#LoveYoSelf

*For the month of April, I’ll be participating in the WordPress Writing 101 “challenge” and doing posts based on prompts. This is #1, a 20 minute free write.*

self love

I’ll admit, I had a hard time figuring out what to title this post.

I am dedicated to making people love themselves entirely. Good, bad, “ugly,” and all! I think I am most passionate about this because as I get older, and experience more of all the bizarre, amazing, and ridiculous parts of life, I have learned that I owe it to me to be positively, absolutely, and madly in love with myself.

It’s been a journey, to say the least.

I started out pretending not to care what people thought. Pretending that their mean words, loud whispers, and cruel jokes didn’t bother me. Telling myself that even though I knew that they were right, I wouldn’t let them ever know I believed anything they said.

But then, a funny thing happened…it all became so….real.

A series of events, from my first legit to heartbreak, to breaking my first heart….being and my highest weight, and being the smallest I’d ever been….I found that there is so much more to life than focusing on what anyone else has to say about my life, how I live it, and how I decide to look while I do.

When I really think about it, I’ve always had a handful of amazing friends. I’ve always been complimented for my smile, my intelligence, and my funny facial expressions while I tell stories(although, I tend to think the stories are funnier, if I do say so myself!), and sometimes I’m even acknowledged as a half decent person!

I’d rather love myself for my good parts, versus the bad others choose to see when they merely look at me for the first time. In fact, I think it says more about them, than me.

And so, I set out to show myself that I didn’t have to fake it anymore. No more pretending. It was time to acknowledge that I AM awesome. And I am only human, but I’m not a crappy human, and that’s enough for me.

So, I figured maybe I’d share some of the ways I do this-honor myself, love myself, and remind myself that at the end of the day….if I’m going to be my toughest critic, I am going to be my biggest cheerleader, too!

Here’s what came to mind:

1. Write a list of 10 things you love/appreciate about yourself, or your life, that don’t involve your weight or flaws.Focus on the positive. Because after all, you’re awesome!

2. Focus on goals that take you out of your comfort zone and create experiences that you can treasure forever (like with my “27 Things for My 27th Year” project).

3. Remind yourself of all that your body can do. I went ziplining once. Also, I recently did a 15K with a friend, and have plans to go skydiving before my next birthday. Ask the old pretending Sondra if she ever would have registered for a run. On purpose. HA!

4. Spend some quality time with yourself. You carve out time for everyone that’s important to you. Block your schedule and go to a matinee alone, take a spa day, splurge on the more expensive pedicure and read gossip magazines…whatever makes you happy….try it solo and connect with yourself.

5. Surround yourself with positive people. Life is way too short for people who never have anything nice/helpful/supportive to say. It took me WAY too long to realize I don’t need to feel obligated to deal with it.

6. Distance yourself from exhausting people, too. Negativity isn’t the only thing that can drain you and affect your stress level or mood. People who ask for the same advice and never take it; people who lean on you to solve their problems; people who depend on you for your unwavering loyalty but never return the favor? You don’t need them around all the time, either. They’ll be fine without you. Trust me on this!

7. Remember that true beauty is a state of mind. No cream, serum, lip gloss, eyelash extensions, yoga pants, or diet regimen can make you worthy of adjectives like “compassionate,” “kind,” “thoughtful,” or “amazing.” Don’t limit your beauty to materialistic and aesthetic features. Kate Spade can’t sell you a beautiful soul (ahem, but if your awesome mom was in town for a week and bought you a pretty one with watercolor lemons all over it? SCORE. Thanks, mom!).

8. Use the time and energy you’d normally spend criticizing facets of your life to help others. Your weight, your grades, your features, your progress towards your future…it may never measure up to your high expectations. But the time you spent helping others will remind you of all you have, all you have done, and all the good there can be in the world.

9. Be mindful of the messages all around you. The “perfect” Victoria’s Secret bikini body, the idea that flat abs and blonde hair are the only tools you need to succeed. These messages are subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) permeating our lives with ideals that aren’t generally achievable if you’ve got a job, an education to pursue, and/or family obligations. Realize that you’re more than what the magazines say you can buy, and know your worth lies in the impact you make-not whether or not you have a 4 pack and strappy bathing suit.

10. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel like I have to be somebody else?” There are so many people who love you without all the frills. My aunt sat me down when I was 15 or 16 and asked me why I didn’t feel like I could be myself. I think I cried every night for a week, knowing that my secret Little Debbie snacks and wrappers under my bed had been discovered. I grew up with my dad restricting my food intake and criticizing my weight when we had to shop in the women’s section at stores. I felt like wanting snacks made me uglier, and bad. That question has never left me. It helped me get to where I am today. And whether I am making kale chips, or eating donuts, I know that those I surround myself with aren’t paying attention to my plate. They love ME. The girl behind the plate.

These are just some of the ways I remind myself everyday that I am more than a size on a tag, or a self-proclaimed Body-Positive Activist.

Spend a little extra time loving yourself here and there, and I promise it becomes second nature. But learn from my experience, and make it genuine from the beginning. Because you and I are worth every praise, every calorie, and every champagne toast.

We are amazing, beautiful, inspiring, and brilliant.

And there is no measure of body weight or material items that could possibly calculate the extent of it.

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Besides What You See….

Ok, confession: I love musicals.

Like, obsessively, ridiculously love musicals.

Like, when I drive home at 5 am in the morning from my night shifts, I’ll turn off the radio and sing songs from Funny Girl or The Sound of Music, or Frozen to keep me entertained and awake.

My mom introduced me to The Sound of Music when I was about 5 years old, and it’s still one of my very favorite stories and musicals of all time!

This post was inspired by the song Maria sings:

“Strength doesn’t lie in numbers
Strength doesn’t lie in wealth
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers
When you wake up — Wake Up!

It tells me all I trust I lead my heart to
All I trust becomes my own
I have confidence in confidence alone

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides what you see I have confidence in me!”

I have always loved those lines, but as I learned to love myself over the years, it dawned on me how this little musical affirmation makes such a difference for me!

People remark on my confidence pretty frequently, and it always surprises me. In my ideal world, we would all be confident and ambitious people, who wake up ready to kick ass, and take names! “Can’t,” “won’t,” “shouldn’t” and other hesitant words would be abolished from our vocabularies, and we’d put our big girl (or boy) panties on and MAKE. THINGS. HAPPEN.

But, alas, we are only human. we aren’t sure if we can pull off a certain look, quit a job to chase our dreams, or maybe even make rent next month. The list goes on, and on!

I really value the fact that people see me as a strong, and confident person. I am those things. But rest assured, I have bad days, financial problems, personal struggles, and insecurities too! I tend to be more vulnerable and candid with these things, because I think it’s very important for people to know that someone with a past like mine-filled with emotional abuse, physical abuse, homelessness, and other various struggles- is surviving merely because of a choice. Maybe even because I live in a world that assumes those things will break me, or make me weak.

I am a LOT of things…but weak is generally only used to describe me when cookies are involved (no shame).

I genuinely believe that confidence is something I put on every day. It’s that coat of mascara to make you look a little more awake, or that statement necklace you use to punch up a basic ensemble. It’s the finishing touch to make you feel a little more…complete. And if you do this everyday, soon, it becomes second nature, and you find yourself walking taller, smiling at more strangers, and smiling to yourself because you feel wonderful.

Because you feel like a powerful, wonderful YOU.

Life has issued me many challenges, and I face more and more of them everyday. But knowing that you have those beautiful, strong qualities inside you makes it a bit better. Take a minute each day to “put your confidence on,” and I promise you’ll see some really positive changes. I am at the point now where I feel confident just because I wear matching bra and panty sets (thank you, OCD!).

You deserve to be treated like the amazing person you are. But you have to lead by example, and show the world what you deserve. It starts with you! And if it’s a corny
“Sound of Music” verse (or a Lil’ Wayne freestyle, which also works wonders for me, as well), then SO BE IT!

