When I was 15, one word changed me forever. A boy called me a “Shrek” to one of my friends who then told me. I remember the feeling so vividly, looking in the mirror, in my basement, crying, seriously wondering if I looked like the green monster from the movie.
I was 5’8’ and no more than 145 pounds, I didn’t have horns, or rotten teeth, or a big green body. As I looked at myself I felt the fears creeping up behind me, “your stomach isn’t really flat, your shoulders are pretty broad, and you are way too tall.” All of a sudden in that moment I felt myself crumbling. Every ounce of love I had for myself was slowly washing away.
In an effort make myself feel better, I decided to take up running. I was determined to train for a half marathon with my Dad, lose weight and feel great!
Spoiler Alert: the training and half marathon came and went, but my confidence and self-love were still missing.
This fear of rejection and judgment followed me everywhere for the next few years, especially around men. Paranoia took over and I constantly thought every guy friend I had was thinking, or saying something negative about my body. This fear followed me through high school, and into college, along with a new self-defense mechanism I developed that allowed me to make fun of myself before anyone else could. It also affected my relationships with men, since I always held my breath waiting for them to judge me.
As I grew older and I was able to recognize these fears through outlets like journaling, and books like “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, and “May Cause Miracles” by Gabby Bernstein, my fears started to change. For the first time I was starting to forget the hurt from my past.
Let me be clear with you. There was no “AH HA!” moment, no light bulb or breakthrough. Instead day-by-day, little-by-little I worked on loving myself. I reminded myself how beautiful I was both mentally and physically. I expressed gratitude for all things in my life and I realized that no matter what you do, someone will always have something to say, good or bad. So we must strive to do what makes us happy.
Now, in my twenties, I look back on my 15-year-old self and think about what I would tell her. First off, that boy has no power, nor do his thoughts and actions have power over you. Nothing he does has anything to do with you; instead it is his own personal experiences that affect his choices, actions, and words towards others.
Secondly, my dear, you are beautiful and you are wonderful. You have hair on your head, legs that work, a healthy body, happy home, and amazing friends. You are alive, stop being afraid and start living.
Lastly, it never mattered how much I weighed then, or how much I lost or gained, or how many half-marathons I ran, because it was for all the wrong reasons. My intention was not to better myself; rather it was to please someone else. At the end of it all I realized that to love someone else, and to receive love in return, I had to first love myself, all of me, even at my worst. Once you truly love yourself without the need of any outside forces, the world will open, your heart will open up and your life will begin.
There are times when I still think about that word the boy called me at 15 and the way it made me feel, but then I look around at the amazing gifts life and love have given me, and I think to myself: I am alive, I am wonderful, and this moment is too precious to pass on.