On October 21st we had a Love Your Body event here in Gilbert. Our hope was that women would feel celebrated and safe so that they could begin a new conversation surrounding beauty. With this kind of event we are inviting people into a space of loving and appreciating their bodies, and hopefully being authentic and true to the struggles, pain, or fears below the surface. 

Circles of Change believes this is such a complex issue. When I first began this journey I was under the impression that my thinking and struggles around beauty was about vanity, but the more I discovered and the deeper I dug, I found so many deep wounds that contributed and shaped my damaging view. 

I was taking my pain out on my stomach, or thighs, arms, and chest, but the truth is they were innocent bystanders in my story. They weren't the issue, the way I dissected their “flaws” was. My critique of my body and obsession with food and weight came from a place of pain, fear, feeling unworthy, questioning my value, the realization of how out of control I really am in life, my lack of voicing my needs, and my inability to feel and process some really difficult emotions. It was masked as the quest for the perfect body but really it was a way to communicate the turmoil of my inner most being.

The event was hosted at Webster Farm and the space was truly breathtaking. It was so fun to see women who I have known for years and people I have never met start to trickle in. With each beautiful face I was increasingly encouraged, it was as if each soul was saying, "This is important, this is needed." 

I love watching community happen, and it was unfolding before my eyes. When I saw someone sitting alone I began to walk over and make sure they were included, but before I could even take two steps in their direction, I saw another person sit with them and strike up a conversation. It was magical! Women began eating, and chatting. They sat at the braid bar and shopped our products. Alyssa Wilson , Be You Jewelry, and The Zen Bird donated goods for giveaways at the event and we are bursting with gratitude with their generosity!
Our guests also got their pictures taken at our photo booth, each one writing what they love about themselves as Dream Photography captured each message, each warrior, as they wrote down their favorite thing. 

It was so exciting to see people begin to love on a part of themselves, and it was equally as gut wrenching watching how difficult that can be too. It is so risky to share something about us that we love, its as if we are opening it up to scrutiny. That type of vulnerability is terrifying and I feel honored that you shared it with us. 

As the night went on a few women generously shared their journey with us. We heard about the impacts of social media, and how uncomfortable it can be to share really difficult emotion, but how not sharing those emotions or pretending they don’t exist gets praised as strength. We talked about how so many people are looking to diets that inevitably fail, or restricting food or calories in the search for worthiness and joy. We explored our obsessive chatter on “good food vs bad food” or looking to magazines for the perfect bod, and therefore the perfect life, and how damaging it is for our minds while causing so much stress on our systems. 

It was fascinating to me to hear so many different aspects and perspectives on one issue.  Our discussions served as a great reminder as to how many messages we are bombarded with when it comes to our health, mental health, our bodies, weight, and impossible beauty ideals. They criss cross, contradict, and confuse-keeping us spinning and looking outward to achieve some answers, achieve some peace. 

The outside world and all these messages cannot define this for us. We are each so unique, how could we think all of us can fit under one standard? Our ideal picture of us needs to come from within. 
How do we feel in our skin? 
Are we fueling ourselves with a balanced variety of nutrients necessary for our health or are we dismissing our hunger cues and ignoring our satisfaction? 
Are we moving and exercising with joy and gratitude, or are we doing it to punish?  
Are we energized and feeling worthy or are we beaten down, tired, and exhausted? 

Once we start learning to trust our bodies and not the photo shop, or the fad diet that promises instant results but inevitably lets us down, we begin to experience freedom. We get to take back our space, and own it. This is my body and I choose to determine my weight, my health, my diet. This is a journey that is continuous, it is filled with ups and downs, mistakes and learning. 

I am not doing this work because I have it all figured out, or because I have this down pat in my own life. I am doing it because it is a huge part of my story, of my healing, and I am surrounded by so many who are hurting from these messages as well. I have seen first hand how this kind of change can transform lives and souls. 

I am so very thankful for all the warriors that night who shared, got real, shed some tears, and enjoyed themselves. I continued to experience gratitude for days afterward, as I processed what was entrusted to Circles of Change that night. We take your trust, your risk, your story, your pain, and your triumphs seriously and we cherish them. We hold them dear to our heartbeat of the organization. I appreciate your participation in our circles of change, and I feel so incredibly blessed to be able to do this work! 


About the author: Holli Zehring shared her vision for what is now Ophelia’s Place many years ago, after her first round of treatment for an eating disorder. She has influenced and supports the groups that the non-profit now runs. She is currently working to grow an “Ophelia’s Place West.” Along with chasing her passion for changing the culture around health, beauty, and body image, as well as sharing her journey with mental illness, she is married to psychiatry resident and works hard to raise two kids. She further fills her cup with great books, friends, restaurants, and dabbles in fashion and thrifting.