To the eight-year-old girl who wants to be beautiful,
I know exactly how you feel. When I was eight years old I didn’t feel good enough. I did not think I was cute. My best friend was skinnier than me and it was no secret. “Bigger boned” is what my parents would say about me when they jokingly compared me to my friend.
As a result, I, like you, just wanted to be beautiful. But for a long time, I looked in all the wrong places.
Even though I wasn’t super thin, at age 14 I begged my mom to take me to a modeling agency. The agent told me to lose 10 pounds. That 10 pounds quickly turned into 20 pounds. That’s when my extreme dieting began. I would wake up and not eat breakfast. At lunch, I would have an apple and a diet coke. Then, I would go to the gym and do two hours on the StairMaster. For a snack, I would eat raw broccoli with fat-free dressing. At dinner, I would pick at the meal my mom made just to make it look like I ate some food.
It wasn’t just about dieting and being thin. With a controlling mom, my behavior with food made me feel like I had control of one aspect of my life. Yet, I simply steered myself in a downward direction.
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During my senior year of high school, I started taking laxatives and began trying to make myself throw up. I went from being a star cross country runner to my athletic career completely tanking. Not to mention I became so dehydrated I was hospitalized. That wasn’t even my rock bottom. I just blamed my symptoms on the laxatives and returned to not eating.
It wasn’t until college that I started to get healthier. I was not able to starve myself or throw up anymore. Someone from the modeling agency I went to recognized me. From a distance, I overheard him comment on how I gained weight since my super skinny days.
At that point, I started to admire strong and athletic women that I saw in the fitness magazines. Instead of being stick skinny, I wanted to be athletic. I went from doing mostly cardio to lifting weights. As my tricep muscles grew and my body changed, I became amazed by my transformation.
Strong and fit, many people started to take notice. I was photographed for magazines. I become a WWE star, even though pro wrestling was never really on my radar. With blond hair, big boobs, a confident walk and skimpy clothes I strutted across the ring, playing the part of a sex symbol. Over and over again people told me I was sexy and beautiful. Playboy, a magazine that consists of what society considers very attractive women, even called and offered me the chance to be on the cover. Yes, the cover.
However, the positive affirmation I received from the world around me didn’t resonate within me. Even though I felt excited and honored about the cover of Playboy, a part of me felt ashamed in fear of the judgment of others. The self-assured and sexy aura I presented to the world did not accurately reflect how I looked at myself, as I still, believe or not, lacked self-confidence.
On top of it all, I experienced a lot of heartbreak when it comes to love. There were times I just wanted to end it all. Thankfully, every single time I fell to the pits of despair, I picked myself up again. While the heartbreak hurt me, it is also what healed me.
See, I had a boyfriend who was verbally and emotionally abusive. While the rest of the world showered me with attention because of my sex appeal, he never complimented me at all. At first, I accepted it, but then the relationship made me realize that I deserve to be treated better. Now, I no longer accept people and partners that do not show and express true care for me.
When I retired from wrestling, I continued to grow. I recognized society misguided me, preventing me from seeing my value beyond my appearance. So I decided to stop seeking approval from the outside world. It did not happen overnight but ultimately, I knew this mentality was necessary for my life. I have so much more to offer other than the shape of my body or the color of my hair. I have a really big heart. I am extremely compassionate. I get along well with almost everyone and I am very smart.
At 44 years old, I can say that I have learned to love myself. As I teach people about fitness, I try to help others feel good about their entire being as well. On social media, I share struggles, while making it clear that there is so much beauty beyond someone’s body in a bikini.
What I have finally learned is beauty is not defined by what others say, it’s marked by the boundaries you create. Beauty is not reflected by weight on a scale, it shines through the kindness in your heart. Beauty can’t be seen, it can only be felt. And most importantly, beauty doesn’t stem from the way you look on the outside but rather the qualities you possess on the inside.
So before you, a young eight-year-old girl who is so similar to the little girl I once was, begin your long quest to find your beauty, I just want you to look inside yourself and realize it’s already there.
With insight and encouragement,