When I Say All My Friends Are Beautiful, I’m Not Lying

When you know someone for long enough, they radiate so much beauty it can be blinding.

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on September 13, 2017.

Self-love isn’t easy. Realizing the person in the mirror is the person other people see is even harder. When people give you compliments, you may shy away or lash out, because you don’t see the person they do. You know what is easy, though? Complimenting other people. When I say all my friends are beautiful, it’s because they are.

Ever since I was young, I’ve had trouble making long-term friends. My mom and grandmother have friends from elementary, middle and high school still and that concept was so foreign to me growing up. How can you bond with someone and be patient with them for so long? How could you enjoy each other’s company for more than 20 years? Could such a thing even be possible in today’s world?

I had dealt with so much negativity in my school years that I struggled to see beauty in anything, nonetheless myself. I had friends who seemed sweet at first, but turned out to be vicious later. There was so much toxicity in my friendships that I thought friendship was meant to be that way. I didn’t know what healthy friendships were; I didn’t know that healthy relationships, period, could exist at all.

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I came to terms with what the word ‘friendship’ even meant. I had never experienced a ‘true’ friend, so to say, and it wasn’t until I left high school and transitioned into college that I understood anything about friendship. They say you find your real friends when you go through a difficult life event, such as a transition or illness. I cannot stress how completely true this is.

Though I didn’t have such a hard time transitioning into college, my friends did. Those who I kept in contact with formed a strong bond with me, one that is unbreakable to this day. When I say all my friends are beautiful, I mean it. All of my friends are beautiful, inside and out.

When you’ve been friends with someone through a stressful event, that is either your own or something on their side, you see all the beauty they have to offer. After you’ve seen someone at both their best and worst, it’s easy to see the beauty they express in a plethora of different ways.

When I say my friends are beautiful, it’s not a lie I tell them to make them feel better about themselves. All the friends I have right now are long-term friends. They are people whom I trust; people I could tell anything to without judgment and vice-versa. They are people who have stuck with me through the good, the bad and the in-between. I won’t call you a friend if I can’t trust you. The word will not even slip out of my mouth.

Even when my friends have parts of them that aren’t beautiful, I will still call them beautiful, because no one is perfect. Everyone has ugly flaws and everyone makes mistakes. Choosing to work on their mistakes and accept their flaws makes them even more beautiful, in my opinion.

If loving yourself isn’t so easy, or it’s a concept you haven’t yet grasped, you’ll be able to feel love by spreading love. Smile by spreading smiles and feeling positivity by spreading positivity are great ways to give yourself love when you aren’t quite sure of how to do so. You should always be a friend to yourself, even if that means something as small as treating yourself to a bath once in awhile or listening to your favorite music.

When you say that your friends are beautiful, it’s because they are. When your friends say that you are beautiful, it is because they have seen the same things in you. It is because they see something you can’t. Always be a friend to yourself, above everything else. Remember, you are truly beautiful, too, even if when you say that your friends are beautiful, you don’t mean you.


To Those Struggling To Get Back On Their Feet

“I’m just a little bit caught in the middle. I try to keep going but it’s not that simple.”

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on August 21, 2017.

Hi there,

I know you’re struggling. I know you’ve been struggling for a long time. It’s getting bad, isn’t it? It feels like you’re drowning all the time, like your feet are trying desperately to reach the bottom, but it’s like someone moved it lower, right? Your legs and arms are tired from not only holding yourself up but other people, too. You’re fading, your breath is running out, and you feel as if this is it.

Every time you feel your head bob under the wave, under the tide or under the current, you always find some way to make it back to the top. Whether it be a helping hand or some strength you never knew you had, there is hope.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but it has to be said. You need to keep going. You need to keep fighting. You need to keep your head up. You cannot give up; there is no giving up. Don’t let yourself drown. Don’t let yourself down.

I know it’s tiring. I know you’re done with the world. I know you’re done with the people around you, even the ones who are helping, even the ones who you’re helping. I know you don’t want to get out of bed. I know you have little interest in doing the things that once made you happy. I know this and so much more. Trust me, I’ve been there.

