Truth #1: It has been well over a year since I last searched for guidance between the pages of a magazine that promised to make me as beautiful and sexualized as the hyper-photoshopped starlet on its cover.

Truth #2: I have never been a more confident woman in my life.

It seems so simple, to lay it out in words like this. Stop focusing on a standard of beauty you, by definition, can never reach, and you will come to love yourself for who you are.

But how long did it take me to get there?

How many times have I stood in front of the mirror, anguishing over the arc in the line from the bottom of my bra to the top of my jeans?

How many times have I held off on finishing my meal, or passing on seconds, not because I was full, but because I was afraid of being that person at the dinner table?

How many times have I weighed my self-worth as the inverse of the number on the bathroom scale?

How many times have I avoided shopping for clothes, even when I actually needed to do so, because I didn’t want the dressing room to confirm what society has been pushing down my throat since I was far too young: that if I’m not a size 0, then I’m not good enough. And that somehow that’s my fault, rather than the fault of everyone who accepts this standard.

And worst of all, how many times have I judged other women by these standards that I’ve been fighting to throw off of myself? How many women have I judged by their physical appearance first, and their accomplishments second, even when I know what that does to the psyche?

Far too many times.

Thankfully, I can feel myself pulling away from this mindset, and it’s the most liberating journey I’ve ever taken as a woman.

And it is a journey, a slow, often painful one. I sometimes still slip back into my old habits, but it’s becoming less and less frequent. I am starting to consistently judge myself based on how I treat other people, and how open I am to learning about the world, rather than how my hair looks that day. I no longer punish myself psychologically for eating what and how much I want to. Not going to the gym religiously is no longer a cardinal sin. And I’m starting to see how beautiful women of all colors, shapes and sizes are, even if they would never be put on the cover of Cosmopolitan.

We live in a society where women (and men too, to a lesser degree) are told that they must look, dress, and act a certain way, not only to be happy and fulfilled, but to be an acceptable human being. Whatever else that woman does with her life is secondary to the number of wrinkles on her face and the price tag on her clothing. So it doesn’t hurt that feeling as happy and fulfilled as I have been recently, without the help of any designer clothes or women’s magazines, is one of the most radical things I can do to fight back against this mentality.

Join me?

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