I wish mirrors were more like x-ray machines so that when we looked at ourselves we could see our hearts beating, our brains thinking, our liver detoxing, our lungs breathing, and our blood flowing. Maybe then we would see more than stretch marks, flab, and big thighs. Maybe we would see ourselves in an entirely different light, and be thankful and amazed instead of critical and harsh.

I spent a lifetime believing that I hated my body. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t disgusted, ashamed, and embarrassed. From as early as kindergarten I was self-conscious about the way I looked. I never had any kind thoughts or words about my outward appearance.

I never set out to abuse my body, and I never intended to hurt myself by dieting, disordered eating, and unhealthy behaviors. What started as a quest for perfection and a desire to fit into a certain mold, morphed into a dangerous game that I eventually lost.

I was 28 years old when I realize that I loved my body after all. The day is burned into my mind, and although it is painful, I sometimes force myself to remember. I do this when I find myself slipping back into old thought patterns, and forgetting the lesson that I learned that day…the one that changed my life.

A hard chair, a waiting room, blood draws, and paralyzing fear all define the moment when my intense love for my body was overshadowed only by the fear that it may be too late. I suddenly realized that there was much more to my body than its shape. I realized that for so many years I had taken for granted its loyalty to me. I was suddenly intensely grateful for each and every part of it. Each organ, system, and tissue that tirelessly work together to keep me alive, became cherished instead of ignored.

I let the concept that I am fearfully and wonderfully made wash over me like a wave of comfort, and through the fear and regret, I also found hope. I made a vow that day that I would no longer value my body only for what it looked like. I promised myself that I was done squandering the gift that was given to me.

I can’t get back the years that vanity stole, but I like to think that I can somehow re-capture them and give them away as gifts to girls who may be struggling.

To every girl out there who looks in the mirror and sees only imperfections and flaws, I urge you to look harder. If you really concentrate, you just may see the miracle of life in your heart beat, the energy that flows through your veins, the intricate systems fighting epic battles with infection and disease, and the faithful pulsing of the lungs that bring life-giving breath.

Our bodies have an innate ability to heal and be well. Mine did, and yours can too. We were designed with a genius that passes all human understanding, and when we let go of worldly standards and expectations, we are set free.

Jill Tetherow

Jill Tetherow is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator with a Master’s Degree in Child, Youth, and Family Studies. She has a passion for youth development, prevention practices, and holistic living. She recently launched a project called "The Becoming Effect," which is focused on guiding girls through adolescence in a natural way, empowering them to love and care for themselves as they make the transition from girl to woman. You can follow this project at www.thebecomingeffect.org.