She posted a selfie.

I met a woman a little over a year ago who has inspired me to change my life. I realize that that sounds a bit overwhelming. It sounds a little cliche, and a little dramatic. (Since when have I not been both of those? Ha!)

I didn’t know it when I met her, but she has influenced my life in so many ways that I don’t even think she knows how deep it goes. She is a professional colleague that has turned into a great friendship. She is one of those people that I work with that just gets it. She gets my side of the desk, I get hers, we’re both strong female personalities that let nearly nothing get in our way. We are gentle hearted and truly love what we do. But we connect on a higher level. We are both passionate about things outside our jobs. We are both plus sized. We both are always on the go and trying new things. We have both struggled with body image, self-esteem, and confidence. (Although you may not see that when you meet us!)  On January 1st of this year she started a project called “Daily Selfies”.

At first I wasn’t sure if I understood why she would want to do that. When I post selfies I have been told that I am narcissistic, full of myself, and self-centered. She threw that out the window and stuck with it. She has taken selfies every day. Some full body, some just her face, and others here and there. I found when I would look at my Instagram feed that I didn’t see someone who was self centered. When she posted the pictures I saw a beautiful woman finding her beauty. Someone who has also been told that she is ugly and finding her footing in the social hierarchy. Why can’t we be confident, successful women, who also feel beautiful in our own skin?

For a long time, I hated myself. I hated what I looked like, I hated who I was, and I hated pretty much everything about me. The self talk in my head was never positive, It was demeaning, hurtful, and rude. It was simply a miserable way to live. But I lived it, and I lived it for many years. I was constantly judging what I put in my mouth and I knew if I just lost a few more pounds I would be forever happy. Losing the weight would help me achieve what I always wanted: To be happy.

What I didn’t realize, is that happiness isn’t connected to the scale. That it’s not connected to my pant size. That it’s not connected to anyone else but myself. I spent so many years hating what I looked like and instead of having the conversation on “what makes you happy” the conversation was “you need to do this to make you happy”.

Thailand, October 2014

Thailand, October 2014

How does all of this relate back to traveling? I almost didn't go on this trip to Thailand. I was afraid to spend a week solely in my swimsuit in public with other people. I was going to hold myself back because of the way I look and what others may think of me.

It was the wrong conversation to have. It was a conversation that was never ending in my head and something that has been a struggle to overcome. But how do you overcome something that has been ingrained in your head for years?

About three weeks ago she posted a new selfie of herself in her new swimsuit. I was STUNNED. Someone who I admire, who I find absolutely stunning, strong, confident, smart, and beautiful, had enough guts to show her plus size body in a swimsuit selfie. I. Would. Never. Do. That. Ever.

But then I got to thinking about it. Why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I celebrate my body for exactly who I am and what I have made it? I have been through an incredible rollercoaster in the past seven years since I graduated college. I have had three major surgeries, been consistently sick for about five years of those, moved three times, and started four new jobs. I have a lot to be proud of, but I have a lot of work still to do. But because of my friend and colleague had the courage to do it…Why couldn't I? Why if I see a beautiful woman in the picture with the swim suit on, why can’t I have that courage? It seems like an overnight change. My whole self conversation has changed, just because of one picture, of one concept.

Because of this inspirational woman, I have started to go in the right direction. I may not be posting daily selfies, but I can tell you that I am going in the direction of self-confidence, self-acceptance, and feeling beautiful right in my own skin. Here is the first step: posting a picture of myself in a swimsuit.

Jen Mathews, you are inspiration and life changing. Your journey to find your beauty has not only impacted you but those around you. A little project that may have been simple has created ripples in the water effecting far more than you could have ever imagine. Get it girl. Keep up the amazing journey because we are all here behind you supporting you and finding our own way. You are incredibly inspiring. Thank you for simply being you and taking us on this journey with you.