Sometimes, you just have to fake it until you make it. And that is perfectly fine, if it helps you build that confidence in yourself. Own it, rock it, and SHOW THEM HOW AMAZING YOU ARE!

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Photo: Bing Images

I’m always here in your corner. 🙂

‘Til Next Time! Have a great week!

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Learning to See the Pretty…and Photo Reveal from Agi M Photography!

It may sound a little stupid, but I have gotten pretty used to being “pretty.”

A lot of people think I’m really vain, self-absorbed, or shallow… but the fact of the matter is, I am just catching up. I’m making up for lost time. Making up for all of the years, days, hours and minutes that I told myself I wasn’t good enough.

Freshman Year Homecoming... circa 2002?

Freshman Year Homecoming… circa 2002?

Circa 2009...at karaoke with my Other Mother

Circa 2009…at karaoke with my Other Mother

All the time that I sat there and believed I didn’t deserve to be loved.

That was all, pardon my French BULLSHIT.

Your weight doesn’t determine what how much love you deserve. A bad haircut doesn’t instantaneously disqualify you from being treated with respect. It doesn’t work that way.

When someone says “You are so pretty!”  I smile, and accept the damn compliment with a “Thank you!” and I always try to genuinely return compliments as well.

But there is always that one person trying to rain on my parade and make me think that those compliments are undeserved. And lately, that person has been ME.

I literally cried when I saw that homecoming photo on Instagram. Partly because that point in life is hard to re-visit in general, but also partly because I needed a reminder that no matter how I might think I look or feel at times…I am NOT this girl anymore. I am so much stronger. So much braver. So much more confident in what she deserves.

I was honored and thrilled to be asked to model for The Boudoir Divas recently at their annual Boudoir Photographer Retreat, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I’d been considered in the first place!

I got there, got my makeup done, Candace came and did my hair…I put on my high wasted black panties, black bra, black bustier, and lace robe…and I felt ready!

I felt gorgeous! I felt secure!

As some of the photos made an appearance on Instagram, I started to feel less sure of myself.

As I mentioned awhile back, I ironically LOST weight on vacation in Hawaii. In the midst of my return, I was dealing with things being harder at work, Sean losing his job the day before I departed for Hawaii, and more… and next thing you know, the New Year is here and I’ve gained 20+ pounds.

I was so disappointed. I was so angry. More than anything…I was so ashamed. I pride myself on what I accomplished with weight loss, and here I was, failing. Gaining.

My immediate reaction was fear. Fear of becoming that girl again. So… when I saw these photos from the amazing and talented Agi from Agi M Photography, I was having a hard time seeing the pretty.

I was seeing the cellulite. The HUGE arms. The droopy thighs. The plain face.

(I should disclose that I opened this email Sunday morning at closing ceremonies for Relay for Life, after walking over 30 miles in a weekend, and operating on the one nap I took from 1-6 am. So, I was not the most aware of anything happening!)

You know what? My arms might be huge. But I can change that! My thighs might be droopy… but at least my surgeon said the first revision wasn’t perfect. My face isn’t plain. I’m just a tad dramatic when I see myself NOT smiling. Agi was so much fun to work with; so full of life, so excited, and so passionate about what she does. She is one of those people who you trust instantly, because you feel like you’ve known her forever (she is perfect for this industry, because you’ll recall I felt the same way about the Divas and their MUA Peggy when I very first ventured in. You can read more about that in this post)!

I decided to open the email and re-visit these images this evening, after showing them to Sean last night and sharing how I felt with him last night. If you know my boyfriend, you know he is a huge supporter, and that he loves me for me. And his perspective was not surprising. He said I looked great, and then helped me plan my next steps for fixing what’s really wrong: how I feel inside!

So… here are a few of my favorite shots. Check me out!

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Check out more amazing photos from some amazing women at the retreat in this Boudoir Divas Blog Post! Also, you can connect with Agi M Photography on Facebook! While you’re at it, you need to check out my super talented friend, Candace from Ah La Mode Designs. My phenomenal hair is ALL her doing! Also, the fabulous Peggy with His Blushing Bride who did makeup for all the girls! This was my second makeup run with her, and she is still as fun as the first time I met her!

