“If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies how very different our ideals of beauty would be.”- Anonymous
My experience with mental illness officially started in September 2012 when I was diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder characterized by an obsession with my facial skin. I spent the majority of my diagnosis numbed by medication but I remember looking in the mirror and seeing severe acne and acne scarring that no one else could see and feeling so frustrated and alone in my experience. During my diagnosis I spent hours in front of the mirror picking at acne that did not exist, unable to pull myself away from the mirror. When I did pull myself away, I spent the rest of my time curled up beneath a blanket researching plastic surgery options that would correct the scars I believed I had.
After realizing no one could see what I saw and that I could no longer trust my own brain, I felt painfully alone and fell into a deep depression. During this time, I did everything I could to keep my skin hidden from others and purposely avoided sunlight to avoid emphasizing my perceived scarring. This isolation caused me to lose a lot of weight, end my long-term relationship, drop out of my third year of university, stop engaging with friends and miss out on so many special occasions and family celebrations.
I can only describe the pain of this time as numbness to the world. There were many moments where I prayed to die because I wasn’t able to enjoy the things that made life worth living for. I couldn’t go out in public without fear someone would be uncomfortable with my appearance, I couldn’t maintain friendships, stomach food or focus on school. I couldn’t even watch television without obsessing over the actor’s clear skin. I stopped living. I barely even existed.
I decided to write this article to first remind people that body image disorders reach far beyond eating disorders and second to share what helped me to crawl out of the darkness.
One day in counseling my psychologist asked me who my best friend was and then asked me to write the top five things I loved about my best friend. Of course this was easy, my best friend was kind, outgoing, funny, passionate, hardworking, adventurous, loving, family oriented, supportive and confident. After listing the things I loved about my best friend the counselor had me read them again, and again and again. After the third time reading through the list, my counselor said: “do you realize you just wrote ten things you love about your best friend, and not once did you mention the way she looked?”
It was in that moment that I finally understood the meaning of beauty. Beauty is not a physical thing; the things that make a person beautiful cannot be seen with the eyes, they must be felt with the heart.
I still struggle with my body image and when I get really stressed, I fixate on my skin. But I now know that my fixation is not reality and that when I am seeing physical imperfections, the people who love me are seeing courage, strength and true inner beauty.
Does anyone else live with body image issues? If so, I challenge you to close your eyes, look beneath your skin and discover ten things that truly make you beautiful.
Photo by FEDRA Studio
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21 thoughts on “How I Came to Understand the True Meaning of Beauty”
Thanks for sharing your story, Robin. I am glad you now have a realization of what true beauty really is. We are so fixated on the external that we forget that the internal is what really makes us beautiful and is projected through our character and personality.
Thank you for reading Yvonne. I agree that the internal is what makes us beautiful, those are wise words.
Thank you for your very candid and personal story. I am glad that you found a way to seek help and treat the issues which plagued you. I was totally unaware of the mental conditions which you described. “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” ~Khalil Gibran.
I want to echo the sentiments of Chas and thank you Robin for sharing your raw story and recognize you for your awareness and breakthrough! Chas – I love the quote you have shared with us. :)
Chas, what a beautiful quote! I love that so much.
And Theresa, thank you for reading. It means a lot! xo
The word ‘Beauty’ has different meaning toward one another due to the fact that what seem to be beautiful in your own sight might not be in my own sight. I strongly agreed to the statement that we should now seeing it far above physical appearance to the inner part. Knowing this will often gives in-depth meaning of love.
F.Ayodeji, you’re so right in saying that one person’s definition is different than the next. We just need to look at different cultures and way of living to see this is true. Thank you so much for reading. xx
I have just heard the kind of mental illness you are dealing with. You are so blessed to meet the right psychologist who can enlighten you. Congratulations for having found this true meaning of beauty, and thank you for inspiring me to keep going through moments of hardship. I pray that your everyday imagination becomes increasingly bright and healthy, and you finally reach your goal to help more people by opening holistic therapies practice. Thanks again for sharing!
Yukie, thank you so much for all the beautiful words and prayers! I’m glad you were able to learn from what I have shared. Connecting with others, either in person or through platforms like thechangeblog is so important when going through hardships. Stay strong! xo
Very touching and poignant true story. Thank you for sharing. Many women have body/looks issues (myself included) and i appreciate the insight you gained. Sweet! Congratulations on your insights and for your bravery and courage too.
Hi Deborah, thank you for reading! You’re right in saying many women (and men!) have body and self esteem issues. I appreciate your sharing. Keep your chin up and remember that is truly is what is on the inside that counts. I appreciate your kind words. xo
Thank you for courageously sharing your story with us. By sharing your story, you may have possibly helped someone else who is having difficulties coping with this disorder, and that person doesn’t have to feel alone. You’re going to touch a lot people when you start your holistic practice because they will sense your genuineness since you’ve been through this yourself.
Eugene, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. I shared my story with the hopes of it reaching the people who needed it most. Perhaps someone will benefit from it and like you said, not feel so alone. One of the most difficult parts of a distortion is feeing so disconnected from everyone in your life. Thank you!
What a beautifully vulnerable story. Thank you for sharing Robin. I used to really hate my upper thighs because beginning in elementary school the kids would call me Thunder Thighs and Elephant Stumps.
Because of this I became really self conscious of my legs and remember being as young as 11 years old and feeling self-conscious in a bathing suit because I was worried about what people would think about my thighs.
It makes me sad to think about being so young and worrying about something so superficial.
It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve learned to accept my body the way it is. Some things I love – and although my upper thighs are not on the love-list, I have learned to accept them and not feel ashamed when I’m at the beach.
Hi Julia Kristina, I am glad you were able to connect with my story. I like how you said although you have come to accept your body, your thighs are not on the love-list. We all have things we don’t love about ourselves but learning that those things don’t define us is what acceptance truly is. Thank you so much for your sharing. xx
I am deeply touched and inspired by your story. Thank you very much. I will surely take your challenge and try to discover what is truly beautiful. Once again I thank you.
Hey Asaunie, thank you for taking time to read my story. I am so deeply touched and inspired by all of the support I received in these comments. Close your eyes and appreciate what is on the inside. xo!
Thanks so much for this wonderful story, really it touched me…and i love your quotes they help me to be a better person
Smileyboo, keep that quote close by! It is very wise advice. Thank you for stopping by and reading my story. xo
Touching story.. I never looked at it that way, you made me realize something about myself. Love it