I, too, feel as if there is nothing to hope for tomorrow. Hell, I lost my faith at the beginning of the summer and it’s only just starting to make a cameo back into my life. It’s going to take a while to re-teach myself to keep faith in things that you can’t see or hear. It’s going to take a while for me to heal. It’s going to take a while for me to feel comfortable again.

When life stops throwing you curve balls and starts throwing you things much worse than baseball analogies, you need to keep your head up. When the raining and pouring stops and you’re faced with a full-blown shit-storm, keep your eyes on the horizon. When your heart is so broken you can’t process anything short of positivity, force yourself to move forward.

You can’t do this alone, but you can do it. You’re not alone. I’ve been in dark, shaky places. Most of the time, I feel like I’m wearing shoes on the sandy beach, with my ankles sinking and my feet feeling wobbly; unable to grasp any solid ground. My hands are always out in front of me ready to feel the ground if I fall down on the way to wherever I’m going. I try to prepare myself for the absolute worst. It’s okay to brace yourself for the worst, even if the worst isn’t coming.

This is a rough period in your life. Whatever you’re going through has your on your tippy-toes all day every day just to ensure that you won’t be caught off guard by anything worse. It has you on your knees, looking up at the sky wondering if anyone is watching you. If so, why would they let all of this bad stuff happen to you? Why aren’t they helping you navigate it? Why aren’t they helping to fix it? Why do things keep getting worse?

I don’t have any answers for you. I don’t know if anyone is in the sky, or Heaven or the afterlife. I don’t know if we have guardian angels or gods. I don’t know if the universe is a being who watches out for you. In this dark time, I’m not sure of anything anymore.

The only thing I know is that we have no choice but to go on. We have made it this far, and even thoughts of giving up scare us. It would be too easy, you know? It would be entirely too easy to give up, to start over, to start new. It would be impossible. There’s always a catch; nothing worth having ever comes easy.

We are in the long-run. We are in a fight to save ourselves. We hold a compass that only points forward. You can stop and rest as long as you like, but that dial will never point any direction but forward. Take the time to heal your bones, to heal your senses and your overall well-being. Take the time to be caught in the middle. But, remember, at some point you have to get up, dust off those hiking boots and continue on that journey.

Because we’re at the bottom. It feels as if we’ll never make it to the top. Maybe the top doesn’t exist. Maybe life is just one large incline in which we can fall off of easily, but can never surpass. I don’t know what awaits you toward the top; nor do I know that there is a top, per se.

What I do know is this: it gets better on the way up. You will gain your footing. You will take all the time you need to do so. The climb will begin again, but it’s up to you to begin. You are the main conductor of this journey.

You will be okay. We will be okay. You are never alone and you matter more than you can imagine. You were put on this Earth to rise up and scoop up all the opportunities that you possibly can. There will be a tomorrow. There will be an after-tomorrow. I don’t know what it holds for you, but I do know it holds you.

Let it hold you. Let yourself exist. Let yourself continue. Let yourself persevere.

You will find your footing once again; negativity isn’t permanent. You will find yourself again, one way or other. We always find ourselves where we are seldom looking. You’ll find your way out of the middle and back to the top, or at least further than you are now.

You will find your feet again. Let yourself find peace, no matter the circumstances. Let yourself live again. You owe yourself that much.


Body Positivity Is Great. Period

Here’s my response to “Body Positivity Is Great And All But Not When It’s Ignoring Health Concerns.”

If you are not a doctor, you don’t have the right to define someone’s health.

This article was originally published with The Odyssey on July 10, 2017.

Body positivity is something that all people, regardless of size, shape, color or gender absolutely need to survive. Last week, an article was written in the UNC Greensboro community that criticized the body positive movement, saying that the idea is ineffective when it ‘ignores health concerns.’ The article goes on to ostracize body positivity, and although I think the author had good intentions here, they did not articulate themselves at all. Here’s my response to “Body Positivity Is Great And All But Not When It’s Ignoring Health Concerns.”