I’ve rambled on and on… but the moral of the story is… sometimes you have to learn to see past what you hate seeing. See past what you’re struggling with, and know that you are captivating regardless of what a label in a dress or a number on a scale says. You’re not defined by how small your arms are, or how your thighs look. The best thing about boudoir is that it captures your beauty at any size. It’s not about being a Victoria’s Secret Angel… but the fact that you FEEL like one. And that you are captured in a way that puts you right up there with them in rank.

 It’s a gift to learn to see yourself in the eyes of those who capture you the way that Agi captured me. And once I took the time to see that, I found myself re-energized and ready to get back to actually working on those things, instead of avoiding the way they look in photos. I’ll be sharing more from these talented ladies, as I receive them!

That’s all for now… but I won’t be gone for long!

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Beautiful is a CHOICE.

The bottom line.

The bottom line.

Ok.

I try to clarify as often as possible that my journey all along has been about being a better, HEALTHIER version of the person I have always considered myself to be.

I have come a long way, and although I’m still hovering just under 200 lbs, most would agree that I look like a completely different person…but I would like to think that they’ll tell you I’m basically the same Sondra. I still do, say, and wear what the heck I want!

It makes me really sad to think of the old me (the REALLY old me) back in middle school, who felt that her smile was her only redeeming quality.

I ALMOST GAVE UP ON MYSELF OVER THE YEARS.

But there is something to be said for people in the world. I was blessed with friends who claim they never really noticed the fact that I was big….they just liked hanging out with me. People ask me if I still sing, or still go shopping and get the best deals!

I wish I could inspire the world to see themselves for all the great things they have to offer, and let them know that the key is to ACCEPT yourself.

I was NOT happy being 315 lbs. I was miserable, and hated the idea that my life could be made shorter in the long run. I was tired of being tired, and not being able to run more than a block without wheezing.

I may not be a size 6 (But I wear a size 8 dress occasionally….HEYYYY!), but I am happy with my new body. There are still some fine-tunes I have in the works…but overall? I am still strong, and healthy…and just a little more svelte!

My newest challenge to myself is to start ignoring that number on the scale, and focus on how I feel.

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Your weight doesn’t define your worth. It doesn’t measure your significance, and it doesn’t determine your destiny.

All those things? Those are up to YOU!

Me, personally? I am just trying to be a more streamlined version of the weight I am right now. More contoured, if you will.

Here are some of MY ideas of my “Dream Body.” You’ll notice that some of them tend to conflict with my dream bathing suits. Lol.

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My challenge to you?

Take the time to appreciate what you have, and you who you are RIGHT NOW.

If you’re not completely contented, that’s normal….but if you just can’t even think of one thing that makes you proud of the way you look, then I want you to bust out the pen and paper, and start writing out what will change that.

WHAT IS GOING TO MAKE YOU HAPPY WITH YOURSELF?

Once you have made that decision, and you have it in front of you? MAKE IT HAPPEN!

A common problem? Knowing what you need to do, and neglecting to do it. Don’t neglect yourself anymore.

After all, how will anyone else know how to treat you, if you don’t treat yourself accordingly?

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Imagine what the world could be, if we all spend more time accepting ourselves, and in turn accepting the “flaws” and differences in others? I would have binged on FAR less Hostess Oatmeal Creme pies as an adolescent of that one kid on the school bus hadn’t sang the Jenny Craig jingle everytime I boarded in the morning. But I have to ask myself: What gave me the right to hurt MYSELF over his hurtful words? And who cares what he thinks? He tried to pick me up in front of his girlfriend at Albertson’s in the produce section last year! LAME!

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If losing the weight is what you really WANT to do, it can happen. YOU CAN DO IT!

Baby steps. Gradually, you’ll come up with a plan, and you’ll see results.

