If you read my column regularly, you’ve heard me mention the transformation I’ve undergone over the past year. I found my body’s calling in Bikram Yoga, cleaned up my diet and lost over 30 pounds. I did this for a multitude of reasons, including a family history of high blood pressure and heart disease. I weigh the same amount as I did nine years ago when I ran the Chicago marathon. I feel strong, fit and confident. I don’t fit media standards of thinness, by any stretch of the imagination, and I am thankful for that.
Unfortunately, many young girls and women don’t share my confidence and happiness in looking like a real human being. They aspire to look like an airbrushed and photo shopped version of what they see in pop culture and mentally (and even verbally) degrade themselves for their inability to attain that sort of unnatural look. I read a shocking statistic from the Girl Scout Research Institute recently that said that only 2 percent of women believe they are beautiful. Two percent?!?!? That is equal parts sad and appalling. As the mother of a daughter, I am so nervous about the messages that we send to these young girls. The same article purported that 81 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. It’s no wonder with our cultural focus on objectifying women. The only “body image” issue I remember having as a 10-year-old was whether or not I would pass my mother’s cleanliness test after bathing.
I want to tell you and every little girl out there something and I really, really want you to believe it: You. Are. Beautiful. I don’t care what your size is, you are beautiful. I don’t care how curly, straight, thin or thick your hair is, you are beautiful. The color of your eyes doesn’t matter, you are beautiful. Your skin color is perfect, you are beautiful. Tall, short, average, you are beautiful. When you truly believe this you can embrace and revel in being the most awesome version of you that you can possibly be.
Ladies, it’s high time we stop focusing on our own perceived imperfections and embrace all of the things that are right with ourselves. Be honest with yourself — when was the last time you simply said “thank you” when someone complimented you? We often find a way to minimize or object to compliments given to us by others. I remember listening to a conversation where one woman complimented another on her lovely jacket. The woman received the compliment by saying “Thanks, but it’s filthy. I really need to get it to the dry cleaners.” A simple thank you is all that is in order when you are complimented, and not just because it’s polite, but because you deserve it!
Now be brutally honest — when was the last time you complimented yourself? I’m not talking about looking in the mirror and telling yourself “not too bad considering my (insert your perceived flaw here).” I’m talking about seriously and objectively looking at yourself and looking for the good. Unfortunately, complimenting is often a skill we reserve for others. No matter who you are or where you’re at in your cycle of self-discovery, there is something amazing about you that you should be proud of. Make it a habit to remind yourself at least once a day that you are worthy of your own praise (humbly, of course).
This summer, let’s all commit to focusing on being the most awesome version of ourselves that we can possibly be. Let’s take care of ourselves inside and out. Set goals to stay on track, but never forget that where we are today is absolutely where we are supposed to be.