To begin, weight does not indicate health. Everyone carries their weight differently. Just because someone looks ‘obese’ or ‘overweight’ to you, doesn’t mean they actually are obese or overweight. The actual definition of ‘obese’ is “grossly fat or overweight,” but who decides if the person is grossly fat? All of the women in the photo below weigh the exact same weight, 154 lbs.

Second, if you are not a doctor, you do not have the right or the qualifications to define someone’s health. There are several health conditions that can cause an individual to gain weight, and often these medical conditions don’t take into consideration whether you balance your fruits and vegetables. Some of these conditions can result from thyroid issuesmental-illness-related problems, or simply side effects from hormones.

Just as many of these health conditions make it more difficult for people lose weight. This includes Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)insulin resistance, or even something as simple as depression.

Next, I’d like to articulate some things. In the article written last week, the author makes a few key points which I’d like to debunk. First, they mention that the body positive movement “promotes a sedentary lifestyle.”

This is so incorrect that I don’t even know where to begin. Not everyone who is body positive is ‘obese’, or ‘super-thin.’ (I use these terms in quotes because I find those terms to be subjective – the opinion often lies in the eye of the beholder). Those you consider to fall under those terms aren’t necessarily unhealthy.

Bigger people are not promoting anything, they’re simply existing. Also, no one has ever looked at an ‘obese’ person and thought, “I’m going to sit around all day so I can look like that.” Not sure where this claim comes from, but it honestly sounds made up.

Self-love does not equate to negativity toward exercise and dieting. Like I’ve mentioned before, not everyone who is body-positive is plus-size, and those that are don’t necessarily hate health or exercise. I think the author was considering a very small group of people when they wrote this article, and that’s simply disrespectful because they generalized a whole bunch of people.

The author of the article also posed this question to their audience, “Where is the line between body confidence and obesity?” Why does there have to be a line between the two? Couldn’t the line connect both together? Since ‘obese’ is a subjective term, I’ll begin using the word ‘overweight,’ or the phrase ‘seemingly overweight’ from now on.

Can seemingly overweight people not have body confidence? Why should self-love correlate with health at all? The two are very separate things and do not depend on one another. They can reflect one another if the individual feels that way, but they do not require one another to exist. And again, you may be severely incorrect in assuming someone is unhealthy based on the way they look to you.

What you consider ‘health,’ and what someone else considers ‘health’ is always going to be different. When people throw up the middle finger on Instagram in regards to body-shaming, they are looking to shame those similar to the author of this article. That middle finger is to shame those who think they’re helping thinner people or bigger people by offering unsolicited and unqualified medical advice concerning that individual’s health.

To be fair, it’s never been about health. The author was correct when they mentioned the correlation between body image and society. Often people decide what is ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’ based on what they see both in the media and in society. The truth is: society will never be pleased with how you look. Clothing companies will never truly accommodate for plus size people, and if people truly cared about our health, they’d advocate for an increase in plus-size active wear, or even for the decrease of fat-shaming so that plus-size people no longer have to hide.

For some reason, people think that fat-shaming bigger people will encourage them to lose weight. It’s the same with skinny-shaming, really. Here’s some tea: it may encourage weight-loss, but what about when that weight-loss isn’t healthy? What about when that weight-loss spirals into an eating disorder? Is that the individual’s fault too?

Society and the media will never take responsibility for its faults. At the end of the day, what matters is how you feel about yourself and your body. Self-love does not and will never correlate with the amount of love you have to give, or the amount of love others have to give to you. Unconditional love for yourself will come from you loving yourself unconditionally, no matter what state you’re in. You are lovable and acceptable the way you are, no matter how you are.

And no, we’re not sending a radical message to anyone. Let’s not pretend body-shaming is an issue that pertains only to women. We are sending a message to women, men, young boys and girls that there is a need to love yourself, rather than the need to be thinner or bigger. You just have to learn to love yourself.

Like I said, I think this author had their heart in the right place, but the execution of opinion was not the best in my opinion.

“Let’s leave it to the doctors and medical professionals to criticize.” Yeah, why don’t we?