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The Key to Beauty and Acceptance Is You

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I read this quote the other day, and I have to say, nothing has shaken me to the core more.

I was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy at the age of two, and ever since, I’ve struggled with loving myself and with having self-confidence.

For the most part, you wouldn’t know I have a serious physical disability aside from my visible limp, my difficulty getting up and down stairs, and my tendency to fall when I get weak. I was never able to do sports growing up like my friends and often had to enroll in special Adaptive Phys Ed classes in school.

I always felt my disability separated me from my peers growing up, so I put up an emotional wall and convinced myself that I had to wear the latest clothes, have perfect skin, and have the perfect body in order to “blend in” with everyone around me—in order to be truly loved. Then maybe I would be considered beautiful.

Then maybe no one would notice I was different. If I just looked like those Victoria’s Secret models, then someone would accept and love me.

So often we look to external things to define our beauty, most commonly, our physical appearance. We think that if we just fit into the mold that society has told us is “good looking” then we’ll feel good about ourselves and will gain acceptance.

I put a lot of value in being in a relationship too. Because of my disability, I was extremely shy for a long time and very insecure. All I wanted was a guy to come along, sweep me off my feet, and fall in love with me.

Then I thought I would truly be like everyone else, because I would have someone (other than friends and family) there all the time telling me that I was loved and valued.

In today’s world especially, it’s hard not to feel like our lives need to have a certain set of circumstances for us to truly be accepted.

With things like Facebook, we’re exposed to all the intimate details of a lot of people’s lives at one time. When they get engaged, married, have children, or are traveling the world with their fabulous jobs, we know almost instantly.

For a lot of us, that creates increasing internal pressure to have our life be a certain way because we think that’s what we need to feel happy with ourselves and be accepted in the world. We look to all of these other things outside of ourselves to feel beautiful and to feel accepted when the whole time, the only person who can truly allow us to feel these things is staring back at us in the mirror every day.

After I read this Thich Nhat Hanh quote, I went to clean the bathroom in my house and was suddenly overcome with emotion. I realized that all those things I’d been doing were what I thought I needed to do for everyone else to accept me, when in reality, I wasn’t accepting myself.

Whether it was having a boyfriend, having a lot of friends, or looking “perfect” all the time, I was trying to show everyone else, “Hey! Look! Someone loves me! I have value now!”

Really though, I was the one who didn’t like that I was different.

I was the one who couldn’t accept this disease I was born with. I had amazing friends and an incredibly supportive family who didn’t care if I walked with a limp or not—people who didn’t care that I couldn’t run a marathon or that sometimes I needed their help getting up a curb.

I was even told growing up how beautiful I was, but I couldn’t understand why I never felt like it.

It’s because I wasn’t truly being myself and accepting myself. I didn’t feel beautiful, and no amount of people telling me I was beautiful was going to change that. I was letting a circumstance I was born with define me and define how I thought others saw me.

In our extremely visual culture I think we all struggle with the idea of “beautiful.” And it can feel like no one ever really says “Just be yourself, love yourself, and accept yourself. That is true beauty.”

Beautiful doesn’t mean being physically attractive or looking like those people we see on TV or in magazines. It’s not defined by having or not having a significant other or by how many friends you have. We’re all born with our own struggles, and beautiful isn’t defined by those either.

Beautiful means just being and loving you!

I wasted many years trying to do everything I could to be considered beautiful by my peers and by society. Comparing myself to others and wondering why my life wasn’t like this or that.

The thing we don’t realize is that all along, we are already beautiful. Just for being ourselves. And we are the key to accepting ourselves—no one else.

There’s only one of each of us, and this is our chance to really live, so why waste our hard-earned energy trying to gain acceptance from everyone around us and trying to make ourselves look perfect in order to feel loved?

When you start down that road to self acceptance—that road to truly loving who you are, flaws and all—it’s then that you can truly open yourself up to being beautiful, for you and no one else.

Photo by La Melodie

Avatar of Jaclyn Witt

About Jaclyn Witt

Jaclyn Witt is a 20-something who was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. She currently lives in Southern California and works as an Editorial Assistant. Her website http://imaspiring.wordpress.com details the trials and tribulations of being single and having a physical disability.

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  • http://exciramedia.com/ Shannon Steffen

    Thank you so much, Jaclyn, for opening yourself to us and sharing such a deep strength that many lack because of their own fears.

