Learning to LOVE the skin I'm in

For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with one area of my life more than any other.

My WEIGHT and BODY IMAGE. My idea of my own beauty and how that idea defined my self worth - like somehow the number on the scale could reflect everything I have to offer or give in this life. My identity was always somehow determined by this one piece of me.

And what's really sad is how young this crazy idea started. Our society tends to put so much emphasis on making sure we look good on the outside, making sure we 'look' perfect,  and my young little soul - a soul that would do anything to help a friend, that has always felt deep empathy and compassion, that grew up wanting to change the world and make it a more loving place - a beautiful and innocent soul - all of a sudden started feeling not so worthy. 

Yep. That's me on the left. Looking like a chubby little cherub. 

Yep. That's me on the left. Looking like a chubby little cherub. 

And why did I feel unworthy? Not because I had committed some horrible act or screwed someone over, or bullied someone, but because I wasn't as skinny or as pretty as the girl next to me. I was tall, awkward and chubby with braces to boot. I had all sorts of nicknames in middle school - jolly green giant, amazon woman, mighty raptor, even elewhale.

While I wasn't a beauty queen, I had a good heart. I LOVED people (even the mean ones). I always looked at the bright side of things. I was a giver, and found great joy in making people feel special and loved. But I felt UNWORTHY of being loved myself.

Fast forward a few years... I grew into my body, leaned out, the braces came off, and I really started coming into my own. I feel more confident. I feel PRETTY, and unfortunately, for the first time in my life, I feel I have something to offer. I FEEL WORTHY. It's so sad, but so true. For the first time in my entire life I feel worthy, and not because I had changed on the inside, but because I finally fit into this perfectly wrapped box - this completely insane idea of beauty.

The thing is though... I was still the same person on the inside. AND I KNEW IT.

Insecurities quickly set in, "I'm not good enough. Even though I lost the weight, I know I'll put it back on. Who am I kidding? I'm still not ever going to look like her. I'm still not going to have her tiny body, and that's really what people want." 

My dad and I my senior year of high school at the Father-Daughter Dance. I remember feeling pretty that night.  

My dad and I my senior year of high school at the Father-Daughter Dance. I remember feeling pretty that night.  

I could fake it pretty good. I knew how to act confident, and on good days I actually felt it. Sports really helped too. I had experienced some great success in volleyball, and that definitely helped my confidence. 

But something else started to happen too. I started to realize that even though I was the same person I'd always been, people didn't value me unless I looked a certain way. And that was a VERY HARD REALIZATION. It hit me like a ton of bricks because I felt like I had so much to offer and give to the world, but none of that would matter unless I had the perfect body while doing it. It felt like everything else was just secondary, but without a great body and beautiful face it really didn't count.  

For the next 10 years of my life I continued this emotional roller coaster. I got pregnant and had my first baby at 19 years old I remember the shock I felt as a 19 year old who just endured child birth, only to realize I was going to be walking out of that hospital looking 6 months pregnant. 

And those battle scars I earned with that experience - I'd get to listen to my 3 year old tell me, "Mommy those are ugly. I don't like those." Ha. REALLY? Me either! You ungrateful little sh**! 

Throughout my twenties I struggled through weight and confidence issues.

One of my skinnier moments. 

One of my skinnier moments. 

After finally losing the baby weight after baby number two I unexpectedly lost my dad. Dieting and weight loss all of a sudden didn't seem so important. Then, a few years later, I went through a divorce. And boy did that diet work well! There's nothing like a divorce to help you drop a few lbs. 

I also had to overcome a lot of insecurities as I struggled with my self-image. Dating after two kids and stretch marks - THAT WAS TERRIFYING! But I met an AMAZING man who thinks I'm beautiful no matter what size I am.  

It was around that time that something wonderful started to happen. I finally began the process of loving myself EVEN WITH ALL THE IMPERFECTIONS!

Then, something truly LIFE CHANGING, yet TERRIFYING happened. I got a phone call from a photographer friend of mine who let me know there was a company who really wanted me to do a photo shoot for their PLUS clothing line and walk as a MODEL for them in Portland Fashion Week. 

WHAT??? ME? Seriously? Every ounce of my being said, "No freaking way!" I was the heaviest I'd ever been. I had never modeled before. I didn't want to tell my family or friends (or anyone for that matter) that I was doing 'PLUS SIZE MODELING'. I sure as heck didn't feel cute or pretty, and definitely wasn't model material. 

But, my husband believed in me. I remember I felt silly even telling him about it. He was not only excited for me, but I could tell he was proud of me and he wanted me to do it!  I took the LEAP OF FAITH. I basically said "F*** it!" I called my friend, and just like that I was in. 

If I thought I was scared before, let me tell you, I didn't have a clue! Fashion is not a world for the faint of heart. The night before my show I had my brother sending me you tube videos with the title, 'Epic Runway Fails'. You can always leave it to brothers to help you with confidence. 

Post runway at PFW with the hubby. 

Post runway at PFW with the hubby. 

I laid there in bed the night before the show, panicked and wondering what the heck I was thinking. The only words in my head were, "Awesome. I'm going to eat it in front of thousands of people! This will be great!"  

When the big day arrived I went through hair and make up. We rehearsed the catwalk one more final time. My family texts me that they've arrived to support me. I know it's go time. I honestly can't think of too many moments in my life I've been more terrified. 

And you know what? It went off without a hitch! I was no Gisele Bündchen or anything, but for a first timer, I did pretty good. I ended up doing a photo shoot for the same company that landed as a HUGE SPREAD in a plus size magazine.

Plus size magazine spread

It was another nerve racking experience, and I learned a lot, but at the end of the day the biggest lesson I learned was to LOVE myself - flaws and all.

I learned that I AM BEAUTIFUL just the way I am. I learned that my beauty isn't some skin deep, superficial type of beauty.

Since then I've lost a lot of weight, then regained it, and I'm trying to lose it again. But I don't have the insecurities I used to have. I realize my worth and value, and I realize it was the same worth and value I had at six and 16 and 26 because MY VALUE AND WORTH ARE DEFINED BY SO MUCH MORE THAN THE NUMBERS ON A SCALE. My worth is defined by the type of person I am, by the way I treat people, by the mom I am to my children and the wife I am to my husband. My worth is defined by my daily actions, my love for humanity, and ultimately MY WORTH IS DEFINED BY MY DEEPLY SPIRITUAL CONNECTION TO MY CREATOR AND EVERY LIVING BEING. 


Jocelyn KuhnComment