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TRU: The Real U

One Woman With Inner Beauty Can Change the World

Reflections: My Story

Reflections: My Story

Voices in my head told me I was worthless, that there was no hope for me, that no matter how hard I tried I would never be good enough. . . . I choose to share my experience in the hopes that it may encourage others who are struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel. By Erica C. I don’t gaze at myself in the mirror as a general rule. But this morning is different. This morning, I stop to smile at the woman looking back at me. As I stand there, I recall a time when I could hardly stand to glance at myself in a mirror. I had no desire to confront the stranger that greeted me each time I dared steal a desperate look. I couldn’t bear to see those empty eyes and glued-on smile. No amount of makeup could conceal the sadness and guilt that seemed to ooze out of my pores. I was frightened of what I saw. I am pulled back to the present by a tugging at my leg. I reach down to pick up my precious one-year-old daughter. She giggles at her reflection and I hug her tightly, reveling in the light and joy she emanates. Many know of my past struggles. Many more do not. Some know me only as I am now. They are familiar with the positive and upbeat woman looking back at me this morning. Probably few would guess that the person they know today is a result of suffering, of overcoming, of having to pick myself up again and again . . . and again. Some know of my battles, and were once well-acquainted with the girl who dared not look in the mirror. It wasn’t many years ago that I was at the lowest point in my life. I had been struggling with depression and anxiety to varying degrees for a few years, when a series of life circumstances led me on a downward spiral towards severe mental and emotional instability. I had become a complete stranger to myself and to those who loved me. I was diagnosed with major clinical depression and related mental illnesses that complicated my ability to form healthy relationships and led to victimization by those who preyed on my insecurity. I was racked with self-loathing, perpetual anxiety, and unrelenting fear. Voices in my head told me I was worthless, that there was no hope for me, that no matter how hard I tried I would never be good enough. They told me that I was a burden and that the people in my life would be better off without me. These persistent voices obliterated my ability to reason properly. Over the course of a few months, I was hospitalized three times for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. To my diseased mind, there was no future for me that did not hold more pain, more mistakes, and more self-sabotage. I saw no point in going on. It was during my last stay in a psychiatric health facility that I reached a turning point. I was lying on an uncomfortable bed in a cold, cheerless room that felt like a jail cell. I was alone and terrified. The only light in the room was a murky gleam from a small, barred window. I had never felt so completely forsaken. I was just about to close my eyes, pleading for the respite of sleep, when the setting sun positioned itself directly within the tiny window frame and flooded the room with a soft, warm glow. In that moment, a loving voice pierced the darkness of my mind. “There is a reason you are here,” it said. “You have an important work to do. Do not give up.” I was overcome with the knowledge that God had not forsaken me. I knew I was not alone, even in that lonely place. A feeling of deep purpose enveloped me as something inside reawakened. In that rare moment of clarity and love, I made a deep, inward commitment. I decided I was going to get better. I decided that no matter how long it took, how hard it was, or how many setbacks I had . . . I was going to get through this. I wanted my life back. I wanted myself back. I wanted to move forward, to put all of this behind me and become who I had I always wanted to be. Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not saying from that moment on, everything was sunshine and roses. I’m not saying that all I had to do was “decide to be happy.” Like...

