The Most Difficult Post I’ve Written So Far: My Journey to Self-Love

This may be one of the most bizarre pictures I have. That’s me eating a Filet-O-Fish, smiling through tears, and sitting on the lap of a waving Ronald McDonald. Despite never eating McDonald’s at home, this strangely brought me a sense of comfort while enduring the physical and emotional stress that came with being involved in the fashion and beauty industry. This is my emotional story I haven’t told until now.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and wished you could change the person looking back at you? Have you done that today? A recent survey by Glamour revealed that 97% of women have at least one “I hate my body” moment each day. It breaks my heart and brings me to tears to think that out of 10,000 women who read She Takes on the World worldwide, 9,700 self-hate every day. I’m among the 3% of women who don’t self-hate every day but being in a state of loving myself unconditionally was hard fought and it’s a journey, not a destination.

The Breaking Point

Walking the runway, 2005

The photo to the right is me in 2005 at a fashion show in South Korea. I think I look great! I played soccer since I was a kid, exercise almost daily, and love my strong body. But while I may look like the confident woman people know me as, everyone has a breaking point and I would soon reach mine. Behind that smile I was enduring the unbearable pressure and emotional stress that is oh so rampant in the fashion and beauty industry. I heard it all. I was labeled fat, skinny, athletic, curvy, large, small, ugly, beautiful. The conflicting opinions of other people had me on an emotional roller coaster ride.

The first time I heard other people talking about my weight I was completely humiliated and cried myself to sleep that night. Then I was torn apart so many times that I became numb to it. There was the time I was told to lose weight and was stared down by the show Director and some of my peers when I was seen eating a small portion of food in the hotel restaurant. And the time I sat on the floor crying with a girl who had an eating disorder and hated herself. And the time I wasn’t allowed to make a television appearance because at 118 pounds I was “too big.” I could go on and on. Some people say, “Well that’s just the industry.” I say it’s CRAZY and our society needs to change its unrealistic ideals when it comes to beauty.

My breaking point came when I was in Africa. After a Producer watched a test-run of me on camera he called me out in front of other people and said straight-out that I was fat. He said I had a week to drop ten pounds or he wouldn’t put me in the final segment. I was completely humiliated but it was also the wake-up call I needed to remove myself from a situation that was becoming too much for me to deal with.

The Breakthrough

One of the hysterical outfits I got to wear for a designer’s show in Asia because it was “big enough” for me.

My breaking point was followed by a breakthrough that helped me find unconditional self-love and self-acceptance. I went back to my beautiful 5 star hotel room, stood in front of the mirror, and asked myself what the hell I was doing here. I wasn’t trying to make a future for myself in that industry. The reason why I allowed myself to endure the emotional stress was because it gave me the opportunity to see some amazing places and the bill for my travels was completely paid for. But in that moment I realized everything has a price. The girl in the mirror looked exhausted. I was physically exhausted from a hectic schedule and lack of sleep and emotionally exhausted from being broken down by the people I was surrounded by. Plus I missed home and the people who love me for being me and I was sick of having to watch everything I ate. I tearfully told myself that this had to end.

How to Love and Accept Yourself

While I maintain a healthy lifestyle, I don’t obsess over what I eat and allow myself to indulge sometimes now.

After making the conscious decision to leave that world behind I was able to be fully present in the moment and really appreciate the rest of my time in Africa. Then I made a decision to create a lot of “me time” in my life so I could reconnect with myself. I spent a while journaling, reading, and traveling though this time I had full control over my itinerary. The picture on the right is me in Italy eating gelato. And behind that smile is a girl who loves herself just the way she is.

