killer, for sure. Now I have so many other things to be thankful for and take my mind off dwelling on my self-image and am much happier. It takes some time to grow old gracefully.

  20. Oh Serena, I heard about your post and girl I absolutely have so much respect for your honesty and bravery! It was just an amazing post! You nailed it. How many of us beat ourselves up, telling ourselves that that we don’t measure up. Measure up to what? To someone else? No. To the person we think we should be when we are already that beautiful person. Wow Serena, your amazing! Thank you HB girl for sharing this with us! 🙂

  21. I can so relate, Serena. Almost same exact thing happened to me, except that I was a martial artist. A few years ago I finally gave all those size 2s and 4s to charity. Before I put a pair of size 2 jeans in the box, I held them up for hubby to see. He just shook his head and commented that they looked like they belonged to an 11-year-old!

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