I will never forget the day my friend re-sized my body and air-brushed my skin in one of her pictures.
As I looked down at our phones and compared her image to mine (the un-edited version), I was perplexed. I asked her, “Why does yours look so different?” I was genuinely curious. I hadn’t been exposed to editing software nor thought of changing my appearance in a photo before. She proceeded to explain the app she downloaded to take off a few sizes and cover a few blemishes. In that moment, I wasn’t offended. Instead, I felt like I had been missing out.
This experience sparked my journey of editing and re-touching my skin and body in photos before posting online. It sparked the feeling of self-doubt, deep insecurity, and stamped the feeling of “NOT GOOD ENOUGH” on my forehead. Of course, these were all subconscious beliefs that I was completely unaware of at the time, but they were most definitely there. After hiding what society deems as my “flaws and imperfections,” for a while, I felt it. Shame. I became disgusted with the societal pressures women face - especially concerning their bodies - and I decided that I would no longer strive and strain to meet all of the unrealistic standards. After all, it is an impossible endeavor.
Out of this painful experience, something beautiful was birthed in me: A passion to create a new standard of beauty & empower other women to see their undeniable worth.
In a world where every ad we see is altered, re-touching software is readily available at our fingertips, and society puts the ideal of “perfection” on a pedestal, it is imperative that we know what beauty is to us. We have to define it for ourselves. How do you define beauty?
This is how I define it: “Beauty is when you have found the confidence to live in your most authentic, honest, and real form. Beauty is in your identity as a human being.”
We get to decide the standards we live by, and those decisions truly do shape our quality of life. Instead of living in a constant state of striving and straining to achieve the idea of perfection - the world’s standard of beauty, we need to create our own standard - one that is attainable and true for us. When we do this, we choose to live in a state of freedom, bliss, and fulfillment.
So, where can you start? In addition to creating your own standard of beauty, you need to embark on the journey of growing in body confidence. This looks like uncovering old wounds, coming face-to-face with your deepest insecurities, letting go of the lies, and claiming the truth of who you are.
Here are a few great ways to start growing in that confidence:
1| Get to the root of any doubt & insecurity. Where is it coming from?
Is your insecurity about your body rooted in a traumatic experience? Is it rooted in a lie that has been spoken over you for years (by others or even by yourself)? Here’s a really common one: Is it rooted in feeling less than due to the content you are consuming on social media? For me, a lot of my insecurity was rooted in a previous heartbreak (a verbally abusive relationship) and the content I was consuming on Instagram. It’s important to determine what your insecurity is rooted in before you can make steps towards overcoming it.
*Journaling Prompt: What is your insecurity rooted in?
2| Shift your perspective about your body: Your body is NOT something to be judged, critiqued, improved, or altered. It is a living, breathing work of art.
As women, we often see our bodies as an item on a shelf up for debate, question, and suggestion. We’re constantly looking for ways to make it look better, smaller, toner, or smoother. This is what society has taught us. We have to let go of this mindset and broaden our perspective. Your body is so much more than a reflection in the mirror. It gives breath to your lungs and holds your beating heart. It sustains you. It has kept you alive all this time. It is serving you in this moment. It is extraordinary.
*Journaling Prompt: What can you admire about your body today?
3| Say this over yourself: “I am a living, breathing, beautiful work of art. There is nothing more I have to do, be, or achieve. I am good enough, beautiful, and worthy as I am.”
Get brave. Get raw. Get real. Get vulnerable. This is one of my favorite affirmations. I’ve even proclaimed it over myself naked, in front of the mirror. TMI? Sorry!
*Journaling Prompt: What positive affirmation do you need today?
The point is this: YOU HAVE THE POWER.
It’s time to take back your voice, change your perspective, and start seeing yourself for the extraordinary work of art that you are. You are pure magic. You are divine. You are a goddess. You are undeniably extraordinary.
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Ashton is the founder of The Authentic Woman, a platform that empowers women to live authentically as themselves. She firmly believes that women have the power to shift culture, eradicate unjust standards and ultimately change the world. When she's not working with her husband, she is most likely sipping on a cup of local coffee, swooning over pottery, or adding to her succulent collection. Follow Ashton and The Authentic Woman on Instagram: @ashton_m_long and @theauthenticwomanseries .