Embarking on Self Acceptance and Embracing my Body : The “I Am What’s Underneath” Movement

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I was the the girl who started dieting when she was 16. I was the girl who changed dieting methods every 7 days. I was the girl who weighed herself at least 5 times a day. I was the girl who religiously counted calories every single day. I was the girl who exercised obsessively because she wanted to lose weight. I was the girl who flipped through magazines wondering why I wasn’t born with the looks and the body of a supermodel. I was the girl who hated her body so much she would cry in shame in her room. I was the girl who wished she was born with bigger eyes, sharper nose and slimmer cheeks. I was the girl who was embarrassed to go shopping with friends because she didn’t want to be seen browsing the racks of clothings in size L.

I saw myself being too big and fat my skin and height & truly believed I was ugly.  I wanted to be thinner, taller and prettier. I never understood the word “self-acceptance”. It didn’t feel right on my tongue; strange and foreign. A key that didn’t fit into a lock. I knew what it meant, but to internalize that trait required strength of a different kind. Moreover, I wanted to be in control. Control meant power. It meant I could be whatever I wanted, as long as I tried hard enough. I was wrong.

Unlike many other individuals, my journey of self acceptance wasn’t completely not motivated by my struggles with body dissatisfaction and my eating disorder, but rather a somewhat disempowering event that made me lose sight of who I was. In an effort to rediscover myself, I decided to focus efforts on rebuilding my identity. Moreover, having been blinded by the pursuit of attaining a thin body, I damaged my body so much for about 6 years in return for a peace of mind I never got. I needed to heal myself.

Latin: “Cura the ipsum.” English: Take care of your own self. 

I’m only 23, but now that I’m growing older, becoming more knowledgeable, experiencing new perspectives in life and trying to find my place in society, I’ve realized that I don’t have the time to hate and destroy my body through the neck-severing pursuit of a getting supermodel body by starving, bingeing and compulsive exercise. I have so many other important things that I need to do, like graduate and establish a career, and other things I want to do: dance with traveling gypsies in Romania, get married in Italy, make love in Venice, have a baby (maybe 2), and maybe attend the Burning Man Festival in Las Vegas. Hating my body and ruining it has prevented me from living the life I should have lived when I was growing up and I don’t want my eating disorder to ruin my life anymore.

That’s why I started my self acceptance journey through the use of pictures. To capture my body and my looks just the way it is and to make me come to terms with the fact that this is who I am. This is who and what you need to accept. I’ve accepted that I’m bigger and I suppose in some way, curvier than my friends but I’ve not fully accepted some of my physical attributes: the broad shoulders, the wide calves, the chubby cheeks. But that’s who I am. And I need to accept it. I love dance, I have my quirks, and I like making people laugh, but underneath that exterior I’m also made up of these physical attributes. And I need to slowly learn to accept that its part of me.

I now know that society’s standards of beauty are warped. I’ve learned that being slim is beautiful, but being curvy is also beautiful. Beauty can’t be quantified. It has to be accepted and embraced in whatever form it comes in.  I can’t shrink my shoulders nor undergo dangerous knee surgery to lengthen my legs. Sure I still work out about 5 times a day and try to eat healthy (and mindfully) as much as I can, but the main goal now would be to maintain optimum health instead of trying to sculpt unrealistically supermodel features because I still want to be the best I can be to my capabilities.

To embrace self-acceptance, I stand behind the project: I Am What’s Underneath – True Style is Self Acceptance, a kickstarter program founded by Elisa Goodkind & Lily Mandelbaum. It is a global movement calling for self-acceptance that aims to raise funds to a feature-length documentary and start a conversation on self-acceptance, society’s standards of beauty and what it means to be beautiful. Like many people who have taken part in this movement (via social media or through donations), I too have experienced many own forms of negativity and now want to take the steps of rejecting the socially constructed notion of “thin-is-beautiful” and embracing my looks and my body for what it is to empower myself.

 I used to wish I were the love child of James Marsden and Jennifer Lopez. Now I just want to be someone who accepts and loves herself so that her journey in life will not be tainted with memories of self-hatred fueled by unrealistic body expectations and disordered eating, & also so that I can eat that extra piece o’ pie without any guilt.

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Be part of the self-acceptance movement and stand against unrealistic beauty ideals that force you to be something or someone you’re really not! One of the ways you can do so is reading more and donating to Elisa and Lily’s kickstarter program here: , and/or post a picture of yourself with #iamwhatsunderneath on Twitter or Instagram (Elisa & Lily can be found on IG at @stylelikeu)!

With the glorification and idealization of thin models, the fashion industry is unwittingly molding us into something that we are not, and to be yourself in a world that is trying to fit you into something else is one of the greatest and most courageous accomplishments you can ever achieve

P.S. I’m on Twitter and Instagram!

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I contemplated wearing something more stylish for these photos, but then I decided on just being myself and showing the real me. Underneath the girl who loves dresses, high waisted jeans and stud earrings is one loves to laze around at home, reading books, watching Julia Roberts movies and blissfully makeup-free in her jammies. My bowler hat is my spark. Nothing wrong with a bit of sparkle right? 🙂

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  1. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? Levitating objects, like Magneto
  2. If you were reincarnated as an animal or ice cream flavor, what would it be? Wolf or dark chocolate with rum
  3. What was an experience that made you a stronger person? Getting heartbroken
  4. If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be? Learn a local dance in every country that I visit
  5. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? Carmen or Riley
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