I remember riding the bus with Dana in high school. She was always so quiet and so reserved. I could always see strength and endurance seeping through her pores. I still see it. There were mornings where she’d sit on the bus, head leaning against the window, headphones placed in her ears with eyes closed. During those moments, I wanted to climb out of my skin and shimmy my way into hers just so I could be in her day, in her thoughts, in her actions, her joys, and of course her sufferings. I wanted to learn how to embody the vigor that she so brilliantly embodies. There’s life in you Dana. There’s peace. There’s hope. There’s grace, and fairness, and beauty. Thank you for sharing.
I’ve started this series because through my own self acceptance search/journey I’ve realized that we, as humans, all have problems with our skin suit no matter what it looks like. The point of this series is to confront our flaws AND to highlight our excellence. I hope one day we’ll all be able to wake up and that voice in our mind which lists all our faults on repeat will be much quieter if not silent. The mirror will be less scary. We’ll smile as we pass our gorgeous selves. We’ll have a bounce in our steps. One day we’ll love our bodies exactly as they are right now. We might have bad days . We might have bad weeks. Yet once we unlock that key, that key of self love we’ll know we can get back to a sanctuary within our bodies. Our bodies and our selves are waiting for that love, waiting for that permission to just be. As I said to Dana, (and as I say to all my future spotlights), be gentle with yourself, you are meeting parts of yourself that you have been at war with.
1. What makes you feel beautiful?
What makes me feel beautiful is how my eyes shine like the gemstone andalusite (a stone that is helpful for centering) in natural lighting. The sweet way my kitten Gypsy Violet snuggles up to me like I am her lifeline, purring like a mini lioness, even if I have four-day unkempt hair and sweatpants on. The multitude of colorful tattoos I have chosen to decorate my skin with as an attempt to offer a glimpse of my inner self. I feel like a goddess when my body gently bends during my yoga practice, soft curves in place of jutting edges.
2. What makes you feel powerful?
3. What would you tell your past self about beauty and bodies?
I would tell myself that all bodies are gorgeous, and the size of your body does not dictate the adoration you deserve. For the longest time I bought in to the belief that the number on the scale, a flawlessly smooth and even complexion, perfectly whitened and straight teeth, were the gauge by which worth was measured. It’s not. Glowing confidence, endless kindness, unbridled passion, those are the things that matter.
4. How does your skin color make you feel?
Aside from this moment I have never regarded my skin color too terribly much. Apart from wishing I was not nearly as pale as I tend to be, even in the warmer months; or the lack of clear skin – even in my mid-twenties. Which is a luxury that so many do not own, I am allowed to consider what is on my skin more so than the pigment of it, which I am grateful for. One of the most hurtful things that has ever been said to me about my skin has resulted from something I chose to have placed on me, not something I was born with. When I was freshly eighteen and about to graduate high school, one of the upper class white mom’s looked to her adopted daughter, who happened to be bi-racial, after seeing my harmless rose tattoo interwoven with the words “life is worth much more than gold” turned to her daughter and said “I hope you never decide to ruin your body with those things…” directly in front of me. Fourteen tattoos and six years later, her remark still stings; I would have thought that she would realize that skin does not define who an person is and would have experienced enough judgment of her own in life to know that. My scarred skin shames me, but yet is another choice I made; up until around two months ago I resorted to self harm as a way to deal with any poor feeling I had, I utilized it as a method to feel as though I was in control. My right arm has tell-tale marks that I have yet to cover with tattoos, which at this point is the only solution to camouflaging them, the same goes for my thigh on that side; it’s embarrassing for someone to gaze upon your skin and see such personal marks, and to make assumptions in place of asking questions.
5. How have you struggled with your body?
Since childhood I have struggled with my weight, however, it was not until I endured sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend’s son that was preluded by my parent’s divorce that I began eating in order to cope with the impossible circumstances. I have never went the route of starving myself past maybe an entire day of not eating, or purging, but instead combated binge eating disorder, which I denied wholeheartedly until recently. I would drown every negative feeling in sweets and fast food, and from time to time I still go out and eat a cheeseburger or indulge in however much ice cream I wish because my day was a downer. It’s a work in progress, and I’m teaching myself better ways to face the emotions that I may not enjoy. The problem is, at a younger age you think you’ll grow out of it, you don’t recognize the importance of a well-rounded diet and regular physical activity, and you never learn healthy methods for dealing with the daily stresses of growing up. And the ways that you are taught to get your workouts in gym class are absolutely miserable; they don’t teach yoga or pilates at school, it’s all mostly go hard or go home sports that tend to be quite embarrassing if you’re not an average sized kid. Fitness should be pleasurable, but from a young age we are teaching children that they have to be the fastest, they have to win, be the best; not once was I ever assured that it was a-okay that I couldn’t climb the terrifyingly haphazardly hung rope or run without gasping for air and stopping to take a breather. It conditions us to despise the very idea of working out outside of the mandatory gym credits. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when truly started to appreciate my curves, when women who weren’t the social norm began emerging in society, showing that you do not have to be a certain size to be a stunning human being. Once working out was an option, as opposed to a necessity to graduate, I explored what the world of fitness had to offer, and discovered what suited me the best. Granted, I still have bad days where I want to change certain aspects of my body, every single individual does, there are fewer and farther between than there once was.
6. Complete this sentence… “In my body is a safe place to be because….”
In my body is a safe place to be because it is my natural home, I am meant to be here, and it has endured everything with me. My body radiates warmth and is brimming with positive energy.
From Dana, with love.