Ways to Cultivate TRU Beauty

Ways to Cultivate TRU Beauty

Think about a woman or girl you know who is truly beautiful. How would you describe her? If she has true beauty (or TRU beauty, as we like to call it), chances are you didn’t focus on how long her eyelashes or how small her hips are or how long her hair is (although these can all be good things). Chances are you focused on who she is inside. The beautiful young women I know are beautiful because they know who they are, they reach out to others, and the goodness inside them just glows on the outside. You can be just as beautiful as these girls, too. And no, it doesn’t require plastic surgery or a makeover. It just requires a few changes in attitude. Here’s some ideas on how you can cultivate TRU beauty and find the real you: Smile. Even if you’re not happy, you’d be surprised how much your mood can change if you look people in the eyes and smile at them. Look for ways to serve. You don’t have to be involved in a huge service project to help other people. Just look around for people who need a ride, a hug, or someone to talk to. Each day, try to find someone you can serve. Be honest with people. Don’t try to display an image of who you’re not to others. Let them in to who you really are, and they will still like you despite your faults or quirks. Be confident. Stand straight, speak confidently, and don’t be afraid to laugh. Be involved. Don’t overbook yourself, but find ways you can be involved in your community. Join clubs and organizations, volunteer, and meet new people wherever you go. These are some of the greatest beauty secrets I know. So instead of getting a facelift, lift your spirits and find the The Real U! Erin J. loves to read, write, and blog. Her friends are some of the most beautiful women she knows. Share...

Food, Self Worth, and the Real Me

Food, Self Worth, and the Real Me

Because food is always on my mind in order for me to keep my diabetes under control, I didn’t realize the skewed perspective of self-worth and self-image that food was causing me to have. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 11 years old, so I had to start counting carbohydrates and paying attention to how different foods affected my blood sugar. Since then, I have been encouraged by my doctor to exercise and eat well, but he has never discouraged me from eating what I want. Because food is always on my mind in order for me to keep my blood sugar under control, food has brought with it some emotional side-effects. It wasn’t until recently that I finally acknowledged my skewed perspective of self-worth and self-image that food was causing me to have. My life is very structured, and that structure includes organized food and exercise. However, unplanned situations arise from time to time that throw off my typical eating and exercise schedule. Last year, my roommate and best friend got married. As the wedding came and went, finals started approaching, and family and Christmas were on my mind. I didn’t realize how much I was trying to deal with as one thing added upon another. One day I came home with a lot on my mind, and I didn’t understand why I felt like I could snap at any moment. My mom looked at me and asked what was wrong, and I just lost it. I started bawling and she held me in her arms and let me cry as long as I wanted. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of a long, difficult road of uncomfortable emotions. Once I had finished a good long cry, I decided I wanted some food for comfort. This was definitely not the first time I turned to food to appease my emotions, but this started a phase of emotional eating that lasted much longer than it ever has in my life. I looked for anything I could get my hands on, and once I started eating, I couldn’t stop. It was especially bad at night. Binging every night became habit, and whenever I had  low blood sugar my brain told my body that it desperately needed sugar, so I had a good excuse to eat and eat until I was sick. I didn’t tell any of my roommates or family members what I was dealing with, and I would sometimes sneak food into my room without anybody seeing. I was embarrassed, and I was jealous of my roommates and family members who seemed to eat whatever they wanted without gaining any weight, and stopped eating when they were full. I was absolutely terrified of the Christmas holiday, because I knew that being home surrounded by family and Christmas treats, I would not be able to control myself. I thought a lot about boys and dating whenever I found myself binging on junk food. I often thought, How could any guy like me if he knew I have such a problem with food? I’m just on my way to getting fat. He’ll notice. I wish I could just be in control. But I also don’t want to have to tell guys I date that I don’t eat certain things. I don’t want guys thinking I’m a health freak. I started to keep a journal of thoughts I had whenever I felt like binging. I hated myself. I was consciously going against everything I knew about being healthy, but I couldn’t escape my actions. My blood sugar was out of control, and I knew I was gaining weight. One day I wrote, I know that I’m not letting Christ in. But I’m scared to lose this addiction that I always turn to. It has always been a part of me, and I feel like it’s a weakness I’ll never get rid of. This is impossible to fix on my own—I need Christ to save me. I am completely dependent on Him. I tried to think of ways I could turn this weakness into a strength, but at the time it seemed impossible. One night as I was eating pretzels and Nutella without any intention of stopping, I realized something. I wrote, God would be sitting right next to me while I am binging, as if nothing I am doing is wrong. He wouldn’t just sit here watching me with a critical eye. He would be sitting here talking with me at my worst and lowest point and my actions wouldn’t even phase Him. He would pass no judgment. He loves me no matter...

