If you read last Friday’s post, you may remember that I asked for thoughts and prayers for a post I was working on about insecurities and dealing with life in my twenties. Alas, the day has arrived and presented itself in the form of this post.
I won't lie, even up until last night I wrestled with the decision to publish this post or not. You see, even though I'm a blogger, I'm actually a pretty guarded person. Mostly I'm just super protective of those around me that I love, but I'm also pretty guarded with my heart. But this morning I decided that if even one of y'all are able to garner just a little bit of hope and optimism from this post, it would be worth it.
First, a little backstory: I get lots of emails each week from sweet girls in their late twenties and early thirties about dating, self-confidence and other issues. Most of the time, I’m humbled since I’m probably the least qualified person ever to be doling out advice on how to find a man or learning to love your body, haha.
Trust me when I say, I’ve had my share of train-wreck dates and fights with Spanx. I mean, let's not even talk about the time I did a juice fast and ended up bloated and a good 10 pounds heavier. Ah, what we ladies go through in the name of beauty...
But yeah, I never imagined that anyone would find inspiration or comfort in this blog, howevs I’m so glad that some of you feel like you’ve found a place to connect, vent and seek advice from other readers. I wish I had known about blogging in my earlier twenties because I SO could’ve used the support of other ladies during some of the rougher patches in my life : )
Anyway, today I wanted to share a little of my personal battle with self-acceptance, my insecurities and how they held me back from happiness for a long time. I’m still not “over” some things and probably never will be; that’s the modus operandi of insecurities, they rear their ugly head from time to time and leave us to succumb to self-pity and other ridiculous nonsense like eating a tub of Ben & Jerry's in one sitting.
One of the things that I’ve always struggled with is my body.
Now, I’ve never had to struggle with weight and I don’t mind how I look in a short skirt. I've always had good skin and my teeth are pretty decent, (thanks to my years in braces and a substantial amount of Crest Whitestrips.) My body insecurities actually stem from scars, (or "souvenirs", as I like to call them), that resulted from a heart surgery that I had when I was just a wee little baby. Before I go further, yes, I’m A-okay today and thankfully, healthy as a horse. Or a Leslie.
Anywho, at one year old, I had open heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect caused by a rare condition called Ebstein’s Anomaly. Go ahead. Ask your family doc if they’ve ever heard of it. Chances are, they have not.
Luckily for me though, my doctor DID know about EA and was able to fix me right up. However, back then the techniques for wound closure weren’t as advanced as they are today and I was left with several pretty gnarly looking scars all over my chest and abdomen.
|You can sort of see some of them in this pic...|
As I grew, the scars grew. They stretched and twisted and some of them even attached themselves to the muscles underneath my abdomen and torso, which resulted in a “caved-in” look on my stomach. Yeah, it was as sexy as it sounds…
I underwent a cosmetic surgery when I was 15 to revise some of the scars and, though it helped, I was left feeling deflated because I had set my hopes on perfection.
Well, I didn’t get perfection.
The scars were still there and I was finally faced with the reality that they weren’t going anywhere. Ever.
My sweet mom and I searched high and low for make-up to cover them, but after testing just about every cream, concealor and foundation at the make-up counter, I realized that I’d probably never achieve that flawless look that I’d always hoped for.
For years, I’d wear high collared shirts in the summer, even in 100 degree heat, just to minimize the risk of being exposed and having to explain my story to all of the kids at school. Kids can be mean and I certainly had my fair share of funny looks and mean stares when I was younger.
Finally, when I reached high school, I kind of came into my own. Boys started to come around and I began to date.
The high collared shirts became less high and I finally started to accept the fact that maybe I wasn’t as hideous as I’d always thought. In fact, as one friend pointed out one time, most people didn’t notice the one that runs right down my sternum because by that point, it was pretty faded and smooth anyway.
I’ll never forget the first boy that told me I was beautiful. We’d gone to the beach that day and after struggling to stay covered with a towel all day, I finally gave up and jumped in the water in my bikini. I expected him to gasp, but instead, he told me I was beautiful.
We dated for a while in high school and I credit him greatly for helping me to finally look at myself in a different way.
After high school, I went to college and made the pom squad. To others, we were the “pretty” girls. The seemingly perfect, untouchable girls that were on ESPN-U and dated football players.
Little did they know that I spent two hours in my dorm room before each game applying thick foundation to my chest while silently freaking out that the make-up would sweat off and I’d be exposed to all of Arkansas State University and the television viewers at home.
The irony of all of this is that during college, I worked as a commercial model and actress for TV. I did commercials for banks and Tennessee Tourism, worked as an extra in some movies and was even featured as a model on the World Poker Tour in 2007 on the Travel Channel.
But still, before each gig I’d have a little melt-down about the scars.
Somewhere toward the end of college, I developed a love for hardcore working out. I’d always been fit, but never for the right reasons. I would work out for hours on end to make weight during the pom squad days and even resorted to some unhealthy measures like eating less than 1,000 calories per day …yikes!
This time I worked out for health and confidence. I began to love the feeling I got from exercise and loved my new healthy body.
During this time, I also developed a love for fashion. I bought clothes (way too many clothes for a college girl on a budget, haha) and started to adore the way wearing a cute outfit made me feel. I decided to focus on dressing my body to accentuate my attributes rather than covering my scars. I loved getting compliments on my clothing and suddenly, the scars didn’t matter as much.
Since then it has definitely been a work in progress, my journey to confidence. I still have days where I struggle with the scars. I still cry once in a while, especially when I know I have to be in a swimsuit in front of people other than close friends or family. Just last weekend, Stephen had a group of his friends come down to go on the lake with us. Even though I love his friends and they are all very nice people, I still freaked out the night before and cried to him about having to be in a bathing suit.
What if they ask questions? What if they stare? What if they think I’m ugly or deformed?
But my sweet fiancé just reassured me that no matter what, he thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world and if they asked questions, he would come to my rescue to help ease the situation. Which is another reason that I know he is the greatest guy in the world and God made him specifically for me (and vice versa).
I frequently refer to Stephen as my angel. He makes me feel gorgeous every day. I’ve never been as confident and self-assured as I am with him. However, I think it’s important to note that this confidence didn’t come from him alone. Sure, he makes me feel GREAT and that is worth its weight in gold, but it has taken years of work to finally accept who I am physically.
|The guy that makes me feel pretty every day...|
via Rhyanne Ketron Photos
My advice to any of you ladies out there who struggle with self-image and confidence would be to take baby steps toward self-acceptance. Develop a hobby that you love that makes you feel good. Exercising and styling clothes helped me to focus on things other than my scars. Maybe for you it’s writing or taking photos. Just know that no other person can bring you inner peace and self confidence other than YOURSELF.
Approval from guys is awesome. I mean, what girl doesn’t want a guy to think she’s “smokin’ hot”? But honestly ladies, YOU are the writer of your story and YOU determine your own happiness. Don’t hesitate to pray to God for direction and help in accepting yourself. Ask him for strength to love yourself. It sounds cheesy, but He is someone who thinks you are beautiful no matter what. He created you in His image and therefore, you are perfect in His eyes.
And lastly, I advise you to tell your story.
Share with other ladies your struggles with weight, your issues with acne or your inability to have a perfect Victoria’s Secret model stomach. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned through blogging, it’s that there is a whole big world of other women out there who have been through it, too. Whatever it is.
"If you look closely at a tree you'll notice its knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully."
- Actor, Matthew Fox
What are some of your hang-ups and insecurities? What do you do to make yourself feel happy and beautiful every day?
Be blessed, lovelies-