Now let’s go back to that statistic from the Glamour survey. Are you among the 97% of women who have an “I hate my body” moment every day? Here’s what you can choose to do to love and accept yourself just the way you are:

  1. Stop the self-hate –Okay, I know this isn’t easy but next time you say “I hate my tummy, breasts, thighs, butt, (insert body part of choice here),” tell yourself to STOP. Continue to tell yourself to stop every time you have the urge to hate on yourself.
  2. Surround yourself with people who accept you for you –People who bring you down don’t deserve to be in your life. Period. The people we choose to spend our time with is one of the most important decisions we make on a daily basis concerning our well being. Choose wisely.
  3. Exercise regularly –It’s scientifically proven that exercise makes you feel good and releases endorphins that reduce stress and make you feel happier. The key is finding something you enjoy. My business partner and I schedule a spin class into our calendars which has become a fun routine.
  4. Compliment yourself every day –When I got home after my experience in Africa I started putting sticky notes on my mirror to compliment myself. It is such a simple thing to do and reminds you to choose self-love instead of self-hate when you look in the mirror.

This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to give love to the person who matters most –YOU! Tell us something you love about yourself below or by tweeting with the hashtag #selflove. Know a woman who should read this post? Share it with her:

Note: While I went through some tough times and was criticized by many people around me, including female peers, I also met some fabulous women who shared the ups and downs. I dedicate this post to Jen, Carey, Tihi, and Rosi who became my loving family while I was away. Lots of love also goes out to Anita, Mari, Kristina, Hana, Julia, Vanessa, and Liis ♥

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28 thoughts on “The Most Difficult Post I’ve Written So Far: My Journey to Self-Love

  1. you are truly amazing and beautiful nats!!! you must never change, you are perfect the way you are!I am so proud of you and everything you have and are achieving!xxx

  2. Hey Natalie

    Great article. Though I am not a woman myself, I certainly see this type of behaviour around me. If you haven’t heard of him (I’m sure you have), check out Ben Barry. He’s the guy behind the Dove commercials that feature your average woman, and women of all ages. I think things need to move in this direction.

    1. I am familiar with Ben Barry and should probably reach out to him personally. I appreciate a guy’s view on this 🙂 It’s great to have men stand up for the pressures facing women.

  3. Thank you Nat – that was beautiful. I really appreciate your outlook on this whole issue. I have felt this pressure for most of my life, and though in my right mind I try to remind myself to love my body as it is, it is so easy to get sucked back in. it’s really nice to hear someone put it into such an eloquent article that was truly uplifting!

    Have a wonderful Valentines Day…..

  4. Hi,
    This is a very encouraging article. Thank you for telling your story. I am an average girl, tall and thin with dark hair. I like to think I am beautiful but there WERE far to many times I looked at myself in the mirror and just want to be skinner, stronger, leaner, etc. One day I decided I was tired of being overly self conscious and that I was going to continue to workout on a “normal” schedule, eat when I’m hungry and just love myself and at the end of the day whatever my body looked like that is the body I would be happy with. This has helped my attitude about my body tremendously.
    I heard once the more you look at your naked body in the mirror the more comfortable you get with it and you begin to love your body the way it is naturally. This strategyhas helped me to remember my body is not like anyone else’s on the planet.. I am uniquely made!!! Learning to love my body and love myself has made all the difference.
    Thanks again for the article!

    No longer apart of the 97% 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing your own story of crossing the bridge from the 97% to the 3%. Like you, I had the epiphany of “I’m on a regular workout schedule, eat pretty healthy and let myself have treats when I want to, and at the end of the day the body I have is the body I’ll be happy with.” I mean, there’s not much more we can do than that!

      Thanks 🙂

  5. Thanks for finding our blog and leaving such nice comments. Of course I had to rush over to your post and see what it was about. 🙂 I’m glad you did the right thing for yourself. Calling anyone fat at 118 pounds, whether they’re in “the industry” or not, is ludicrous. You’ve presented some great advice that I’m sure many girls will get a lot out of!! Thanks again, and hope our paths cross again!

  6. True health and beauty can be displayed in so many ways and found inside others if we just create that safe place where they feel confident enough to let it shine.

    Here’s to creating that space.

  7. This is beautiful Natalie! I’m generally pretty darn happy with me but physically, there is always something that could, should, would be better. Gotta let that go and I will. Thanks for sharing!

