Twenty years ago I never could have imagined this place. A place of resting in who I am. Specifically a place of acknowledging and affirming my beauty.
I can scarcely believe it. Sometimes I remember my 14 year old self, crippled with self-hatred, and wonder how that's part of my story. But depression and suicidal ideation is a part of my story and while I haven't been in its grip for 20 years, the emotional scars have been harder to untangle. The depression lifted but there was no magic cure for my floundering self-esteem.
In my 20s I could see myself as cute but this took work. I could be a hot bridesmaid when the occasion called for it but special occasions were not enough to bolster my self-image in the day to day. I still remember the shock of recognizing my beauty one night a few years ago.
For the last year or so, I've looked in the mirror and honored what I see. A 34 year old woman with gray streaks in her hair belying the overall youthful impression she makes, expressive eyes containing hard-won wisdom and sass, a mouth which dispenses jokes as easily as heartfelt questions. I barely notice the imperfections that used to consume my gaze. All I see is beauty and I no longer have to work to see it. I embody it.
How far I've come.
I wanted to honor the hard and holy work I've done in arriving in this place. I wanted to celebrate my beauty and so I asked my good friend Jen to do a glamour shoot a few weeks back. In the early 90s I coveted a glamour shoot like nothing else but I'm glad my mom didn't cave to my demands back then. So much better to do this now when fashion has improved and hair stays at a normal height. So much better to do it now when I'm not chasing after compliments and approval.
I love the pictures Jen took of me but more than that I love myself. There are still ups and downs (hello, I'm an angsty Four, nice to meet you) but the overriding current is one of acceptance, affirmation, confidence. You can see it in my eyes and in my smile.
I love myself.
In the past year or so, I've figured out how to stop hiding. I'm not hiding behind my hair, my clothes, my insecurities. Some parts are easier than ever but whenever I'm tempted to waver, I remember this is the year of the bandit. I counter lies with truth. I'm trusting people like me as much as I like them. I'm being my fullest, healthiest, wackiest self. I'm continuing to do the work of healing and I take regular stock of how balanced I am, from emotions to activity level. There's room for improvement and there's so much I'm trying to figure out in this transition season.
The work isn't done yet. It might never be done but progress is worth celebrating.
On hard days, I'll think of these pictures and the words I've written here and I'll remember the lessons I've learned and how I feel right in this moment. I'll remember what I know deep down in my knower.
What I know is this: I'm loved. I'm empowered. I'm not hiding anymore.
Photos by my talented friend Jen Johnson.