I’m very proud to share that the original personal story that follows has been re-published by Chicken Soup for the Soul in their book, “Curvy & Confident: 101 Stories About Loving  Yourself and Your Body.”

Feeling beautiful has always been very important to me. Yet for all the years that I hated my body, it didn’t matter what size I was, a part of me wasn’t willing to consider myself as beautiful. The truth was I never saw a full-figured women whose face demonstrated that she felt beautiful exactly as she was.

In early 2009, in the process of writing my book, “Lovin’ the Skin You’re In,” I stumbled upon the Plus Model Magazine website. I was overjoyed to discover a whole other world of beauty. I leafed through the online magazine and read article after article about fashion, movies, events, and so many other wonderful things that opened up my world, expanded my vision, increased my appreciation for my body, and made me feel beautiful inside and out. As I clicked through the pages, and saw a sisterhood of beautiful women of all sizes and shapes, suddenly I didn’t feel like an outcast. Seeing my body through fresh eyes made my confidence soar. And that felt so good that I just had to spread the love and inspire other women to see their bodies as beautiful too.

One day I was shopping in Lane Bryant (a plus size women’s retail store) looking for some great blouses for summer . I buzzed through the store making my choices from the racks and plucking out an armload of clothes ranging in sizes from 14/16 -18/20.

As I made a beeline for the fitting room to try my clothes on, a lovely woman stopped to compliment me on the blouse I was wearing. It was a blue and green mosaic design short-sleeved peasant blouse.

When I dressed that morning, I had deliberately pulled down the elasticized neckline of the blouse to expose my neck and shoulders because I loved the look on me.

As I glanced at the woman who complimented my blouse, I noticed her eyes had a wistful, almost mournful expression. I wondered why. Then I smiled at her and said, “you  know this same blouse would look incredible on you.” I pointed to the rack and told her, “I bought it here. It’s still available. What do you think of getting it?”  I watched as her lovely smile faded and the corners of her mouth turned downward into a sullen frown.

She said, “Oh no, my arms are too fat. That type of blouse is not for me.”

I told her that her thought was probably coming from the screaming meanie critics that are stuck in her head, holding her back from wearing these types of blouses and doing other things she really wanted to do in life. I explained a little further about how the internal voice we all have tries to keep us in self-doubt, and pushes us to be afraid and believe we’re not good enough, pretty enough, or just not able to measure up. But then I reminded her that she’s really in charge and not that voice, and she could choose to take back control anytime she wanted.

Then, in a private moment to myself, I remembered how for years I would never have had  the confidence to bear my arms in public no matter what size I was. All those years lost. So much time wasted on thinking about what? My body? Obsessing about the size of my thighs? Worried about fat arms? How insane!

I was tired of hating myself and feeling ashamed of my appearance. I couldn’t stand it anymore, putting off my life, waiting until I lost weight. I knew that with all the insights I was having, I was finally ready to make the decision to accept my body as I was, with all my imperfections intact. No more sitting around and waiting for perfect. Not me.

Later as I stood at the counter paying for my purchases, I noticed the woman was also there. I asked if she bought the blouse. She shook her head and said, “No, I didn’t, but I got a very similar one. You inspired me. I feel better about myself now.”

I count that as a triumph over the meanies. My guess is that this lovely woman finally got a glimpse of herself from someone else’s eyes, in this case, mine. In the same way that seeing curvy women model beautiful clothes in magazines, inspired me to see myself as beautiful, this woman was inspired by seeing me. Just for a moment she stepped outside the boundaries she had made for herself  and saw what was possible.