The Own Your Beauty Panel: Changing the Conversation at BlogHer '11

BlogHer Original Post

At BlogHer '11 in San Diego, I had the honor of talking about beauty and culture with Kate Harding, Jess Weiner and Karen Walrond and Stephanie Nielson. If you missed the panel (or even if you didn't), I wanted to share the highlights here.

Own Your Beauty

Here's the entire liveblog of the Own Your Beauty Panel.

During the past year, I've thought more about the way I look and am as a person than ever before. Not in the way you might think, though. Rather than picking myself apart and berating myself for my flaws (though I'm human, I certainly still do that), I've started to break free of that standard of beauty I believed in so strongly as a girl reading Seventeen magazine and staring at that Kotex girl in white jeans with the impossibly gazelle-like legs.

I was really looking forward to the Own Your Beauty panel at BlogHer '11, but I was unprepared to stare out at the women in that room and feel such sisterhood with them. Person after person echoed the fears and the anger I had and have regarding body image and what it does to your mental health when it's not good.

We talked about aging. We talked about weight. We talked about all the things you've been writing about during the Own Your Beauty project led by Karen Walrond, Caitlin Boyle and Bonnie Crowder. Sometimes, though, even though you read and you write and you think, you still need to say out loud the very important messages of Own Your Beauty: We are all beautiful. There are no flaws.

One highlight for me was hearing Stephanie Nielson (who was burned over 80% of her body in an accident three years ago) say this:

When I think about beauty, I think we all have our own different stories. My story was different. I was kind of pushed in to a different life, different way of looking. My body was completely different and so I started looking inward in a good way and I thought I can be whoever I want. I can do whatever I want if I -- inside of me is still beautiful. It still likes the same things that my outside did. And so just push that out, push that forward and then that conversation that I had gone without for so long because I felt ugly for a long time and never ... it just came out. And then I saw life in a completely different light.

Sitting next to her and getting her perspective was clearly a lightning bolt. She reminded me of things I know academically but occasionally have to have said out loud to me in order for me to believe in them again.

After the panel, I met a few of the writers who have contributed their syndicated posts to Own Your Beauty. They were glowing, just as wonderful in person as in their profile pictures, and their words have helped me so much. It was cleansing to hug them.

I think Katherine Stone summed up what a lot of us were feeling:

I was startled, then, when tears started flowing as I sat in on a BlogHer panel about owning your beauty. They came tumbling out of my eyes with unstoppable force and I felt silly for it but I could not stop. As I sat there listening to the beautiful and talented Rita Arens, Jess Weiner, Karen Walrond, Kate Harding and Stephanie Nielsen, I felt that more than any other message I needed to hear what they had to say. Not only hear it but take it in, believe it and make it my truth: We are all worthy. At that moment I felt crushed under the weight that I alone place on myself, my unease at accepting that I’m more than enough.

We are enough. We are beautiful NOW, not ten years ago, not ten pounds ago. Now.

More Own Your Beauty on BlogHer

Own Your Beauty is a groundbreaking, year-long movement bringing women together to change the conversation about what beauty means. Our mission: to encourage and remind grown women that it is never too late to learn to love one's self and influence the lives of those around us - our mothers, friends, children, neighbors. We can shift our minds and hearts and change the path we follow in the pursuit of authentic beauty.

Read more about Own Your Beauty or add your name to our statement of belief now.

Rita Arens authors Surrender Dorothy and is the editor of Sleep is for the Weak. She is BlogHer's assignment and syndication editor.


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