I had my first plastic surgery at the age of 13.
My ears stuck out and the kids at school made fun of me. They called me Dumbo. I felt ugly and outcast, and I was sure that if only I were prettier, people would like me.
I was determined to change myself; to make myself beautiful no matter what. So I begged my parents for plastic surgery. I bought every kind of make up and hair product. I developed every kind of eating disorder. My mom would say, "Just believe you're beautiful and you will be." But that felt impossible.
Believing I was beautiful felt like choosing to be delusional and ignoring the fact that I looked nothing like the people on TV. First I had to dye my hair, have a few plastic surgeries, and stop eating. Then I might look like them.
And that's what beauty is today. It's a series of steps, products, procedures and modifications. My years spent in marketing opened my eyes to the fact that women are expected to meet an unreachable standard of beauty for the profit of corporations.
In my former life as a marketing strategist, I learned how to identify unmet emotional needs and create products that promised to fill them. The widespread needs among women for self-acceptance and approval are some of the easiest for companies to target.
I finally woke up to the genius of it all — as long as women didn't accept themselves or believe they were beautiful, they would keep trying to change themselves. And keep paying for it.
I came to realize that changing my beliefs about being beautiful might not make me so delusional after all. In fact it just might allow me to see the truth about what beauty really is.
So I examined what I'd assumed was true — I noticed a connection between beauty and acceptance. The more I dug, the more I realized that my beliefs were just thoughts I'd had enough times with enough "proof", to make them feel real. I also realized I had the power to change these thoughts.
I now believe that beauty is a state of being brought about by kindness towards oneself.
Choosing to believe this has changed my life. My relationships are deep and more meaningful. Time by myself is sweet. I have the energy to follow my heart — I quit my marketing job and now coach women in waking up to their own beauty and healing their relationships with their bodies and food.
Here are seven powerful tools I use with my clients to help them reclaim their beliefs around beauty:
1. Find the positive intention.
You can't let go of a belief until you acknowledge its benefit, even if it doesn't ultimately serve you. Every belief or behavior we have serves us in some way, so it's important to recognize that there may have been a positive intention behind the belief before you can absolve yourself of it.
Make a list of all the ways that believing you're not beautiful has deceived you as being helpful instead of harmful, such as:
- You think you're being honest with yourself.
- It gives you the impression of having something to measure your self-worth.
- When you're focusing on physical appearance, you don't have to pay attention to painful, unsettling truths.
- It keeps you from putting yourself out there, creating an illusion of safety.
- It makes you feel protected because when you're calling yourself ugly, you think it might not hurt as much when someone else calls you ugly.
2. Acknowledge the harm.
Now that you've made yourself aware of your intentions, make a list of how believing you're not beautiful hurts you or holds you back.
Example: "It keeps me from going out, and I feel alone."
3. Discredit the "proof".
Make a list of all the proof supporting the belief that you are not beautiful, then discredit it with counterproof.
Proof: "Someone called me fat."
Counterproof: "They said it because they were feeling powerless. They know I'm sensitive about my weight, and making me upset helped them feel powerful."
4. Rewrite the story.
Decide what YOU want to believe. Write it on a piece of paper and list all of the proof you already have to back it up, even if it's only one or two things.
Belief: "I'm a babe."
Proof: "I dance gracefully and I have an infectious smile."
Keep looking for and accumulating proof to support your new belief.
5. Behold the power of sensation.
When you invite the feeling of having what you want, it makes you subconsciously seek more conditions outside of yourself to recreate that feeling. Invite the feeling of being beautiful by noticing how it feels in your body to admire a flower or sunset, then redirect that sensation towards yourself.
6. Practice gratitude.
Start at the top of your head and move down your face and body. Gently touch each feature and notice your relationship to it. Recall the first time you judged or were judged about it. Bring to mind any characters you associate with it. As you move from feature to feature, acknowledge what each one does for you. Thank them and send them love.
7. See the truth.
Hold a mirror to your face. Take a few breaths and zoom in on your eyes. Notice the colors, the shapes, the wild, cosmic patterns. The deep, infinite black. Open up to the magnitude of the fact that you're a miraculous being of matter and light staring back at itself. You are the universe in human form. Surrender to the awesome beauty of that mind-blowing truth.
Believing you're beautiful doesn't just change your life — it changes the world outside of you. When you embrace your beauty, you allow others to embrace theirs. And when our wild feminine energy is not pacified by a needless desire to change the way we look, we can begin to focus on the real changes our world is calling us to make.
Photo courtesy of the author