    I have Fibromyalgia and, after 12 years of being sick without knowing why, I was diagnosed in April 2010. My world went into a tailspin as I started thinking about all the things I wouldn’t be able to do and comparing my life to the lives that my friends were sharing online. It was only in the last few months that I handed over all my fears to a higher power and allowed myself to learn who I truly am without all the societal noise.

    It’s an amazing feeling when you let go of trying to be like everyone else. As you wrote, there is only one “us” and it is about time we start to accept who we truly are inside and out.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. :)

  • Lv2terp

    Such a powerful and beautiful post!!! Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing so deeply!!! :)

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank YOU Shannon! It’s so great to hear from others with the same struggles. I love that you referred to it as “societal noise” too and it is such an amazing feeling when you finally learn to tune all that out and just be. All the best!

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank you so much for the great feedback! It’s truly an honor to be published on Tiny Buddha, a site that’s helped me so much in the past few months and truly allowed me to become vulnerable for the first time in my life. :)

  • tqH2pz

    “In our extremely visual culture I think we all struggle with the idea of “beautiful.” And it can feel like no one really ever says “Just be yourself, love yourself, and accept yourself. That is true beauty.””
    Thanks you for this. It’s very powerful and I need to keep reminding myself of it.

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    This is such a beautiful and open piece.  I loved reading about your journey to self-acceptance and your honesty is touching!

    I know it’s a cliche to say this, but I truly don’t measure “beauty” by appearance.  I get mocked all the time for calling grey, rainy days gorgeous (why is it so wrong to consider them just as beautiful as sunny days?!).  Everyone I’ve ever dated won me over only after I got to know them and was attracted to their personality first.  I often “sense” something in people I meet that I think is beautiful and that’s what draws me to them.  So physical differences do not make someone less (or more) beautiful to me in the least!

  • http://www.theadventurecouple.com/ Mantagirl

    very nice piece.  It’s so hard in this world not to compare ourselves.  It takes a great deal of strength to accept ourselves and step into greatness.  Thank you for sharing

  • JamesSimon

    I live in NYC and very often I encounter what I call “husks”… people that are beautiful on the outside and empty on the inside and it saddens me.

    I have a friend whose grandmother is in her 90s and has been battling illness. She sent me a photo and mentioned how awful she looked. I was bothered by this and told her that what I saw was the embodiment of beauty; a woman who has fought for so long and will not give up. A woman who has seen and experienced things that still finds the strength to push on in life. Beauty IS skin deep, but what is under that skin defies beauty.

    Both of today’s insights are tremendous and I applaud both Jaclyn and Justb for sharing and want you to both know that I see your beauty through your words and you both inspire me to be better.

  • Mike :)

    Lush! Its great to be on the same site as people who truly know the definition of beauty :)

  • Steph

    Thank you for sharing, Jaclyn. I am grateful that I came across your story. I was shopping for dresses online earlier and stressing over which dress would cover most of the huge scar on my thigh. So, Thank you for the fresh perspective :)

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank you for reading Steph! I have a big scar on my left leg as well from the muscle biopsy I had done when I was 2, so I completely understand the self consciousness there. Thankfully we are all so much more than our scars and our limps :)

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank you James! What a great story about your friend’s grandma also. 90+ years of experience and living and wisdom…that is definitely beautiful.

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    It is very hard, especially with all the images we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Thank you for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank you Alannah! It’s not always easy being so vulnerable on such an open plane as the internet but great responses like you have made it worth and then some and have also made my entire year! I wish we all could see the beauty in one another and in life in general like you find in rainy days and your fellow human being.

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank you! I definitely need to remind myself of it still too. It’s a daily struggle but it’s great to know we aren’t alone and can all support each other in knowing we are all beautiful!

  • Itsme_sarah

    I have recently been diagnosed with major depression and anxiety disorder and self acceptance is something that seems to be the root of my problems. This post made me cry. I long for the day when I can just let go of the self hate, the criticism, the constant comparison of myself to others… I am at the beginning of a long road to recovery, but look forward to the freedom and inner peace that comes with self acceptance.
    As for you, I believe you are an amazing and beautiful person. You are correct, you’re disability does not define you any more than my mental illness defines me (something which I have also struggled with, believe me!!) I’m currently studying occupational therapy and am so inspired by the people I meet through my work. People living with disabilities are some of the strongest, most inspiring people I’ve ever met. I consider it a blessing that in my line of work I get to meet so many wonderful people. I’m sure you are no different.
    Thank you for your post and thank you for being you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ninadanielle Nina Danielle Lozada

