Amidst all confusion of teenage life whether it’s growing out of puberty, raging hormones, or trying to define and find out who we all really are; the one thing I know that I’ve come to realize as I approach a new beginning in my life is that everyone is beautiful. Being beautiful doesn’t simply mean being physically attractive, the perfect size, or an ideal number on a scale. And the kinds of people who are beautiful aren’t always the exotic looking supermodels or my high school prom queen. The most beautiful people I’ve met are the ones who’ve helped me realize my own beauty and understand the beauty of a kind and courageous heart.

As a teenager growing up in a community filled with an abundance of outer beauty and a strong interest in keeping up physical appearances, I began to create the idea that the way to feel beautiful, confident, and accepting of myself if I looked like everyone else. However, even at my lowest weight or tiniest pant size I felt no beauty whatsoever. Allowing myself to go hungry, obsessing over pant sizes, and missing out on things in life because I forced myself to exercise wasn’t anything worth the price of beauty.

It’s only when I took the initiative to stop worrying about what others thought of me and focus more on the qualities that I possess is when I truly began to feel beautiful and see the beauty in others. My mother’s long legs, courage, and perseverance which I’ve inherited have helped me walk down the path of recovery, run endless miles, and accept the idea that my butt look indeed does look cute in size ‘healthy’ jeans. My dad’s dark skin, exotic facial features are what make up for my unique appearance; however his humble heart and wisdom are what makes me feel gracious for my life and appreciative for the countless blessings I’ve received.

I no longer need to stand up to or feel the necessity to follow the expectations that society has for so long pushed on me and millions of other men, women, and even children to feel beautiful. I feel beautiful always whether it be if I’m simply enjoying the company of my family, kissing my boyfriend, pouring sweat after running a couple miles, or getting ready for a night out with the girls.

I love every single flaw, bruise, scar, tan line, muscle, cut, or any other physical marking you can name of. I am beautiful for the kind and compassionate person that I’ve become thanks to the most wonderful parents and sister I’ve been given in my life. I am beautiful for having the courage to overcome my struggles with eating and learning to accept myself. As Helen Keller once said, ““The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt with the heart”.