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Why I love my body just the way it is (ostomy bag and all)

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” – Rumi

I’m 32 years young today and I have an ileostomy. An ileostomy is a lifesaving surgery that left me wearing a bag permanently attached to my lower belly. It contains poop. Yep. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, it happened in 2012 as a result of Crohn’s disease.

Before I had an ostomy, I was miserable about my self-image. I would purposely avoid the mirror and tried hiding behind baggy clothing so that my waistline wouldn’t be noticed. Looking back, I wasn’t even fat. I just felt really uncomfortable in my own skin. Slap a bag onto my body and I just about had it. I was ready to throw in the cards until I realized that it was up to me to create a life and a body that I love.

It was no one else’s responsibility and I was the only one with the power to change how I felt about myself. So I set out on a journey to fall in love with my body and my life. I figured out how to love myself, despite my ostomy, and learned that my soul’s purpose was to help other women to get past their own body image issues to create a body and a life they love.

As Aerosmith so wisely sings: “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” I’ve been singing those lyrics for years, but never really stopped to think about them. Do you find that you’re constantly making a list of what you’ll wear, what you’ll do, who you’ll hang out with... once you’ve lost 20 pounds? Or once you get a tan? Or once you become successful? I’ve been there, but here’s a secret for you: if you keep putting off X till when Y is completed, your ideal life will always exist in the future.

Figure out why you want to lose weight/be successful/{insert ideal life goal here} and then go one step deeper and pinpoint the feelings that you’re chasing after. For example: Once I lose weight, I’ll feel fresh, slim and confident. Boom. Those are your ideal feelings. Then start doing things today that make you feel fresh… like drinking tons of water throughout the day, eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and taking a hip-hop dance class. You’ll start to feel instantly fresh, slim and confident… and guess what? If you do this every day, your body and mind will start to change as well.

You are not your body. Sometimes it gets overwhelming to hang out with guys that are my age who are constantly talking about how hot certain models or celebrities are on Instagram. They throw around half-nude pictures and get all googly-eyed at these beautiful women. I’m not going to lie, sometimes this would bother me, but when I feel bothered I always know it’s a reflection of how I’m feeling about myself. I’m losing sight of what’s most important.

The reason it bothers me is that these beautiful women don’t look like me — they don’t have a bag hanging off their stomach, and I won't ever look like them. Can you see how easy it is for me to feel totally belittled by this? But I choose not to feel self-pity, so here’s what I do instead: I appreciate their beauty, and then I go back and appreciate my own beauty.

I am not my ostomy bag. I am not my body. I’m a kind-hearted daughter, sister, and friend. I’m the friend who waits until you get inside, with the door locked before I drive away. I’m the girl who writes and sings music from my heart. I’m the yoga instructor that inspires you to be gentle to yourself. I’m the friend who shows up authentically and gives you permission to do the same. That is who I am. And that is beautiful.

What blessings has this brought? If I choose to #ROCKTHEBAG, how will it help others? How is this experience allowing me to be of greater service in the world? My entire life is filled over the brim because I have chosen to allow my ostomy bag (my biggest so-called “flaw”) to elevate me rather than bring me down. Knowing that I have helped others just by sharing my story is more than enough to make me feel beautiful. I love that I can be of this service to others.