For as long as I can remember, I have had a complicated relationship with my body. As I jumped from lanky pubescent to young adult, my weight skyrocketed. A lifetime of bad eating habits (Costco muffins for breakfast, anyone?) should have prepared me for this uncomfortable realization, yet I was completely taken aback when looking in the mirror. Years of shame and guilt-ridden trips to the freezer for ice cream used to numb the sadness of adolescence. A coming-of-age story riddled with the inability to cope with the fact that nothing in life stays the same. That we are forever stuck in a genetic mold we did not sign up for. And as I compared myself to everyone around me, my confidence continued to plummet.
Confidence is a strange concept — some days you wake up feeling like a million bucks and others 25 cents. Some days you are Beyoncé, and other days the insecurity is written all over your face. I often wonder who I could have been if I was not burdened with insecurities growing up. It saddens me to think of how many conversations I would have started or risks I would have taken if I was not so afraid of what people thought of me.
The average American woman is size 16-18, yet it is often easy to forget it in a world filled with Instagram bloggers and Facetune. And while the media has made serious waves these past few years with the countless body diversity and body neutrality campaigns, we grew up in a different world. A world of low-rise jeans that only looked good on size-zero icon Paris Hilton.
Now that I am in my early twenties, I have done the hard work to remove myself from the toxicities that society has placed upon us. Progress is possible when you have a healthy support system, therapist and a library of books.
I am passing along the books that helped me, in hopes that others will recognize their beauty and grow their self-confidence.
I Am That Girl: How to Speak Your Truth, Discover Your Purpose, and #bethatgirl – Alexis Jones
As someone who does not have an older sister to turn to, this book is filled with advice in a conversational tone that makes it fun to read and the points easy to grasp. This is the perfect book to jumpstart reframing your outlook on life. Plus, actress Sophia Bush wrote the foreword, for those of you who need a “One Tree Hill” alumni to be convinced.
Favorite Quote: “I’m here to tell you that none of us have it all figured out; we are forever works in progress. The moments of brilliance in your life will always be balanced by moments of vulnerability, insecurity, and doubt. The sooner you get around to being okay with that, the happier your life will be.”
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay
I sobbed my way through this New York Times bestseller. This personal memoir was deeply insightful and challenged all of my past ideas on how we see ourselves and others. It was so vulnerable — as if I had read an excerpt from someone’s diary that I was not supposed to. Roxane Gay delves into what it means to be hungry for more than just food.
Favorite Quote: “In yet another commercial, Oprah somberly says, ‘Inside every fat woman is a woman she knows she can be.’ This is a popular notion, the idea that the fat among us is carrying a thin woman inside. Each time I see this particular commercial, I think, ‘I ate that thin woman and she was delicious but unsatisfying.’ And then I think about how fucked up it is to promote this idea that our truest selves are thin women hiding out in our fat bodies like imposters, usurpers, illegitimates.”
This is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today – Chrissy Metz
We all know Chrissy Metz as Kate Pearson on “This is Us.” Kate’s storyline on “This is Us” really affected me, so I snagged this book the week it came out. The Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actress spills how she defeated all the odds in this charming memoir. As Metz details her journey of self-acceptance, her unapologetic behavior and advice rub off on you —and you finish the book a better version of yourself.
Favorite Quote: “We all have a purpose. Some people are tall oak trees, and some people are beautiful bushes. But everyone has a purpose. There is nobody here on earth who doesn’t have a path or a purpose. An innate destiny. Every human being who comes, comes called.”
A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like – Ashley Graham
Powerhouse Ashley Graham has graced the cover of every major magazine — she was the first plus-size model featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit — and as a result, helped change the culture in the right direction. She is the positive role model we were all waiting for. Her book features a series of essays, images and insight into the glamorous, yet the seedy world of fashion.
Favorite Quote: “The bond between food and me is like other relationships in my life: complicated, evolving, demanding, and in need of constant work. But together we’ve come so far, moving from my childhood obligation to clean my plate, to a mindless need to fill up, to a truly nourishing and pleasurable exchange. That’s the real reward.”
Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me – Lily Collins
By Lily Collins sharing her darkest secrets in this collection of essays, I find myself feeling less alone. In fact, her relatability helps shatter that perception. Even world-famous celebrities struggle with relationships, self-esteem and body image. Celebrities! They are just like us!
Favorite Quote: “Let’s proudly share our quirks. Be you and embrace your differences as things that make you unique and special. ‘Different’ shouldn’t be considered confusing, negative, or something that divides us. It should be a quality we applaud and admire within ourselves and others.”
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