    Its kinda funny because when you stop caring about other people opinion thats when people accept you and like you more for being yourself. And then admire you for being truely happy with life. You cant be happy making anyone else happy

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank you Sarah! What an inspiring story and I wish you all the best on your journey. I know I’ve been incredibly inspired by others in the disabled community, so many of whom have a much more debilitating disease than I do. It’s amazing what we can learn and how much we can relate to one another.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Denise-Giesea-Canellos/1334797184 Denise Giesea Canellos

    Jaclyn, this is the lesson most of us learn – if we are lucky – in our twenties, physical disability or not. We so often think that the public persona others put out for us is all there is, when in reality they have as many insecurities as we do. Believe me, there are people wishing they could be like you!
    Excellent post, I look forward to reading more from you.

  • JD

    wow- this could not be more timely. Been recently told that at 33 ,have polycystic ovarian syndrome. The downside is huge- infertility and sugar intolerance – a precursor to diabetes.Worse are the side effects- acne , facial hair and crown baldness. At times I don’t know what upsets me more – the downside or the side effects. And have had to admit it , feeling very small that the side effects are harder to deal with. But with the support of my wonderful husband who insists I am gorgeous when he gets me my morning cuppa in bed, am learning to take life one day at a time. Have gone back to University (extramural) and starting volunteer work has helped me immensely . As I go down the IUI/IVF track, here’s to living and loving myself and being strong! 

  • Emjayc673

     Me too.  I am just now coming through my anxciety disorder and depression.  It is a long slog, but you will get there, just believe in yourself.   I understand how this feels and it is not nice.   Keep going…

  • MF

     Your article is so full of wisdom and compassion.   It’t beautiful and uplifting to read.   THANK YOU!

  • Michaela

     Thank you Sarah for your post. I too suffer with major depression and anxiety and like you I struggle with accepting myself as I AM.   My critical voice can be very loud and cruel (and the comparing to others etc. etc.).  I don’t want to be defined by my mental health problems either.    I also feel I am at the beginning of a long road to recovery and hope to find a way to accept myself unconditionally.   I started on antidepressants but now realise that tablets will never be enough.  They may help to lift me out but the inner work to find my beauty and peace has to come from me.  I am reading books on self-compassion and mindfulness and it just makes so much sense.  I am trying to meditate regularly and live more mindfully.  But I know that this is a process and it will take time.  Sometimes its really hard and I just feel like giving up.  But the article by Jaclyn and your reply Sarah show me that I am not alone in this struggle.  That there is compassion and we can learn to truly accept ourselves just as we are.  I wish you luck on your journey.  Good to hear from you.

  • http://www.stopstressandanxiety.com/ Mulkurnia

    Thanks for the article and the beautiful quotes by Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh.  When one is able to accept oneself, no matter what other people say about you does not really matter.  It definitely takes a great courage to accept oneself and to stop comparing with others.  To Jaclyn, may you be well and happy.

  • lovelypink

    its just sweet …now i hav learnt 2 acpt myself fr who i am :) 

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank you Michaela for sharing your stories. I myself have struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and I admire you both so much for sharing your stories and struggles! I grew up feeling completely alone and that no one understood what I was going through so to hear that you realize you’re not alone means so much. You are definitely not alone and it’s so great the internet can bring us all together.

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank you so much! May you be well and happy also.

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    That’s fantastic! I’m so honored to have helped with that :)

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    I admire your fantastic attitude JD! Helping others amongst your own struggles. Best of luck with the IUI/IVF track. Sending you lots of love and positivity!

  • Sharon

    I just read this at work and I’m tearing up.  I am printing this out and keeping a copy by my bedside.   You truly are a BEAUTIFUL person, Jaclyn!

  • http://twitter.com/J2theDW Jackie

    Thank you Sharon! Reading that you were going to print it out and keep by your bedside actually brought tears to me eyes :)

  • Sad

    This story resonates to me. I am a black female. We are constantly bombarded with messages our bodies, our hair, our skin color and our features are “too much”, “too big”, and ugly. I too wanted to look like a Victoria’s Secret model. I have an eating disorder now and want to be white more than anything – white or Asian – so others will treat me as normal and beautiful. Racism really gets to you. Feeling kind of sad tonight, and wishing I were not there.