We grow into the skins we’re born into. I firmly believe this. I firmly believe that each interaction, each lesson, each laugh and bruise, and broken heart helps us to feel at home in our own skin. This is not something we grow up knowing—how to smile at the reflection in the bathroom mirror, how to be tender with our bodies, how to love ourselves despite flaws—but slowly we build safe spaces within our souls. Slowly, we come into our own.
A few weeks ago, I spent the afternoon with a woman I haven’t seen in years. She is a mentor, a mother figure, a guiding force in my life, despite the distance between us. We spoke about self-love and mindfulness. We spoke about learning to be independent—me in my cross-country move, and her in the loss of her husband.
And we spoke about the need for people, and for women especially, to see themselves as valuable. To see each other as valuable—less of a competition and more of a celebration.
As a school teacher for a decade longer than I’ve been alive, she talked about the young women she saw every day—young women who were so determined to tear one another down in judgment and jealousy and fear. She shared about the drama I know all too well, the meanness that runs rampant with teenage, hormonal girls. Girls who are unsure who and how to be. Uncomfortable with, and strangers to, themselves.
Her words made me think about my own journey, about my own battle for self-love. I remember, vividly, sitting in my college professor’s office my senior year, listening to cars lull by on the quiet, Iowa roads. I remember running my fingertips along the spines of the books on his shelves, imagining my name printed in gold foil lettering. Imagining a life without my current boyfriend and without this small town, somewhere halfway across the country, unburdened and unexplored. And I remember standing in my mentor’s class of high school students as a twenty-two-year-old student-teacher, finding my voice as I learned to command all the attention in the room.
I was just beginning, then, to be at home in my own skin. To articulate what I wanted, what I believed. To trust the pounding in my chest, and recognize that it was something I could follow, rather than be afraid of.
I was just beginning to learn that self-love looks different on everyone. That some people appear to have it all together, and don’t. That you can do all that you can and it still won’t be enough sometimes. And that no amount of calorie restriction, or mile runs, or to-do lists, or social media posts, or sips of cheap liquor will make the reflection in the mirror smile back at you.
We all go through our own journey, don’t we? We all take our roads—some longer than others and some completely unpaved—to learn that the most beautiful home we will ever live in, is the one within our own skin.
But how do you get there?
You start by accepting the imperfection—that you are, that is around you. You learn that being ‘beautiful’ is not dependent upon some superficial rule or expectation of someone else. You recognize that it’s not about the physical, not about the way you compare—or don’t—to the person standing next to you.
Because it’s not a competition; it’s a battle with yourself for the love you so deeply deserve.
You get there by acknowledging that your past will always be a part of you, that the future is untouched, and somewhere between where you were and where you’re going is a chance to fall wildly in love with who and what you are—right here, right now.
Learning to be at home in your own skin is not easy, but it’s perhaps one of the most valuable things you will ever do. To realize that you are, irrevocably, inexplicably enough.
Featured Image Credit: TONL