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Inspiration Comes From Within

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I can remember as a young girl looking at my mom with awe as she went out for the evening. She was in a fitted sparkly dress with high shoulder pads, black tights, and black heels. Her hair was perfectly feathered on each side and her cheeks had the perfect color pink on them. As she leaned in to curl her eyelashes and apply one more layer of eye shadow, I waited for her to spray her perfume as I could smell the remnants of it well after she left. She grabbed her purse and kissed me goodbye. I smiled back as I knew I wanted to be just like her.

As time went on, I began to mimic all her behaviors. I would dress up in her clothes, stuff my bras with her shoulder pads that I would cut out of her outfits (she was not too happy about that, but hey I needed some boobs!). I would put on my leggings and headband and exercise to Jane Fonda. She loved to hate working out, but that was important to her. She wanted to keep her figure and her husband happy, and I admired that. She worked hard and long hours as a nurse, and seemed to have it all figured out. She was the epitome of a strong woman, ahead of her time.

As I got older, I was very into school and sports. I was most definitely a tomboy, and felt very awkward about my appearance. I looked nothing like my mom. I was underdeveloped, and I didn’t look like the other girls. My hair was stringy, my glasses were too big for my face, and I gave Gumby a run for his money. But I was proud of myself for my academic and athletic accomplishments. I put aside my feelings on my appearance and focused on the things that were important and what I loved. As I look back, I had it right back then, my priorities that is. This would be the last time I prioritized my looks and body image last, like it should be. I don’t know exactly when it switched, but when it did, it stayed as my main identity.

I can remember one day I overheard my parents discussing the idea of the “ugly duckling.” If you are not familiar with the story, the premise is that the ugly duckling turns into the beautiful swan. Well, my mom had confidence that it would happen (or at least pretended to), but my father had a very different approach. If I didn’t turn into this beautiful swan, at least the ugly duckling would be one that was smart, athletic, funny and much more. It made sense to me. It probably should have hurt my feelings (maybe it did subconsciously), but I understood. What I did not understand is the world of beauty and appearance was seeping slowly but surely into my brain. I continued to push it aside, but just like in school and sports, I wanted to improve and be the best me. I was driven, and this was just another area where I was going to succeed.

I did succeed. But at a price that was too high. I achieved my goals, but lost myself. I inspired to be the best of the best, and like all of these people for the wrong reasons. But who was Erin? I was just a combination of the many imitated women in this world. I was whatever someone wanted me to be; I was someone that was the conclusion of the many opinions of me; I was…..everyone yet no one. I lived my life like this for so long, only remembering the tiny broken pieces of that smart, innocent little girl that had real drive, passion, and ownership.

I needed to find her, and it wasn’t through others, but it was within me. I never understood that you can inspire yourself. I mean even as a little girl in school we wrote about who inspired us and not one person said themselves. Others are supposed to inspire you, right? Yes correct. But you are also supposed to inspire yourself. And not just in the times of positivity and accomplishment, but most importantly, when you are at your lowest. When you think you have nothing to offer yourself or others, when you are at your least desirability. This is when you look deep within and get to know you and who you are when you are stripped down. There will be times like this periodically no matter who you are. We may have different stories, different experiences, and different filters in which we process information, but we all need to find our inner strength and become our biggest inspiration.