Yup, this is me. And posting this was terrifying.

You may not know it, but I'm insanely modest.

If you would have told me even two years ago that I would have THIS photo of me posted publicly, I would have totally laughed it off. Impossible. I have always preferred to be invisible, remain anonymous, and dress comfortable and cozy. To say I'm modest still doesn't quite tell the story. I've always been tremendously insecure. Insecure about my body, how I come across to people, or that simply speaking will cast me as unintelligent or annoying. I've put myself through a million scenarios in which I'm not received well, or accepted as I am. I used to do this REGULARLY. It's taken some deep and serious work to begin to allow myself to break the cycles of doubting myself, and begin to find love for myself. I admit, the word "love" still catches my ear funny when I'm speaking about myself. I think it's because of the romanticized idea of what love is, that has been sold to us women since we were little girls, we never have connected to what love for ourselves really means. I think of it more as self acceptance. Because what is love if not a complete and total acceptance of who someone truly is, and allowing yourself to feel for them, and want for them without condition? I've begun the journey into that acceptance of myself, and really FOR myself. I accept fully who I have become, and the great many things in my life that I have overcome. And through all of those things, my body and mind got me through them. They were there all along. Acknowledging those truths helped put me on the path toward this self love idea. And I've definitely reached some milestones. This image, and actually putting it out into the public eye is truly a destination, and it was quite the climb to get here. I still see the things that once would put me into a state of fear and shame, but I don't have the same relationship with them that I once did. I see my mom "pooch," which for the sake of absolute truth, I've always kind of had even before I had kids and it was always a barrier to feeling comfortable in my own skin. To me, it's probably been one of my most present insecurities. As early as 12 years old, I remember noticing my pooch and rolls at my sides, especially when I sat down, and seeing so many of my girlfriends with perfect flat stomachs, with enviable abs I would never have. I hated that feeling. I hated that comparison, and I've been deeply self conscious of those particular "flaws" since that long ago. That feeling was DEEPLY rooted. I don't have the magazine model hips, tiny waist, and thighs... and visible stretch marks as the icing on the cake. I've struggled with anxiety induced eczema, and moles & blemishes on my skin, some of which have required surgeries to remove, leaving me with scarring as well. Any one of those things I listed were once crippling to me and my self image, and were always present in my mind whenever any layers of clothing were shed, revealing any more skin than what would typically be covered up by a hoodie and jeans. And the instances when I'd feel embarrassed by my body were frequent. Simple things like going to the pool, the lake, getting intimate with anyone, medical exams, changing in the locker room at school, etc.. I know you can relate to this, and maybe this is stirring up some of those feelings and memories from your own life experience. And it's ok. We've been through a lot in our lives, ladies. We've been conditioned to expect perfection of ourselves. But we don't have to feel that way anymore. Our bodies, our skin, our unique traits are not flawed. Only the way we think about them are flawed. And we can change the way we think, by choosing to view ourselves through the appropriate lens. You are a beautiful person, and I've accepted that I am too. Yes, this image, once upon a time, would have been impossible. The vulnerability to have this photo of me exist, much less having it out there to be viewed, could never have happened before I began to dig in and do the shadow work. But even after all that, I still had to take a leap. I had to dare myself to prove that I truly am ok with the "me" that exists now. And I figured, if I am here, asking you to be vulnerable and look your insecurities in the face for the purpose of emerging more confident and powerful, I had better step up to the plate and do it too. I don't just empathize with you. I am you.