How I Learned To Feel Comfortable In My Own Skin
“Your legs are so skinny they look like toothpicks about to snap.” I was in fifth grade and a classmate of mine was watching my body jump from an x shape to an i then back to an x again. Although it sounds like a malicious school-girl jab, she said it observationally. The following year, this time on a school bus, a boy pointed to my Italian descendent arms and commented on their hairiness. Some other time I found a note a girl wrote to another saying that I had a big nose. I could give you a dozen more of these.
Along with the ones I’d come up with on my own, I carried these stories about myself in my body. The weighed me down. They informed the way I spoke, my gait, and my attitude. I was not shut down, as you’d imagine, but I was falsely confident. I decided to stand tall, shoulders back and down. I was determined and motivated and wanted people to see that I was strong and self-reliant. But sometimes, especially in social situations, I couldn’t hide my true self.
At a college party a guy in our group pointed out that I looked uncomfortable, “Michelle you look so uncomfortable.” Really, he said that. We were just standing there. But I was. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel pretty or cute let alone sexy or beautiful. I felt awkward, and other people could see it all over me. And this didn’t just relate to my physical appearance.
I felt unsure of who to be in group situations, and I didn’t know how to just be myself.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was afraid to be seen, afraid to be judged, and wanted nothing more than to find people who I could just be myself with.
After college I read The Power of Now by Eckhard Tolle, and my mind was blown. I have an ego! A big one! It’s not actually who I am I sighed in relief. I had a mind that was holding me back from showing myself to the world. It was a beautiful new way to look at who I really was, and it was very powerful for me. It allowed me to stop being so defensive and to begin to let my guard down. In this process I started to drop some of the negative self-talk. I started to say, “I don’t know” instead of firmly declaring it wasn’t possible. I felt like I could finally let my guard down, that I didn’t have to have it all together, that it was ok for me to let go a little. My entire being started to relax a little.
But for years more I still felt off, although I wouldn’t let myself admit it. I had begun to accept myself, but in a way that didn’t feel completely authentic. When people told me I was beautiful I would smile and thank them, but in my mind I would offer up conditions. Sure, I’m beautiful, but not in the conventional kind of way. I wasn’t able to fully embrace the goodness people were offering up to me. I wasn’t able to look at myself and see my beauty because I was cut off from it.
Beauty, to me, is radiance of the love we have for ourselves.
Beauty is seen in the way we carry ourselves, the way our bodies move, the way we sound, the vibration of our entire being. We radiate our own spiritual relationship to ourselves. I say spiritual relationship because I had intellectually manipulated myself into believing that I was all good, that I loved myself, and that I was a vulnerable person. But the truth was that I was emotionally blocked off. I hadn’t cried in a couple of years. I had detached from my emotions because I wasn’t ready to face the pain I was required to feel in order to be the person I wanted to be.
A few years ago I found myself domino-ing into a series of synchronistic events which landed me on a massage table breathing to a playlist of Sarah McLachlan, Native American Flutes, and something that sounded like it was from the Renaissance. Someone recommended I practice Breathwork to help me deal with my deep trust and control issues, and, although skeptical that breathing could do anything aside from relax me, I decided to go along for the ride.
What I found was this amazingly simple and profound tool that opened me up to truths about myself that I had been hiding from for years. I would go to my teacher’s studio, lay on a table, and breathe for 45 minutes or so. I would breathe into my belly, then my chest, and exhale. Back into my belly, chest, and exhale…The technique felt strange at first, but quickly left me with insights into the pain I had been holding on to. And through the breath the pain moved and released. I felt lighter and lighter each time.
Through this continued work I began to love myself completely. The path to this place was a journey through all my pain, through all of the parts of myself that I had been hiding from. I felt them, experienced them, mourned them, and released them. I stopped carrying the weight of the judgements I’d accumulated and allowed myself to be new and free. I was finally able to feel all of the pain I had been hiding from because I knew that I was deeply loved and supported by the most important person who needed to love and support me — myself.
I showed up to do the work of breathing and shedding and breathing and purging and breathing and opening.
Through my own breath I became someone who loves themselves. I am now someone who can be vulnerable without needing validation. I can be in love without losing my power. I can see the beauty of my entire being: the mistakes I’ve made, the pain I’ve caused, the love I’ve given, the joy I’ve experienced, the deep essence of who I am in each moment and the expression of that in the world. All of it is me and all if it is embraced.
And now my beauty radiates. I’m not done. I know this path is an open road. But now I feel good in my own body. I feel whole. I feel like this body belongs to me and I to it, at least while we’re still breathing.
Along the way I've worked with different techniques that have helped me be able to look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman instead of blemishes, dark circles, and a big nose. I can see photos of myself and not need them to be a certain angle or expression to see my own beauty. And, most importantly, I feel comfortable in my own skin. I can own my power and share my voice.