Just Be Yourself!

Just Be Yourself!

I trudged down the hall at school after a long day of classes and work and was starting to feel discouraged about myself. I looked up just in time to catch a quote posted crookedly on a teacher’s bulletin board: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” –Oscar Wilde. That quote instantly changed my frame of mind and made me rethink why I was feeling so discouraged. I usually get discouraged when I start comparing myself to other people. I am jealous of their skills, their accomplishments, their beauty, or even their luck. On hard days, I find myself wondering why I can’t be just a little shorter or why I don’t sound as smart as the other students in my classes. Or why everyone likes that other person so much more than they like me. I wish I had a different life! Sound familiar? This type of discouragement happens to all of us, but we have to find ways to combat those feelings before we spiral down to a place that’s hard to get out of. When I get discouraged I remember that Oscar Wilde quote and remember that I only have to worry about being me. I get to work on being the best version of myself that I possibly can, and not just because Oscar Wilde said it was true. Each of us has a unique personality, and each of us has the ability to contribute meaningfully wherever we go. So many of us spend so much of our time worrying about living up to what other people are doing that we forget to live up to the potential within ourselves. Instead of spending the energy worrying about how I don’t live up or how I don’t fit in, I could better spend that time figuring out what my talents and interests are. I could find people to serve. I could be my best self. So if you’re struggling to remember who you are like so many of us do, here’s an idea that a friend gave me that I’d like to share with you: * Make a list of at least five of your talents, skills, or traits. Enlist help from your family and friends if you need to because sometimes they can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves. * Next, every day look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud to yourself the things you wrote on your list. * Really look at yourself in the eyes even though it may be tempting to look away. And do this every day until you really believe what you’re saying. * You’ll have days when it will be a piece of cake. You’ll have days when you want to resist and argue with every one of those points, but say those great qualities that you listed anyway. Say them even when it brings tears to your eyes or when it makes you laugh at loud. * Eventually, you won’t have to remind yourself of your unique talents, but you will know within yourself that you have inherent worth. Always remember when you look in the mirror to see yourself for the beautiful individual that you are—inside and out. Marinda Q. is an English grad student who loves being herself! Share...

One by One: Coming to See My True Beauty

One by One: Coming to See My True Beauty

I was dumped for the first and only time (so far) when I was 15. I wasn’t even sure if we were going out yet, but it still felt like the end of the world. When I asked the guy why, he just said “I don’t love you anymore.” Now it’s obvious that he was interested in another girl and just didn’t want to admit it to me, but I couldn’t see that at the time. When I didn’t like that answer, I started asking myself why on earth he would dump me – especially in a text, when we’d known each other since fourth grade. Unfortunately, this led to me looking at all the things I didn’t like about myself. I told myself “if I was skinnier, maybe he wouldn’t have dumped me,” and similar things about my appearance. This went on for months, and the more I thought about reasons why, the more I came to hate myself. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, I hated every single picture that I saw of me, and I couldn’t find anything redeemable about myself after a while. Then one night, after looking at myself in the mirror and hating what I saw there, I just felt so lost and alone. I didn’t know how I could keep going on like this. I cried to God for help, for strength to keep on living my life. Suddenly I felt a calm spirit blanket me, and I could feel the arms of God around me, and feel how much he loved me. I felt the urge to go look into the mirror. I resisted, thinking that I didn’t want to see how terrible I appeared after feeling that overwhelming sense of love. I went anyway, and what I saw shocked me. I was beautiful. I could hardly believe this was the same person that had looked so grotesque to me just a few minutes earlier. I had the impression come to my mind that this is how God saw me, and that he loved me exactly as I was, faults and all. The next morning, I looked in the mirror again, and was disappointed to see my usual image staring back at me. But then I noticed something different: I liked my eyes. I took it a day at a time, and focused on the things I saw that I liked about myself, and the parts of my personality that I was proud of. By taking time to think of those little aspects, I was able to see more and more great things about myself. It took me over a year and help from many wonderful people to recover from that experience, but now I can look in the mirror every day and see a beautiful girl staring back at me. Through that experience, I was able to see how easy it is to get discouraged, especially with all the distorted ideas of beauty that surround us daily. But I know if you pray for strength, and for help to see the beautiful things about yourself, the Lord will truly help you to see yourself as He does. And nothing is quite as amazing as that. Carly H.’s goals include becoming an accountant, serving a mission for her church, marrying her true love, and always seeing her true beauty. Share...

