Learning To Love Yourself.

This is Part X of the “31 Days of Health Living” series.

I remember the day that I felt fat.

I was 14 going on 15.  It was a warm summer with record high heats and I was walking into day one of my horseback riding camp.  I had on a bright blue button up shirt, a baggy pair of carpenter jeans and purple colored braces.

Even still.

At that moment, I was on top of the world.  I was at horse camp!  For an entire week!  This was a big–a very big!–deal.

The first day of horse camp involved those horribly awkward ice breaker games and a long, slow trail ride through the woods.

When it came time to pick our rides, I waited my turn with one name on my brain.

Valentine.

The most gorgeous, feisty, spirited mare in the entire barn.  Surprisingly, she had thus far gone unpicked.  And I wanted to ride her more than anything in the world.

Finally, my name was pulled and it was my turn to choose.

“Valentine.”  It was barely a whisper and I wondered if anyone had even heard me.  “I’d like to ride Valentine.”  I repeated my answer, just in case.

A couple of the girls snickered.  One shuffled her boot in the dry summer dust.  Another uttered out, “We should save the smaller horses for the smaller girls.  Take one of the bigger horses…like Cerano.”

Cerano was a chunky thoroughbred.  An ex-racehorse who had seen his glory days and now spent the rest of them eating, sleeping and heading out for the occasional trail ride.

Just so you know, I literally breathed, lived and sleeped horses.  Any horse.  But at that moment, I felt absolutely deflated.  It suddenly struck me that I wasn’t like the other girls.  Being 5’8″, I definitely wasn’t small.  I wasn’t tiny either.  I wasn’t meant to ride slender Arabians.  And (duh?!?) I was built for the stocky thoroughbreds and quarter horses.

I felt like a mastiff surrounded by elegant greyhounds.

And then I imagined that this is what kids must feel like when they first find out they’re adopted.  As if suddenly, they were let in on some deep secret that everyone else seemed to know.  Everyone except them.  It was like, before that moment, everyone had known that I was big and I had just found out.

It was embarrassing.

From that point on, I dealt with a variety of self esteem issues.

I noticed “fat rolls.”

I noticed teenage breakouts, my ugly braces and my impossibly frizzy hair.

I realized that I wasn’t one of those “other girls.”  The ones that woke up with smooth and shiny hair.  The ones that had flocks of boys begging for their attention.  The ones that rode gorgeous Arabian horses instead of chunky, retired thoroughbreds.

Fifteen.  That feels like a long, long time ago.  It’s amazing what can happen in just 10 years.

Yesterday, a radio host asked the question, “What would you tell your former self if you could go back in time?”

If I could go back, I’d tell that 15 year old girl exactly what I’d like to tell every girl who has ever felt this way.

You’re beautiful.

You’re special.

You’re unique and wonderful and you are so full of potential.  You have no idea what the next 10 years will bring you.  You have no idea how strong every step is going to make you and you have no idea who and what God is going to bring into your life.

Make time for the people who love you for being you and forget the ones that don’t.

Surround yourself with people who believe that YES YOU CAN.

Embrace your individuality.  Embrace who you are.

Be quirky.

Dance.

Sing and live life to the fullest.

Be silly.

(Because, really, who cares?)

And most of all, love yourself.  Don’t let a day go by that you notice your imperfections more than you notice your strong points.

Be proud of yourself.

Don’t ever, ever, ever let yourself become your biggest enemy.

Beauty starts from the inside, with strength, good health and a positive mindset.  And it starts with you.  Stop smack talking yourself or sabotaging others with negative words (really, the jokes aren’t funny.)  Start talking *positive* into your life and others as well!!!

It starts today.

(For more on this topic, check out Caitlin’s blog, where she started the Operation Beautiful Project and is now the author of a book on this topic! )

****I wanted to point out that I was never actually “fat” during any of this time.  Many girls at this age can feel awkward or “overweight.”  However, if these feelings have ever led you to severe dieting, purging, etc., please meet with your doctor, Registered Dietitian, or someone else that you can trust.  It’s important for your current and future self to get and stay healthy.  Become a role model for future generations!****

QUESTION: If you had the power to go back in time, what would you tell your former self?

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27 comments on “Learning To Love Yourself.

  1. GREAT post, Sarah. We need strong female voices like this in the blogging world. I too remember the first time I felt ‘fat’ and inadequate as a teenager. It wasn’t because of other girls per say. It was just pressure I was putting on myself to be perfect. But, I can honestly say that in the last ten years I’ve grown to truly love who I am, even though I have a few days here and there where I’m feeling particularly beautiful. But considering where I came from with self image, I’m in a terrific place now!

    If I could go back and tell my 15 year old self something, it would be to not date until you’re ready to marry! Dating in high school is silly and you get your heart wrapped up in relationships that likely won’t last. And also, honor your future husband with the decisions you make now! It’s hard to keep that in mind when you’re 15 and wanting a boyfriend so badly, but in the long run, saving your heart soul and body for your future spouse is the best thing you can do as a young woman! I wish someone would’ve told me that!

