To Girls + Women Everywhere: You Are Beautiful. You Are Enough.

It all started around 9th grade — when I first learned what a calorie was. The concepts of gaining or losing weight were totally foreign to me. I didn’t even realize people tried to do that on purpose. Up until then, all I saw in the mirror was a small frame + large dimples. Then — everything changed.

Instead of focusing on the good, I looked for the bad. I created it, dwelled on it, obsessed over it, + was frustrated about it. But I was 13, + I didn’t know anything about anything. All I knew was everyone else seemed to be upset with their bodies, so why shouldn’t I be? I definitely didn’t look like the girls on TV.

What I failed to realize was the girls on TV don’t even look like the girls on TV. It took me 5 years to believe that.

I started noticing things about myself — insecurities I hadn’t even thought could exist. In my mind, my cheeks were too chubby, my boobs were too big, + my waist wasn’t small enough for how short I was. I was supposed to be the *tiny friend who was cute as a button,* but I didn’t feel that way. Every day I thought of how I could eat as little as possible without feeling sick.

I never went days without eating, but if I told you a day went by where I didn’t think about how I could make myself look smaller or slimmer, I’d be lying.

It’s interesting. Guys always ask why girls try so hard, why they wear so much make-up, or dress in such nice clothes. Personally, I don’t think it’s for them. Growing up, I was surrounded by girls who constantly *noticed* everything about everyone. It made me self-conscious + soon, I began to notice these flaws, too.

Then one day, I was scrolling through Facebook, + I found CHAARG. I checked out their website, instagram, + FB ++ I noticed something. It was something I hadn’t seen before — women empowering each other.

For so long, I had been insecure around other girls or women — afraid they were judging me for not being good enough or complete enough. ++ here was CHAARG — telling each + every girl to embrace her imperfections while striving to be the best version of herself. Here was CHAARG — giving girls the tools to become stronger + healthier + happier. If you stumbled along the way, that was okay. In fact, that was unquestionably accepted, because you are human + your path is supposed to be crooked + beautiful + unique.

I won’t pretend that the change came instantly. It took a long, long time + a lot of work, but I’m no longer afraid to eat, I’m not afraid to be in a swimsuit, + I’m not afraid to share my insecurities. I’ve found there are too many beautiful things in this world to spend your life being sad or frustrated or obsessed with things that don’t define who you are. I have this community to thank for that.

Now, I’m more concerned with seeing what my body can do + learning about what foods can help me optimize my health. I want to be in shape because I want to live a long time to see + do a lot of things. My desire to look as nice as someone else turned into my desire to become the best me I could be.

All of high school I wanted to change things about myself. I was vain. I still kind of am at times. But now I know that comparing myself to another girl doesn’t mean anything. It literally changes nothing — it just leaves one of us feeling terrible about something that contributes zero to our character.

I want you to know that you are beautiful, right now. Exactly how you are. Your passion + desire to live + see + do makes you so, not the ratio of fat to muscle on your body.

It’s time for all of us to personally create the standards of what it means to be beautiful, not the media. It’s time for us to embrace our little quirks + appreciate them for what they are: ours. It’s time for us to be happy.

I realize I can’t change how people think. It took so long just to change myself, + I’m only one person. I can tell you one thing, though: when I started taking care of my body for the right reasons, I felt more beautiful than ever. ++ I don’t feel beautiful in the *I’m better looking than you* way; I feel beautiful in the *I’m comfortable + appreciative of myself* way. I want you to feel that way, too.

To girls + women everywhere: You are beautiful. You are enough. 

Right at this very moment.

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Pass this on to your beautiful friends. + Alyssa [@thebusybee_], Penn State CHAARG

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