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When all is said and done, this is one of my favorites:

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Don’t give anyone the power anymore. Take it back, and most importantly, PAY IT FORWARD!

I do my best to compliment others, and let them know that I see something appealing in them. I don’t care if it’s their gorgeous blue bag, pretty nail polish….as trivial as it may be, if it caught my attention, I am going to say something! You know, you never know who needed that little boost of confidence that comes from just the slightest recognition.

With that being said, you all have GREAT taste in blogs. 🙂

That’s all for now, but hey…

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From me to you? You are BEAUTIFUL. And the best way to preserve that beauty is to OWN it.

‘Til Next Time!

XOXO

 

Life is Crazy…

Whew!

Been taking on more responsibility at work, checking out all the fun wedding stuff and trying to live up to the best Maid of Honor EVER status I have set out to achieve, and  also working on planning a baby shower for one of my very dear friends. In the midst of those things, I am also trying to lose a couple pounds before I see the surgeon in just a week, to see if I am a candidate for a Panniculectomy and a thigh lift.

I should clarify that my journey, and the reason I share it, are not because I have the ambitions to be a super skinny Victorus’s Secret bombshell (although I frequently joke about such things…if you knew me before, you know that my narcissistic tendencies haven’t even been increased since losing all this weight. I was always full of myself and had a hard time fitting my head through the door).

I have been so blessed with the opportunities and the motivation that have made this weight loss possible. And now that I have lost a significant amount, and seen the things my body can do…I can’t really see myself settling. Some people think I am crazy for having “cosmetic” procedures, but you know, after weight loss in numbers like this, it actually becomes “Medically Necessary.” So…that means, once again, insurance pays!

And we all know I love my free stuff! Besides…it’s hard to know that I have lost over 120 lbs, but I still can’t wear a two-piece bathing suit (not even slutty!)  because of this ridiculous apron of fat over my pelvic bone. UNACCEPTABLE! Lol.

So, I will at least explore my options, and as always, I will hope for the best!

I came across this on Tumblr, and it made me remember how I used to feel sometimes, so I thought I’d share it.

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I know this to be true! Even at 305 lbs, you’d see me wearing what I wanted (as long as it was tasteful and I could keep my self-respect), and I would be proud of myself and make the best of the body I had.

At the time, this was my absolute fave pik of myself!

At the time, this was my absolute fave pik of myself!

I always have an issue with getting the rudest looks and comments when I wear shorts...but for this birthday, I didn't care!

I always have an issue with getting the rudest looks and comments when I wear shorts…but for this birthday, I didn’t care!

This dress! I never wore it out, because it was always a little big and I never got it taken in...but I made sure we took photos of it!

This dress! I never wore it out, because it was always a little big and I never got it taken in…but I made sure we took photos of it!

And then we fast-forward to now, where I still pretty much wear what I want, when I want, and if you don’t like my lumpy thighs and their excess skin, I’m just kinda like “Bite Me!”

Besides, most times, I choose cuts that are too flattering for all of that. I give you the present (not like you haven’t seen these already, but just for shock factor!)

Yeah...this is definitely my favorite head shot in a looong time!

Yeah…this is definitely my favorite head shot in a looong time!

You'll find I have many more full-body photos these days!

You’ll find I have many more full-body photos these days!

What's that? Shorts, and I let a photo of me sitting down be taken? WOO!

What’s that? Shorts, and I let a photo of me sitting down be taken? WOO!

Moral of the story?

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More than that, make sure that you do what makes YOU happy. When you go to bed at night, make sure that what you think about yourself is that last thing on your mind. Not the words of the ignorant lady at Trader Joe’s who thought you wouldn’t hear her ask her friend “Why would she wear those shorts?” and make you have to get all crazy on her before you can buy your damn edamame and sea salt caramels!

Be happy with you. And if you’re not, do something about it! It’s all up to you…and it’s ok to need help! ASK FOR IT!

That’s my rant and update for now. But I wanted to make sure I posted, and shared that all-over-the-place insight with everyone!

‘Til Next Time!

XOXO