  2. Caitlyn says:

    Beautifully written! Looking back at my junior and high school years I realize how focused I was (we all were) on our bodies and our image. I would always compare myself to someone else…be concerned with what others thought of me…pray to my lucky stars that I would fit in (size-wise, style-wise). It was just recently, this past year, that I really learned to truly embrace the body God gave me- to not compare myself to others. Beauty really does start from the inside!!

    • Sarah says:

      It’s a wonderful moment when we realize how special we are and how it’s *awesome* that we all look and act so differently from one another.

      Thanks for sharing, Caitlyn!

  3. Trisha says:

    I love love love this post! You couldn’t have said it better. This is something I have to keep reminding myself, to stop worrying so much about what I look like. My boyfriend loves me for who I am, not what I look like, yet I still struggle constantly with trying to hide my flaws. My crooked smile, my frizzy hair, my thunder thighs… these are all things that make me ME and I need to learn to love them. I am only given one life, so why am I wasting it comparing myself to others? The right person will love you FOR your quirks and imperfections, so it really is a waste of time trying to make them go away 🙂 I need to go re-visit Caitlin’s site and check out her Operation Beautiful book!

    Your blog is so inspirational, and I look forward to reading it every day! 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      “The right person will love you FOR your quirks and imperfections, so it really is a waste of time trying to make them go away.”

      Well said!! Thank you so much for sharing some of your experiences and thank you for the kind comment regarding the blog. I’m so glad you enjoy reading! 😀

  4. Becky Sue says:

    You are so brave putting this out there! Great post, well thought out and written with lovely photos I might add. Oh, there’s so many things that I’d like to say to my former self, most of them center around pre- and post-kid. The saying, “having kids changes everything” is spot on.

    I’m 5′ 10″ so I know exactly what you are saying about feeling like a mastiff. But I do love being tall.

    You have a wonderful, inspirational attitude.

  5. funny you mention this, i seriously got a folder in the mail today full of pictures of my former (way bigger) self. I remember comments from my peers. and I too wish i could go back and give my younger lauren just a few words of encouragement, and remind her that middle and high school mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.

    you are seriously beautiful and i bet all those horse camp chicks are reading your blog now thinking, I should have been nicer.

    oh yeah, i’d give anything to be 5’8″

    great post!

    • Sarah says:

      If only we really COULD go back and tell our former selves that none of the hurtful things that “everyone” was saying held any value at all.

      Thank you for the kind comments, Lauren!

  6. mixxedtape says:

    Sarah, I love this post!!

  7. Laura says:

    Wow. This was written so well. I’m new to your blog but I may be hooked. I’m a bit teary, too!

  8. Great post. I was one of the tall (5’7″)girls in my high school class, when weighing more than 120 was the ultimate sin. I haven’t weighed that little since and with a chocolate addiction probable never will. But what I have gained is knowledge of what healthy eating is really about. I would tell my 15 y.o. self to find a true direction and don’t worry about those who need to sneer.
    Congrats on your award.

  9. I was never comfortable with myself–it was never a weight thing, really (though these days I feel like that might be an issue if I don’t get on it), more of just a self confidence thing. Also curly hair, haha. We all go through it. I’d tell 14 year old me that the chi hair straightener will fix at least 20% of your self confidence, hah.

  10. My stomach was in serious knots as I read this, especially the first half of your story. I think so many women can identify with your experience because sadly it happens to so many of us, regardless of whether or not we are actually struggling with weight issues.
    I myself went through a rather large weight gain in 8th grade but I didn’t realize I was dealing with hormonal/medical issues until a few years later. After being bedridding, homeschooled, and loosing my hair, I suffered major body image issues for a long time. Thankfully I found relief and recovery and have been able to use my experience to talk to youth through my teaching career. Not everyone suffers as badly as I did, but I think most young women catch the spreading mental thoughts, much like a virus, and can really benefit from hearing truth.

    Your message is absolutely beautiful and most importantly TRUE, and Opperation Beautiful is such an incredible message that I hope all young women are exposed to.
    Thank you so much for your story and this post.

    • Sarah says:

      Thank YOU, Eryka, for sharing your story!! You’re helping so many youth through your message and I’m thankful that this world has people like you!

  11. Emily says:

    Great post. It made me think of something related that, I think, 14 years later I’m still dealing with! I should state that I was (and still am…I’m working on it) a ‘sensitive person’ <– my mom's term. Anyway. I was 12 and my friends and I decided to form a group like Now and Then (LOVE that movie)!!! Anyway they decided I would be Chrissy, the slightly chubby and whiney character. I was NOT fat at all but that really hurt. So silly how that changed my attitude!

  12. Ann says:

    Great post. Very well written. Wonderful pics!

    I followed you from Pastor J’s blog. Congrats on your award 🙂

    I like reading … a lot… so I shall be running back and forth over your blog as time permits. Thanks for your indulgence.

    Blessings
    ann

  13. […] I really enjoyed Sarah’s recent post on Learning to Love Yourself. Go check it out.  I found it very thought provoking. Check her comments section to see my […]

  14. […] this article in more eloquent words reflects my thoughts and I believe pin points a population-teenagers-that […]

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