Beauty is change.
When I was a little kid, I had pretty low self-esteem.
As an adult, that hasn't changed, but the way I think about my self-esteem has.
When I was a little girl playing on my own, my self-esteem was fine. I felt pretty good about myself.
It wasn't until I started socializing with girls my age that my self-esteem started to change for the negative.
When I was very little, little enough that I don't remember my age, I had this amazing bathing suit.
It had a black background and was covered bright pink and yellow and blue flowers. It had a ruffle that ran up just one strap.
In that bathing suit, I felt like my best self. Tanned, and confident and happy and giggling, I raced around the beach and felt the ruffle flutter against my skin.
I felt really beautiful. I felt really free, and it all came so naturally.
That's not a feeling that comes to me now. When I look at myself in the mirror it takes time for me to put aside the negative cognitive self-talk.
On a normal day, I can remind myself that there is nothing innately "bad" or "wrong" about how I look.
"These are just shapes," I'll say to the glass, and some days I really believe it and that feels great.
I remember being fourteen, no makeup, mousey hair, and my mom buying me this green floral print empire cut dress to wear to church.
On Sunday mornings I would put it on and pull my hair back and look in the mirror and play pretend that I was the most beautiful woman in the world, and in that dress, talking to myself in the mirror caught up in a fantasy of my own making, it felt so true.
I can't remember the last time I did something like that.
Now, when I feel beautiful, it's either hard-earned or fleeting.
My boyfriend is one of the most honest people I know, and he's forever telling me how beautiful he thinks I am.
But here's the secret nobody knows, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about how you look if you've convinced yourself that you're ugly, ugly is all that you will see.
I don't think I'm ugly, but I don't think I'm beautiful.
I think I'm a person with a face and body who has a right to exist on this planet.
For right now, that's enough.
For right now, I'm satisfied with the knowledge that I have a body that works, a mouth that smiles, skin that protects me, feet that get me where I need to go.
I close my eyes and try to remember what it felt like it to feel beautiful, and it's a sweet memory, a sweet goal, something to work for, I suppose, but not something I need to be happy.