    1. That’s the thing with most of the women I talk to… there are these beautiful women who are incredibly successful in their careers and generally pretty content with their lives but it’s always something body-related that causes the insecurities. And it’s hard to let it go! Thanks Cathy 🙂

  8. Really great article! I’ve gained about 20 lbs since a car accident 3 years left me with some chronic pain problems in my left leg. My family (and others) keep pressuring me to lose, but I look at exercise machines and grimace because I sometimes can hardly walk! There is also the pressure in that I am single and sometimes panic at the fact that men do not notice me. Thanks for writing this…to help put things into proper perspective!

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your car accident. Accidents can leave a lot of physical and emotional scars. You definitely have to do these things slowly and at your own pace.

      About seven years ago I had an emergency appendectomy which is a common procedure, unlike a serious accident. It left me scarred and feeling very weak though and this was a time when I was still playing soccer and working out very regularly so it was hard to stop all of that. What was even harder was getting back into all of it though. I didn’t want to do exercise machines or anything and opted for swimming and yoga until I had my strength back. And I just loved how yoga made me feel so I stuck with it. Have you ever tried yoga? I am NOT an expert on chronic pain and what you should and shouldn’t be doing but I love yoga because you decide how hard you want to push yourself in a session and the meditation brings so much into perspective.

      I wish you all the best as you recover 🙂

  9. I’m not only among 97% or women who self-hate their body everyday, but I do it all day. I can’t look in the mirror, can’t touch my stomach, can’t eat without hating what I look like. I suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, I overexercise, binge and purge, am addited to diets, to pills, and to laxatives. I used to be the happy girl, the fun girl, the girl who loved the life she had and what was ahead. Now i’m the girl who shuts the world out and puts on a show for people so they don’t say the real pain inside. I miss the girl I was and I’m tired of hating the girl I am. I am getting help. I’m working with a therapist to get down to the issue, to learn to like myself, and hopefully accept myself just the way I am. But it is a journey and it’s going to be a long, hard road before I get there.

    1. Thank you for being so honest Kori. I just checked out your blog and it’s really good. I love the photo you posted with the text “Just because she comes off strong, doesn’t mean she didn’t fall asleep crying and even though she acts like nothing’s wrong, maybe she’s just really good at lying.” That pretty much sums up me when I was going through all the stuff I discussed in the post. If you ever need to chat you can find me right here.

  10. Thanks for sharing your journey with us Natalie. I had to share this on twitter because I know there’s many women out there that will benefit from hearing your message (and discovering STOTW!).

    I help women transform their body with fitness and nurtition support every day but with a twist, they have to love themselves first and make the changes for the right reasons. Lifestyle changes are freeing and empowering, as the saying goes “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

    Keep up the good work.

  11. This journey to self love is one I’ve discovered that you revisit as you age. I recently turned 60 and age and health issues continue to remind me that I’m not the 20-year old I once was. What I have come to terms with is that that is perfectly okay. We all define ourselves differently at differing times of our life. What was so important to us in our early adult years simply isn’t when we’re older. I’m now a grandmother and what is important to me now is not how people view my “looks,” rather what is import is what kind of person I’ve become. If we could all accept the person inside ourselves, then I think the outer shell would take care of itself.

  12. Hi, Natalie, just discovered your website and am enjoying reading back posts…great work and I love your attitude. I’m an image consultant who helps women discover, embrace, and enhance thier individual beauty (inspired by the legendary beauties of the Silver Screen just for fun). I keep reminding my clients that each woman has a style all her own and no matter what shape or size she is, she can feel more at home and happy in her own life once she learns how to make the most of what she has. Which is why I love what you’ve written here and I’ll be sharing it with my clients…you’re a lovely gal with a much-needed message, and your passion for helping other women is laudable and shows in every post you write. Thanks for your blog!
    Warmly, Kay Noske (PS–I’ll be contacting you with a submission soon…have to figure out which one your audience will most appreciate!). Have a great week, K.

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