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What is Beauty?
(Losing weight isn't making you attractive).

For many years, I thought that I had done so many things wrong in my life that nothing good I did was worth anything. I kind of felt as though the good things I did were overshadowed by my many wrong doings. Publicly, I wrote this great facade of being this oh-so-confident person but in private, I thought I was never going to be accepted because I thought I never could reach an ideal weight.

I honestly believed that I was accepted by the people I was accepted by because of how I looked. I thought that the smaller I was the more people would like me and want to befriend me. I don't know how I did it but the summer between my eighth and ninth grade year, I lost forty pounds, without even trying to. People began to comment on it, and, for the first time in my life, strangers would turn their heads as I walked by. I thought that that made me a special person.

Soon it became my intention not to eat. My goal was not initially, to lose weight: it was to not *gain* any weight back. But then several crisis entered my life simultaneously and I was very lonely, very afraid and very uncertain about whether anyone cared about me, so I began to focus on losing weight. I would have kept right on losing weight had it not been for my best friend. One day, he took my face between his hands and he said, "Tiffini, do you really want to die?"

He was near tears and in all the many years I'd known him, he'd never cried. It shook me terribly and I realized that I was working so hard to maintain what I felt was a decent weight (which was actually 22 pounds under weight) that I was not allowing myself to feel any happiness at all. My days had somehow managed to become burdens; lost in avoiding food, throwing the food I was given away, making up half-truths about why I had suddenly become "pale as a living ghost" and dodging the "Are you even eating?" questions.

It has taken me a very long time to realize that I am no different from everyone else. See, I was so used to holding myself to stricter standards than everyone else that I had begun to feel lower than the very people I admired and loved; people who were healthy. I believe, too many times young people, and adults alike, base their actions (such as losing weight and then more weight...) on what they imagine everyone else thinks of them. They think everyone sees them as overweight, so they become anorexic. They think everyone sees them as selfish, so they become compulsive do-gooders. The problem exists because in trying so hard to do what they think will bring acceptance and love into their lives, they lose sight of what's really important and good things that are in their lives.

No one really knows what others think but we do know that we were created equally by a God who loves us, and He's most happy when we're happy. If we're starving ourselves, then how can we possibly be happy? I have finally begun to understand that real beauty, beauty that is worth finding and beauty that is worth being proud of, comes from the heart. It comes from caring about your friends and your family, it comes from doing the things that you know to be right, and it comes from acceptance of yourself for who you are, instead of who you think you should be.

It's still sometimes difficult for me to remember all that, though. Sometimes I will still stand straight up and look down. If I see a "pudge" I will still sometimes panic but I have learned of a way that helps me through those moments. It's a method that helps anyone, for it helps boost self-esteem and if you have self-esteem then the need to please other people is lowered. Every day, I write 5 good things down about myself. Sometimes it's, "I like my eyes" and sometimes it's "I worked hard today" but I write 5 different things down that I can take pride in and whenever I feel panicked or afraid or low, I take that list out and I reread it and read it again. It helps me balance my sometimes irrational and inaccurate thoughts with more realistic ones. We are not all bad and I have never met a truly physically ugly person, ever. Remember that you are no different from anyone else: you have beautiful qualities about you just as your favorite model or actress does. And keep in mind that those spirits that are genuinely happy radiate beauty, from the inside out.