I am beautiful. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My hips are beautiful, my lips are perfect, my fingers are just the way He designed them to be. There are no flaws in my construction, my design, my external architecture. I’m just the way I was created to be.
I waited 34 years before I could confidently say these things to myself and actually believe them. Body acceptance, total self acceptance evaded me for many years. As a teen I was on the skinny side, very thin, very waif like. As in headed into my twenties, I struggled to accept my body. Everyone thought I had a good size and was well proportioned, looking back I was, but I fixated on the things I could not change. The size of my forehead, the size of my nose or the shape of my face gave me grief for a long time.
Now that I’m in my thirties there are things I wish I could go back and tell my teen and twenty-something self. Girl, you are beautiful. Inside and out. Don’t focus on the housing, the external shell, focus on the content – the condition of your heart, your motives, who you are when no one is looking. Focus on the things that can’t be seen with the physical eye. Work on these, not so much the external, the shell, the packaging.
The packaging. I wouldn’t say that I was vain or obsessed with the way I look. Far from it. In my early to late twenties I ate well, exercised moderately and took good care of my shell. I didn’t even wear makeup and I dressed simply. It wasn’t like I was totally immersed in the way I looked. It’s just that looking back, I can honestly say that I gave the outer me, more emphasis than the inner me. In hindsight, I think I could have taken better care of my mind, heart and my spirit. I made room for people who had no business being in my life and I gave the best of me in terms of energy, time, resources and interest to people who were not about me but what they could get from me. I created space for the wrong things and people and it came back to bite me. Hard.
They say hindsight is 20/20. And they are right. Looking back there are so many things I would do differently. Mind you, I’m not regretful. I think every poor choice gives us an opportunity to learn so where others see mistakes and regrets I see lessons and opportunities to grow and become a better version of myself. I did a lot of pruning in my twenties, weeding and cleaning up my life in terms of relationships and stuff, shedding those things that failed to serve or bring value and growth. The pruning process continued beyond my twenties and now as I am in my thirties I still have the need to do the occasional pruning. Why carry clutter, baggage and accept and entertain the things that don’t serve or add value to one’s life? Always keep those shears handy, I say.
Now that I’m in my thirties I’m proud of the woman I’ve become through reflection, introspection and taking action to become a better me. I love me, totally and wholeheartedly. I own me. Not in the sense that I belong to myself but more along the lines that I embrace all that I am and all that it took to become me. My mistakes, failings, highs, lows, misfortunes, good decisions and even indecision have all conspired to make me, me. And once I recognized that even in my imperfections I am still perfect because I am being authentically and wholeheartedly me, it did something to me on a deeper level and brought about an unconscious sort of shift.
That mental shift brought me to a place where I valued the skin I was in even more and through that new-found appreciation I gained the drive to shed some unwanted weight – physically and otherwise. I ended a marriage and other relationships that failed to honor and serve me and I took more steps to taking care of my mind, body and spirit. I also shed the extra thirty pounds I gained a few years earlier and saw a surge in my confidence that comes from taking action to better my body and improve my health.
Mind, Body, Spirit. I make it my duty to feed and fuel these daily because I recognize when they are out of alignment, so am I. Daily, I feed my mind on things that can help me grow, whether it is reading material or entertainment, whatever. I want what I consume, what enters my mind, to be a plus to me. So I work on honing my craft and better serving my clients, I spend time learning about what’s happening in the world around me, I work on my personal development and I make sure to have a laugh in and between. I need some nonsense and frivolousness in my life, too. No one enjoys someone whose so ‘deep’ or mindful that they can’t crack a smile. They say nonsense wakes up the brain cells so I get my doses in, but I make sure that I spend more time feeding my mind than I spend entertaining it.
I take care of my body too and get exercises in at least three times a week and I get a lot of rest. I understand that my body is a temple. It’s the Temple where the Spirit of God dwells and it’s also my shell, my housing to all the ideas, plans, dreams and hopes I carry. I want to live a long and healthy life to execute these ideas and plans and to see my dreams and hopes materialized. So in addition to exercise, rest and basic self care, I do my best to eat wholesome meals. I do junk it up in and between but I ensure that 90% of what I eat on a daily basis is wholesome.
The Spirit. I start and end my day with prayer, meditation and reflection. I make it a duty to write down the things I am thankful for and unleash anything that troubles me to the One who promises to always be by my side, even when others may forsake me. I write in my journal and I say my affirmations, read some scripture and start and end my day.
When I learned to embrace and love myself on the inside first, it fueled a consciousness to not just focus on the external, but to engage all of me – mind, body, spirit. In doing so, I came to love myself in a deeper and more profound way. I started taking better care of my body, spirit, health, heart and life. And now, for the first time in all my years, I can say with meaning, not faking it till I believe it, but I can say that I am beautiful because all of me is beautiful. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My hips are beautiful, my lips are perfect, my fingers are just the way He designed them to be. There are no flaws in my construction, my design, my external architecture. My forehead, my nose, the shape of my face is just as it should be, just the way it was created to be.
Carlana Charles is the visionary and editor-in-chief of FemmePowered. She is a womanist, writer, speaker, story midwife, writer and facilitator of meaningful and engaging conversations. When she is not working in or on FemmePowered, she can be found bingeing on Netflix, baking or scribbling furiously in her journal whilst sipping on wine and coffee – sometimes both at the same time. She is currently working on her first book and hopes to release it in September 2017.