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
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.
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: http://t.co/vBT1A7E.
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 ♥