Stop Simply Surviving, Start Thriving For Real.
How Living as a Survivor Who Embraces Resilience Has Changed Me for the Better
by KiloMarie Granda
Have you ever had one of those “Do as I say, not as I do” moments? That was how I felt when I sat down to write this article. When originally asked to write about positive body image, I first felt flattered, and then came a feeling of hesitation, and finally a horrifying sense of feeling like a hypocrite.
In order for you to understand why this piece was so difficult for me to write, you need to know about the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on around the idea of body image.
Growing up, I was in beauty pageants. I won the title of Miss Teen Texas at the age of 16.
“Beautiful,” my mother said as she pulled my food away from me at each meal to ensure that I did not gain weight.
I learned that my brains were not as important as my looks. I started to challenge myself to be more beautiful than I was the day before. Eventually the mantra “Be beautiful or be nothing” consumed my life.
When I couldn’t compete with myself any longer, I chose to be “nothing.” I gained weight. Within about two years, I went from about 120 pounds to 230. I thought I could hide from my “beauty.” But I couldn’t hide from who I was, what I looked like, or how I felt. I realized that in an attempt to run away from my own feelings, I had trapped myself inside a body that was never quite good enough, or so I thought.
Several years later, when I found that my life was coming together, I lost the weight. I got married, had a beautiful daughter, and was working towards my Ph.D. Despite what felt like a new beginning, I still found myself ignoring some of the difficulties I faced around body image—namely, a partner who criticized how I looked and the expectations of a certain appearance I had set for myself.
I originally visited Dr. Sult for some minor cosmetic work. Several weeks later, when returning for a routine checkup, I asked his opinion on a tummy tuck, thigh lift, and perhaps an entire lower body lift. Dr. Sult took measurements and looked over the various body parts I wished for him to “beautify.”
And then he asked, “Why do you want to have these surgeries?”
When I had no ready answer, Dr. Sult leaned closer to me, looked me in the eyes, and told me that if I truly wanted the surgeries he would do them. He continued on, however, and said that, in his opinion, the surgeries would not make me feel the way I wanted them to … beautiful. If I didn’t feel that way already, these operations would not and could not change those emotions for me.
When Dr. Sult left the room, I wept. It wasn’t until he said the words that I least expected a cosmetic surgeon to say, that no amount of surgery could fix the way I felt about myself, did I realize that I was still crying out for approval. Of course, the fact that the approval I needed was from myself was a lesson that would take longer to uncover.
I left his office that day, undecided about the operations. In fact, undecided about much in my life. Over the next several months, I began to realize that nothing could be changed on the outside to make me happier, until I made the decision to change the inside. So I made steps to find happiness—I left my abusive relationship and focused on my daughter and my career.
And then I experienced an event that would become the catalyst for change. On an evening shortly before Christmas, I was raped by a close, trusted, well-respected male friend.
Throughout the violent events of the night, he repeatedly told me how beautiful my body was.
It wasn’t until that night, and the many nights of recalling the attack afterwards, that I began to realize that I was actually beautiful. I finally realized that the true definition of beauty has nothing to do with how I look.
I am beautiful because of who I am.
I am beautiful because, I although I was a victim, I am now a survivor.
I am beautiful because I have seen hardships, endured trials, and fought battles I never wanted to fight.
Those times left me with a changed outlook, a realization that we, each of us, are beautiful simply because we exist.
I was eventually able to revisit Dr. Sult and know that I was having a procedure because it was what I wanted and not what I thought my body needed. Dr. Sult did a fantastic job. I know, though, that I wouldn’t have been so happy with the procedure, had it been done several years ago.
Although I started out feeling like I’d be a hypocrite to write this article, I realize that isn’t the case. I have learned, from life and from a doctor I hold in high esteem, that you cannot fix on the outside what is broken on the inside.
I hope you remember that you are beautiful and have been created to not only survive throughout each day, but to thrive every day