Beauty and Attractiveness: What’s Your Focus?

Beauty and Attractiveness: What’s Your Focus?

Half-starved supermodels staring from the TV screen. The latest and hottest clothing brand screaming for you to buy it. A woman, her face perfectly made up and colored, popping out of the front of a magazine cover. How’s a girl to recognize true beauty while being hit with confusing ideas of what “beauty” is? I hope you already recognize that what the media portrays is usually the media’s idea of attractiveness and is not real beauty. But my approach in this blog post may be different than most. I’m not going to tell you to burn every copy of Seventeen and parade outside with a sign that reads, “Down with the media!” I’m simply going to ask you: where is your focus? How much are you letting this image affect you? Let me explain what I mean. I’ll give you a few examples of girls and you can decide where you fit. Girl #1, Sally, wants desperately to be beautiful. She feels if her face can come close to the faces she sees on the TV screen, she will be accepted by the cool people at school, liked by the boys, and she will be happy. She reads all the latest magazines, she buys all the latest beauty products, she diets and colors and make-ups and spends hours getting ready every day. Girl #2, Mariah, hates the way beauty is portrayed in the media. She knows that the false image magazines, TV, and commercials show of beauty is wrong. It makes her so angry that she becomes obsessed with it. Every time she sees another girl at school dressed with the latest fashions, Mariah automatically associates her with the image she hates. “Why do they think they have to dress like that?” she wonders. “They should know better!” She doesn’t understand why boys only like these types of girls, and it really bothers her. Every time Mariah sees a negative commercial about beauty, she yells at the TV screen and tells all her friends how wrong it is. It all just makes her so mad! Girl #3, Elizabeth, notices the image of beauty portrayed by the media. But she recognizes what its purpose is: to sell something. She knows that this doesn’t display true beauty, the kind she sees in her mom and her friends. And she doesn’t let the media interpretation bother her. Elizabeth doesn’t subscribe to magazines that make her feel like she’s not good enough. She only buys the latest fashion trends if it’s something she actually likes. She spends time getting ready in the morning, but she doesn’t think about her appearance constantly throughout the day. She knows she is a good and important person, and this is good enough for her. She doesn’t choose her friends based on how they dress or look. She chooses them because they are good people who make her want to better. When other girls at school look like they’re trying to copy the fashion trends of supermodels, she tries to think of something good about their personalities or their talents. Elizabeth is happy and at peace. She knows what’s important, and she doesn’t let the unimportant things bother her. Okay, so a little cheesy, but really, which girl are you? Think about it. I for one know that there’s a part of each of these girls in me. We’re all affected by the media at some time or other, and that’s okay. But I try very hard to be like Elizabeth. Do you know girls like Sally? I know we all do. I feel sorry for girls like Sally, because although they try to look good outside, I know they are just hurting inside. They don’t know who they really are, and that it doesn’t take every make-up product in the store to make them beautiful. Do you know girls like Mariah? I know a few. I even know organizations like Mariah. They know that the media portrays a false image of beauty, so they spend all their energy and time attacking the media. What they don’t realize is that the media is not going to change. Magazines and television want to look artistically and visually appealing, and they want to sell products. In fact, they often think of models as just another piece of art. As much as we attack the media, the media won’t change. And focusing on everything wrong about it just ends up making us feel hurt and angry. So how can we be like Elizabeth? We can acknowledge that the media image of what’s hot and attractive is about selling things; it’s not about beauty. And we can...