Love Your Reflection

Since I’m trying to re-establish blogging as part of my busy work week, I wanted to get back to the basics this week and remind myself why my work matters.  So let’s talk about the girl in the mirror and why we love her!

Worldwide, women are under pressure to meet beauty standards.  Those standards are different wherever you go, and even within a culture, everyone has an opinion.  That means you are never going to be everybody’s cup of tea.  No body meets every beauty standard.

So where should you be focusing your energy?

IMG_6800Instead of conforming to your society’s standards, take a look in the mirror and see what’s there.  Then, find a way to love what you see.

Easier said than done.  We all have our hangups – a freckle we can’t see past, a curve we wish would shrink.  You are your own worst critic, and that’s okay.  We all have the potential to make changes in our lives, and as long as those changes are healthy, it’s okay to make them.  Just make sure you make changes out of love for yourself, not out of pressure to conform.

So how do you love your imperfectly perfect self?  Here are a few exercises for those days when the girl in the mirror isn’t living up to the standards living within you:

(1) Take “time off”

Nobody has the energy to be “on” at all times, and time off is at the heart of my self-love practice.  Light a candle, power down your networking apps, and pour a glass of wine.  Sink into the tub or under the covers.  Open the book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand or turn on a mindless flick.  Just be.

(2) Accomplish small goals

Every morning, I make my bed, and no matter what happens during the day, I have accomplished that one, very small, goal.  It sounds silly.  For me, it works.  No matter what else happens, I have done this one small thing for myself, and at the end of the day, I get to pull the covers back and escape.

(3) Quicken your heartbeat

Get a workout in!  The amazing thing about exercise is that it works if you’re tired or if you’re too hyped up to wind down.  A meaningless day that drains you of all energy or a strenuous day that wires you with stress can both be reversed with a little cardiovascular training.

(4) Phone a friend

Call someone who sees what you are having trouble seeing: you are amazing.  Let them remind you of all the good you bring to the world, the enrichment you give to their life.  We all need a hype man sometimes.  Embrace their compliments and love!IMG_6774

(5) Just dance

Okay, maybe don’t dance, but do something you love!  If you don’t have a hobby that you can’t talk about without smiling, it’s time to find one.  Find something that makes you feel good about yourself, that lets your talents shine.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are keeping the outside world quiet so you can clearly hear your own needs! 

How do you remind the girl in the mirror that she woke up flawless?


“What’s Your End Goal?”

Up until about a year ago, I thought I’d have an “Ah-hah!” moment when I became an adult and knew what I was doing with my life.  Then, I realized that becoming an adult is accepting that nobody knows what they’re doing, and becoming a responsible adult is just doing the best you can.  Fake it until you become it, as they say!

I have a simple short-term goal: receiving my MBA and finding a job to pay the bills.  My long-term goals are a little less quantifiable, though.  I want to find a fulfilling job; one that provides a two-way street allowing me to impact the world while developing me as a person.  I also want to inspire women to find love for themselves, which I believe starts with finding love for Jesus.  This blog is my meager attempt at building the foundations towards that goal.

But in all truth, there is no end goal for me.  I will die with goals I haven’t yet met, because as I reach one milestone, I set the next one.  That’s the burden of being a goal-oriented person.  Goals are always evolving, adapting to fit my capabilities and emotions.

If you aren’t sure what your purpose is and feel surrounded by people who seem to have it all together, you are not alone.  Just know that even when you feel purposeless, God has a reason you’re here.  He just doesn’t always make His reasons known.

So well-meaning people of the world, please stop inquiring as to my end goal.  There is no end goal.  There is a series of goals that will continue to evolve as I continue to grow.  We aren’t meant to know our end purpose, and it’s high time we stop trying.


Bikini Body

There’s this thing that girls do when they put on a swimsuit – they evaluate. I don’t care who you are or how much you love yourself, it is incredibly rare not to check the mirror before you hit the beach/pool. There’s nothing wrong with a little pride in your appearance. Ensuring the girls are looking good and a little “dang, girl, lookin’ fine” to yourself is great attitude prep for walking around in what is essentially underwear. The problem is when that one second glance turns into several slow minutes of serious evaluation.

