I was raised to hate my body.

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I was raised to hate my body.

Sitting here though, no make up, with my soft stretchy postpartum mama tummy and love handles, stretch marks and scars you can't see, under eye circles, and mysterious leg bruises, I can tell you I freakin' love this body of mine. But it hasn't been easy.

Growing up I was taught to, unhealthily, believe that what I looked like, and more importantly, how thin I was, was of the upmost importance. I'm not talking " you want to make a good first impression" kinda stuff, more like my mom actually told me "only skinny girls get noticed for _____ ." or "boys don't want to date chubby girls", "you should really skip breakfast if you want to do well in ballet."

Now, before your jaw drops and you start thinking "what mother would say that to their daughter?" I want to preface this by saying my mom has a good heart but comes from a messed up place. She came from a rough upbringing, where her alcoholic father abandoned her and her sister with their abusive mother, then lost her sister at 12 to a brain tumor, eventually was sent to live with her aunt and uncle after the abuse became apparent to her school teachers. She never had an example of what a loving mother was and did her best based on her experience. She loves me, for sure, but her approach to health, self-esteem, confidence, and self-love are a disaster.

On top of upbrining I was in love with ballet. I longed for that thin light frame and was convinced that starving myself and dancing and running would help me get it. I obsessed over it and was willing to do anything, starvation, throwing up, diet pills, etc. to get it. My health didn't matter because somehow I thought, if I had that lean dancer body, I would be happy and things would just fall in order.

So I skipped meals, forced myself to throw up, took pills, over-exercised, and had an all out war with my body for years until I realized I wasn't happy. While things slowly got a bit better  over the years I was starting from square one learning how to accept my body, treat it right, live a healthy life, etc. I wasn't engaging in unhealthy practices to try to "get skinny" which was definitely a win but I still didn't like what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I still had things I wished I could change. After I had my first baby I hit a new low. I was trapped in a body I didn't recognize, I was convinced would never be the same, and I felt all my self-worth was fully tied to it. Old thoughts rushed back and I was overwhelmed.

I remember thinking one day as I flipped through insta, that there were so many women I followed that looked so different than me, and each other, but that I found beautiful. They weren't all thin, they weren't "perfect", but they had something...there was definitely something there that I didn't have and I wanted it. After thinking about it for a while I realized it was CONFIDENCE. They had a love and appreciation for who and what they were right there in that moment and they were ROCKING IT! They embraced who they were unapologetically and you could feel it, it radiated from them, and I wanted that!

I decided to make a change. It didn't come all at once, and is still a daily struggle, but I shifted my focus away from picking myself apart to finding confidence with who I am. I started choosing to find love for myself at every stage of my journey rather than comparing to others and worrying I don't measure up. I started assigning worth to the things I do and am rather than the way I look and the size of clothes I fit into.

It has taken years of being at war with my body to see confidence and beauty a different way. I've had to unlearn a lot of things, change habits, rewire my brain, but I've found that true beauty is about showing up, and owning who you are.

Your body, your imperfections, your state, they do no define you. Your soul, your love, and the things you choose to do with your life and your time, those define you. Own who you are, wherever you are, because that is what true beauty is all about. I know we live in a world that is constantly telling us we're not enough, but beautiful girl, you are more than enough. You are incredible, own it.