This past year was a big year for me--I got married to the love of my life, we had an amazing honeymoon, I got signed by TRUE Model Management, and now I'm living my dream of pursuing a career in the fashion industry.
I feel more comfortable in my skin every single day, and despite setbacks in trying to create the life of my dreams -- which include my weight bobbling around like it has my entire life -- I'm finding myself more and more at ease with who I am.
But it hasn't been all sunshine and champagne toasts. Getting to this point in my life and my relationship with my body has required me to address some really dark, nasty beliefs that I've been holding onto since I was a kid, overeating at family picnics and struggling to fit in.
I grew up feeling massively insecure about my body. I was always a big girl, defying the height/weight charts at the pediatrician's office, so I can't remember a time when I wasn't acutely aware of my size. It was like there was a perpetual sense of shame I was carrying around with me. I felt like I was bad, I was wrong and I deserved to feel terrible about myself. Despite my weight fluctuating over the years -- sometimes heavier, sometimes lighter -- I've felt always felt like I was too big, regardless of the size I was at the moment. That shame has kept me from being fully engaged with the present moment and enjoying life more times that I care to recall.
Two days before my wedding, I was laying in the bathtub, crying because I felt bad about my body. "I am bad, I am wrong, I don't deserve the love of a great man, I don't deserve a spectacular wedding day," was the thought reel playing on loop in my head. Talking to my fiancé that night, something finally clicked.
"You have the love of a great man, and you are going to have a spectacular wedding day, whether you feel like you deserve those things or not," said a voice somewhere inside of me. "At what point are you going to get over feeling like you aren't enough and start enjoying your life?" the voice challenged. I pulled myself out of the tub and resolved that I wasn't going to let my life-long body issues prevent me from enjoying one of the best days of my life!
Here is a picture of my husband and I right we after tied the knot, taken by Mary Kate McKenna Photography. For the record, my wedding day was off-the-charts amazing thanks to my wonderful husband, amazing family and friends and the super-talented professionals from Sandi Hoffman Special Events who put it all together. I will always cherish this day, self-induced #bodyshaming aside.
Now, it isn't like I hit a miraculous "off" switch on my body issues in this one moment. I cried looking at the wedding pics that were posted to Facebook on our Honeymoon because I had back fat during the father/daughter dance. To this day, I'll freak out about my weight and go on crash diets leading up to a photo shoot. I have negative thoughts when I'm looking at the raws from a photo shoot. I feel a sense of not being enough for the dreams that I want to manifest. I get sad and reach for a handful of potato chips. The cycle continues.
As I embark on this new career as a plus-size model, I'm trying to make changes in my life, and that includes actively monitoring my thoughts so that I am keeping a positive mental charge to propel me towards my goals for my self and my body. My agent, Alexandra Boos, who is a legend in the modeling world and a pioneer for plus-size women, is always reminding me that my body is an instrument, and that #beautyisenergy. So I try to focus on keeping it in tune and remaining unencumbered by the negative beliefs about myself that I've carried with me since childhood.
I still have moments where I lapse into my old way of thinking, because as with any habit, it will take time to replace the negative thought patterns with new, positive ones. When I'm struggling with the change, I come back to the question that appeared in my mind two days before my wedding: "At what point are you going to get over feeling like you aren't enough and start enjoying your life?"