To the Woman Who Taught Me How to Love Myself
Most people say the words “thank you” without much effort or feeling. As a kid we’re taught to always say our pleases and thank you’s; it becomes automatic. Recently, I’ve put more thought into my words, thinking and speaking them with meaning. When desperate for help from a higher power, my please is honest and sincere. When I say thank you to someone, it’s from my heart. So to you, sweet goddess, I say, Thank you.
The past is the past, this I know, but four years ago I was beyond oblivious to the work and the journey that was in store. If you asked me then about loving myself, my head would shake no, and I would utter nothing but words of confusion and denial.
But then I strolled into the gym in downtown Charleston to find you. In the moment we met, as I was struggling in so many areas of my life, everything changed in the best way possible. This change was different. Through radical surgery, I’d already grown from 3’9″ to 5’0″ and I was now a woman, no longer a girl. But those changes were physical. This change, the one that sparked the moment I met you, began in my heart.
“I love you” was nothing but a meaningless phrase to me. I was scared to love. Saying it to my family was one thing but to friends? Seriously? I don’t think so. Love myself? How? What did that even mean? So many uncertainties and so many questions; I didn’t even know where to start. Another phase of my surgical journey was about to begin and little did I know, our meeting was also the beginning of a sisterhood I will cherish forever.
Week by week, you peeled back my emotional layers and kicked my ass. For the first time in a long time, I found comfort in pain. Pain is all I’ve ever known, but it was something I refused, ignored and feared. As each one of those layers fell away, the real me was exposed.
Kristen. Kristen, the girl born with dwarfism. The sheltered, protected child afraid to grow up. The one people always point, laugh and stare at. Always excluded because she is little. The Kristen who listened to her heart and fought for her own independence. The same girl who continued to be unhappy with her body — scared, angry and sad. The woman who was constantly worried how others viewed her and chose to use self destruction as an outlet. Kristen, the 29-year-old woman who has finally begun to accept and fully understand her own story, how to love and how to forgive. That’s me.
This journey of love, acceptance and forgiveness has just begun. The more I own this path I’m on the more connected I feel. A path of no regrets, just lessons learned. One with tears, laughter and glitter along the way. Even though this is my journey, for the first time, I have an accountability buddy — a guide, a confidant, a soul sister. A person I never dreamt of knowing until you walked into my life.
Elli, you’ve been a most extraordinary, beautiful mirror for me — reflecting things back that I’ve never seen in myself before. How to love, dream, accept, forgive, let go and just be raw. You’ve taught me that acceptance and change go hand in hand. You brought love back into my life. You taught me how to love myself.
What you have is a gift. Your gift is invaluable — a never ending bag of glitter. Everywhere you go, you reach in and sprinkle a little bit of that sh*t on everyone you meet. I see it and it is amazing.
Thank you for being you. A radiant, strong, compassionate, fun-loving woman. A woman determined to change the world, one person at a time. Thank you for being a constant inspiration and always fighting for me. For listening, sharing, feeling and trusting. Keep spreading your magic, Elli. I know that just as I’ve been experiencing pain and heartache, so have you. You’re beautiful and strong and just as you’ve told me before… God, she has us. And I want you to know I will always hold a space for you. Always.
Here’s to our future travels, never giving up, speaking our truth, witnessing miracles and practicing love.
With abundant gratitude.
I love you.
For all of November, The Mighty is celebrating the people we don’t thank enough. If you’d like to participate, please submit a thank you note along with a photo and 1-2 sentence bio to [email protected].
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