I didn’t do that a year ago.  Between you and me, I am the “fattest” I’ve ever been in my life today.  I am also the happiest.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: healthy is physical, mental, social, and spiritual.  Physically I’m not my best me, but I’m doing better on the other three than I have in past memory.  But more about that some other time…

I didn’t evaluate myself in the mirror a year ago because there was no part of my physical body I was unaware of.  I knew I was toned; I knew what I’d worked out the day before and that day and would work on the next.  Now, it’s highly likely I skipped a couple workouts to get drinks with friends or even just because.  So when I put on a bikini, it’s unknown what’s going to be jiggly or the exact state of bloat I might be in.

My roommates and I will rush back in forth to each others’ rooms before a trip to the pool trying to determine what swim suit doesn’t make us look “fat”… and this is a problem.  Because none of us are by any means “fat”.  We are all at a healthy BMI, perhaps higher than it once was, but by no means overweight.  And this would be a problem even if we actually were overweight.

Evaluating your body is essential to knowing its current state.  It helps you know what you need – for some of us that’s a large meal and for others it’s a trip to the gym.  There are times when it’s essential to look at your body and see what’s there and figure it out, but when you just put on a swimsuit for a day of fun, it’s not the right time.  It’s time to get tanned and boozy by a body of water!

So the next time you put on a swimsuit, regardless of your BMI and what may or may not need work, get your priorities straight.  You’re putting it on to have a good time, not to work on any changes, so don’t evaluate.  Instead, remind yourself that you love yourself and if that doesn’t work, live by the “if you can’t tone it, tan it!” mantra.  Now go show off that bikini body!

Be Bold

Holding the title of Miss Greater Easley last year was great, but explaining to countless people that I will not be returning to compete in the MAO has been a headache.  I hold nothing against the girls who are gearing up for competition this summer.  In fact, I think back fondly to the spray tans, fake nails, and fake lashes, and I remember being happy underneath all the makeup.  The thing is, I am so incredibly much more than a title, and I have so incredibly much more to offer to the world than being a queen.

While competing for Miss South Carolina, I ceased to be Tracy.  The entire week of the state pageant, I was called by my title and never by my name.  There are many girls, and using titles is simply easier.  I get that.  What I did not understand is the number of people who knew I was Miss Greater Easley and desired no other information.  The number of people who felt they knew me simply because they knew my title.  The title did not define me.

Long before I held a title, I was a volunteer at GHS Children’s Hospital.  I loved volunteering with my local CMN hospital.  I did not love it because it was MAO’s platform; I love it because those kids show what can be accomplished with a little strength of character.  I love it because that hospital is an opportunity for more kids to have birthdays.  I love it because every child deserves a childhood.  It wasn’t about the pictures I could take at events; it was about the relationships I could build.

Long before I held a title, I was a personal trainer advocating for my platform, A Perfect Fit; I just wasn’t calling it that.  Mental, physical, and spiritual wellness has always been a passion for me.  It was never something I did to promote myself.  My intention was always to help others.  Being a contestant ruined that for me.  It started to become about how many appearances I’d made instead of about what good I’d done.

Now, I hold the title of Miss Clemson University, and I am not taking it to compete for a higher title.  I am completely satisfied with having this title to potentially make a difference in the place that has given me so much.

To the girls competing this summer, I wish you nothing but the best.  Please remember who you are, though.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you need a nose job to be beautiful enough to win.  Don’t let them encourage unhealthy weight loss when your body is your own.  Don’t let them tell you that you should sell more advertisements to be considered for the title.  Make a difference by spending time in your community, not just by fundraising for it.  (A little birdie told me that $0.40 of every dollar raised for CMN through MAO goes right back into the pageant system.  It could be a rumor, but for a rumor to start, I find there’s usually a little truth.). Do not lose yourself to their system; let this be part of the journey that helps you find yourself, not the part of your journey that defines you.

As for me, I’m content to serve in a different way.  Not winning the title of Miss South Carolina will always be one of the biggest blessings in my life, but I’m grateful for the experience.  I became more confident in the woman I am having faced a million voices trying to change me.  I’m forever thanking God for taking my life in a new direction and instilling new dreams to chase in my heart.

Be bold, be confident, and be at peace because you are beautiful and you are loved.