On How I Learned to Love Myself

 
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I was recently in a workshop with mostly women and one of the first things we did was go around the circle and share our intentions for why we came to the training; what we hoped to get out of it. Almost every single student brought up the topic of self-love; how they hoped to love themselves more and grow comfortable in their own skin by the end of the training. As each brilliant, beautiful, talented woman shared their struggles with self-love and self-acceptance, I sat there literally in shock, thinking to myself: "How can this be? How can almost every woman have this struggle and not see how unbelievably radiant they truly are?"

This moment brought me back to my early college years - to a time when I felt disempowered and didn’t know how to love myself. I had just turned twenty years old and had recently left school to pursue modeling- something at which I convinced myself I wanted to succeed. I spent 6 months living and working in Israel, where my agent would take me around everyday to meet photographers, designers, and others industry people. I was met with enthusiasm each time and encouraged that I would be successful one day for my physical beauty - what a gift, right? Not quite for me. From the moment I started working, I felt there was something missing and I struggled to find enthusiasm in the work myself. From the outside, everyone thought I was doing something really cool, but on the inside I often felt numb and sad to everything that was happening around me. There were numerous nights when I would cry myself to sleep because I felt empty inside- disconnected from the experience I was in. Impressionable as I was, I continued with this work and was pushed from the outside to keep going. I would think to myself: “Tal, people would kill to be doing what you’re doing- get it together and keep going.”

I was told numerous times that I wasn’t thin enough at 110lb, which made me conscious about how much food I was putting into my body. I would look in the mirror and dissect my physical body- "was I narrow enough? Was I tall enough?” I spent hours at a time looking at photographs of famous models, wishing I could be like them; hoping that one day I would. Even though on the inside, deep down, I felt disempowered and trapped by this work. People I worked with often commented that I was quiet - it’s because I didn’t even know what to say; I didn’t know my own voice. Internally, I felt passive and silenced.

Six months into working, I was sexually taken advantage of by an older man in the industry, who promised me success and fame, and it was only then that I finally made the decision to quit modeling. I called up my agent one morning in tears and said to him, “I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.” I had gone too far and knew it. I subsequently spent the next 6 months working through a depression that left me paralyzed. I knew I would have to rebuild from the ground up; I would have to start from the inside out.

Through carefully unpacking my experiences, really looking at myself and what was important to me; through cultivating deep and profound self love and self worth, I began to rebuild myself into the woman I am today. I began to find my own voice, and ask for what I needed. I began identifying what my values were and making life decisions that aligned with those values. I stopped comparing myself to others- realizing the harm the comparison epidemic has on young women. I nourished my body with the right amount of food and exercise, in the way it longed for. Most importantly, I started to offer myself unconditional love and acceptance. I learned to become my own best friend and to tenderly love all parts of myself. These shifts changed the rest of my life and leave me as an empowered, independent, and confident woman.

I share my story in hopes to inspire young woman that there is another way; that you are not alone. We all feel low self esteem at times, we all compare ourselves with others, we all struggle to love ourselves - and there is another side.

My own experiences combined with observing the longing so many women have to love and accept themselves has sparked a huge calling inside of me. I want to work with women in their twenties to tackle these issues head on; to support them in their journey of self love, self worth; to empower them to love their bodies, to quit comparing, to find their voices, to claim their sexuality, and to step into the powerful woman that lays in each in every one of us. To remember that true beauty is an inside job.

Maya Angelou once wrote: “Sister, open your heart, fling your hopes high and set your dreams aloft. I am here to hold your hand.” I am taking a powerful stand for young women to love themselves, to dream BIG, and to claim their voices - I will be there to support each of them every step of the way.

More to come <3
T xx

Talia GutinComment