As a maturing young woman, I’ve found it so hard to embrace my body the way it is. Some days, I feel so blah and in the dumps. Other days, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Turns out, these thoughts are totally normal. As much as I hate classifying myself into the category “average teenage girl”, the title of this helps me feel at home when it comes to this. Knowing that other girls in my age group have similar thoughts and issues with their body helps me know that I’m not alone, and knowing that I’m not alone helps me feel even more comfortable with the skin I’m in.

I would say that my body positivity issues started when I was younger, maybe ten or twelve. This was such an awkward stage for me and I didn’t feel like I was nearly as good as anyone else. I was raised in a house with four other siblings, all brothers. I was quite a tom boy for a few years. In addition, my parents were strict Christians and had initially home schooled us before sending us to public school so my mom could go back to school and get a job to bring more money into the house. I was socially awkward and younger and smaller than everyone else in my grade. My parents didn’t have the money to dress me in designer clothes and new shoes all the time. Most of my closet was hand me downs. I didn’t feel comfortable with my personality until I moved to a different school in ninth grade.

Initially, the move was very hard for me because I had a select few very close friends at my first school. Through facebook and phone calls we were able to remain close and only drifted apart after graduation. Not only that, but I started making new friends, with all different types of people Guys thought I was pretty (even though I was flat chested and thin as a rail). As I progressed throughout my high school years, I made friends and lost friends and hit puberty. My hips grew wider and I finally could fill an A cup without squishing my boobs together. I was happy. I switched between two high schools frequently, the last move being halfway through my senior year. But overall, my high school experience was beautiful and I still remain in touch with a few great people..

However, during my junior year I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which is a slowed thyroid. My metabolism was slower than most peoples, my hormones were off and sometimes I got bad headaches or felt very fatigued. After being put on a small daily dose of levothyroxine I was feeling much better, but started thinking more about how I should take care of myself. My body is a temple, and I need to take care of it.

I started vigorously working out daily. I began doing an hour of yoga a day either after school or before bed and I bought the groceries to make myself healthy lunches and snacks for school. Eventually, some of my friends began trying out healthier lifestyles and it made me feel so great to positively influence people, even if they stopped their workouts and veggie binges after a few weeks. It was during the summer between my junior and senior year that I decided I wanted to go to school for Nutrition and Dietetics. Thanks to my thyroid problem, I’ve started a life long journey of health and fitness, and I am in love with my major and my college choice.

Right before I started my freshman year at Penn State I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, which you can’t ever get rid of entirely. It made me feel like shit until my first round of antibiotics was finished. I was exhausted and drained of energy all the time. I slept as much as I could and I had searing headaches. My appetite was gone for the most part, but when I did get hungry and try to eat something I became incredibly nauseous. It was so hard to eat, and work out and do the things I loved. Working out and making healthy foods were the times that made me feel happiest and most fulfilled. For a month or so, I was so disappointed with my body.

I ended up finishing my antibiotics move in weekend of college. I was ecstatic. I felt energized and happy and beautiful. I began working out again and eating more.

I go through spurts where I do have really bad stomach upset and lyme symptoms for a few weeks or recently even a few months at a time. However, what I’ve discovered is that even though my passions for health and fitness bring me life;

My body is still beautiful when I skip a week of ab workouts because I haven’t felt well.

My body is still beautiful when I’m sunburnt and all of my Italian friends are tan.

My body is still beautiful when I eat too much dark chocolate because I can’t control my period cravings, and even when I choose fried instead of grilled chicken.

My body is still beautiful when I’m wearing a baggy sweatshirt, and my face is extraordinary when I first wake up without make up and my boyfriend says “Goodmorning Pretty”.

My body is still beautiful even though I can’t fit into my size 2 shorts from last summer. So what? I’ve gained muscle mass and my thick thighs are stellar.

My body is still beautiful even though I cut myself shaving and bruised my knee something fierce during cheer practice.

My body is still beautiful even though my teeth aren’t perfectly straight and my eyelashes aren’t as long as I’d like them to be.

Body positivity isn’t about telling obese people that it’s okay to be obese. It’s not about promoting unhealthy lifestyles just because we don’t want fellow women to feel bad about themselves. Body positivity is about being able to stare at yourself in the mirror and pick out all the beautiful things about yourself, and letting the voice inside your head saying “I’m beautiful” be much louder than all the insecurities screaming at you. Body positivity is about encouraging other women to appreciate themselves as people, and not compare themselves to others, because lets face it, a lot of body structure is genetic. Body positivity is about finding a gym buddy or a healthy eating buddy to help you through your rough workouts, and split a cheesy pizza with when it’s been a rough week. You don’t have to be thin as a rail, or have c cup breasts to be beautiful. Body positivity is about nurturing your body, and keeping yourself in good health in order to live long and prosper in that beautiful temple of yours.

I recommend this. To all women. Race, age, body types aside.

Undress yourself tonight. Completely naked. No pushup bra or lace undies. Look at yourself in a mirror and admire yourself. Because as long as you’re trying to keep your body healthy, or push yourself to reach a new goal, you are beautiful. That’s something I think everyone needs to convince themself.