As it turns out, I can tell you the secret to being beautiful. The good news is that it costs no money. The bad news is that while it is simple, it doesn’t make it easy.
The secret to being beautiful isn’t extensions or a tan or bleached teeth or a certain hip to waist ratio. The secret to being beautiful is deciding that you already are gorgeous, no matter what you look like.
It is in that decision that your whole world changes because there is a shift in how you approach the whole world. It is not vanity that we suddenly see, but clarity. It’s not hubris that walks by us; it is pride. It is not what you look like that we see, but who you are. And that is what changes everything for you.
Last week, the semester ended. I teach two classes on body image at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and, at the end of the semester, I wonder whether I have done enough to help my students heal themselves, to help them address their body image concerns on their own, to help them journey to self-acceptance.
By those last few classes, I make sure that they really understand how everything we learned in class is applicable to their lives. And that this is all about effort and not about getting it right 100% of the time (because that just sets up another standard that they have to meet, right?). Some skills take practice to master, and this is a hit and miss process. It is all about the journey and, most of all, traveling with intention.
Summing up beauty
At the very end of the school year, my students complete their final assignment, a paper where they process the entire experience of the course. And in those papers, I find gems. Over and over again, I find gems.
One struck me for its simplicity, for the way it clearly summed up the semester in less than twenty words.
“If I put my mind to it, I can decide at any moment that I am beautiful,” a student wrote.
A simple, but not easy, truth
First, a caveat. This realization for my student is true for many, but not for everyone. If you are battling an eating disorder or clinical depression, making your mind up is not enough. Your body and mind, your physiology, needs support from a physician and perhaps a psychologist or psychiatrist. That does not mean anything is wrong with you at all; it simply means your physiology is different and needs further support.
But if your body image has been rooted in choices that you have made over time, then the amazing thing to realize is that you can make a different choice. Starting today, right now, you can buy into your beauty, your magnificence, your worth, just as much as you have bought into the other story that you have been telling yourself, about not being good enough.
It’s up to you
Once you decide that you are beautiful, the work becomes to undo the falsehoods you or others have held as truths up until now. And while unlearning those things is hard, learning to doubt yourself was even harder, and choosing to believe in you, I promise, yields so much more possibility. Just for today, decide that you are already beautiful. It changes everything.
Rosie Molinary is the author of Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance and Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing up Latina. Follow Rosie Molinary on Facebook and Twitter.