Kyira: “What made you want to be a part of the #ReclaimBeauty project?”

Beth: “Uh, it interested me because…well, to not see something that’s…(pause)…you know, from society’s standards, everything has, it’s like people almost have to look a certain way or be a certain way to be acceptable and I have always felt like I was competing with, you know, it’s like how ever you are supposed to be, because…ugh, I am sorry I am nervous…”

Kyira: “That’s completely understandable. It’s hard stuff to talk about. We can go as slow as we need to.”

Beth: “Okay, um, well, I guess overall, I think the project really caught my attention because it’s like, ‘Oh, this is something like a photoshoot and project for and about people who don’t all look a certain way’. And I never thought I could be a part of something like this because of my body type…I have always been overweight. You know, it’s like, I love the show America’s Next Top Model and I used to always think that would be so cool to be a part ofit but the problem is, you have to be built a certain way. Present a certain way. They even consider, like, size 12 or 14 to be plus sized and I mean, that makes me think that if they consider that big, then what does that make me when I am a size 22/24. Am I monstrous or something? You know, so it always kind of made me feel like I shouldn’t be a part of things because, like I said, I have been over weight my entire life and I got teased a lot in school. Um, even up until or through 9th grade, you know, I never got dates or anything like that because I was never…”

Kyira: “You didn’t fit all of the designated criteria…”

Beth: “Exactly. And that made me feel not pretty or like I couldn’t call myself pretty. And I thought that something like this project where I can stand before people and say that you don’t have to look or be a particular way to feel pretty was important, not only for me but to help other people in their journeys as well. I mean, it took me a really long time to even get to a point to begin to feel good about myself. And I mean, I still judge myself regularly for the way I look or things I wish I wouldn’t.”

Kyira: “And maybe this is kind of that next piece in the journey then of not only taking yourself out of that predetermined box but also just helping to shatter that box for everyone so that no one else feels compelled to fit inside of it. Because no one should have to, I mean when you are a kid, no one should have to worry about things like whether or not they meet the right criteria to be asked out. You should just be able to be you and have friends and enjoy the time you have to really get to know yourself.”

Beth: “Yeah because that just makes you feel less than, you know? I mean my childhood was hard enough, like at home and everything, without having the added layer of all of this stuff too.”

Kyira: “And I feel like that connects with the next piece too. So thinking about culture, we have talked a little bit about the peer culture you were surrounded by growing up and the influence that had on you. How do you think other parts of your culture - family, community, society at large - impacted the way you thought and felt about yourself and your ability to claim the word beautiful for yourself?”

Beth: “Well, I guess, in my family culture, most of my family was over weight. And that made it difficult to know anything else. And like I said, the way I was treated in school and everything, it seems like to reclaim your beauty when you are the overweight kid, and think you are beautiful is really starting a journey that seems impossible. I mean, it really has taken me years to even get to the point I considered the possibility of being beautiful. So for me, I think all of my circumstances surrounding me impacted my ability to start that journey very much.”

Kyira: “Yeah for sure. And I am wondering too, as a business owner who has come up through these more difficult experiences and feeling left out, do you feel like these things have impacted your ability to feel confident in your business or connecting with people in the community? I mean, especially as a creator where you really do have to be at the forefront of everything and have to really believe in yourself and the worth of you and your product.”

Beth: “You know, I think being a creator is a way for me to get away from things. I mean, I tell people that quilting is my therapy. Like, I feel like I have had a lot of points in my life where it felt like my world was just crashing down and to have quilting by my side, I have been able to turn to something positive that allows me to get lost in my creativity and feel more complete and whole.”

Kyira: “So that can bring you a more solid sense of self to have your work to turn to and that carries with you then in the business and sales side of things?”

Beth: “Yeah absolutely.”

Kyira: “I mean especially in thinking then about the connection your art allows you to have with people who see it and engage with you. It is a very different way of building those intimate connections.”

Beth: “Exactly.”

Kyira: “That really resonates with me too. I mean there are a lot of times I do not feel as worthy and valuable in my body or skin but to have this extension of myself that allows me to remain connected to others in a different way can leave me feeling more whole than I otherwise would.”

Beth: “Yeah absolutely.”

Kyira: “So what do you think has been the hardest part for you in this journey?”

Beth: “Um, well like I said, I have gone through so many obstacles and I think getting to the point where you try to not care about what others think so much or for me, becoming more independent, have been huge for me. I think one of the hardest things for me was when I got separated and divorced. Things just fell apart for me. I was in, like, a whole new world. I felt completely on my own. And as hard as that was, it was one of the best things for me because I started to think and do more for myself and really get connected with myself. I learned that it was okay to be good to myself which I think is something a lot of people struggle with. And for me, it allowed me to find out more about who I am. I mean, I am the crazy, silly girl who likes to dye my hair fun colors and I love that about myself. It just took going through those obstacles to find myself and to see how great I am on my own.”

Kyira: “Yeah that is so true that I think so many of us struggle to feel okay caring for or getting to know ourselves as we are always taking care of others or getting swept into the forces of culture and society that keep us chasing something outside of ourselves.”

Beth: “Yeah and I mean, especially with social media, I think that has made it even harder to stay within ourselves.”

Kyira: “And what would it be like if we could revamp the notion of beautiful so that that was what it meant? Getting deep within yourself and really getting to know those pieces that make you, you?”

Beth: “Right and I think that is really it. It is more about what you choose and how you live for you.”

Kyira: “So thinking about all of this work you have done and the steps you have made, how do you nurture yourself and your beauty so you can stay on this trajectory?”

Beth: “A lot of it is actually through meditation and positive self talk. I mean I really try to talk good about myself and to stay focused on that road I am on. And that is not easy because there are so many forces trying to take you down a different path.”

Kyira: “Goodness yes.”

Beth: “Like even today, all I could think of before coming here was how my hair looks like crap and how I shouldn’t come but you know, I had to say, ‘Oh well’ because it is ultimately just hair and it shouldn’t stop me from doing what I want and moving forward in my journey.”

Kyira: “Yeah for sure and it comes back to that self talk piece and checking in about what it actually is that starts to get in your way and if those barriers are grounded in perception or reality. Like, I feel like that would happen to me all of the time when I was actively in my eating disorder where I would feel good or get excited about doing something and then look in the mirror and see something totally different or someone I didn’t feel I could be confident in. And I had to tell myself every day that my perception of my self was being guided by those forces in the shadows and that what I was seeing was not the reality everyone else was seeing. And as you start to talk more positively and be gentle to yourself, you can start to eliminate the hold of those forces and move more in line with positive perceptions and reality.”

Beth: “Yeah and I feel like the more you talk negativeto yourself, the larger the hole you are digging for yourself. And it is easy to think it is just society who is putting you down or blame it on everyone else but you also have to check in with how much work you are doing to further that negativity and have to be honest with yourself about the active role you are playing.”

Kyira: “Yeah, there is a therapist I have had the opportunity to work with who tells people all of the time that ‘You deserve the life you are willing to tolerate’ and that has made such an impact on me in terms of bringing it back to the power we have and the choices we make towards our own happiness and sense of purpose.”

Beth: “Yeah absolutely.”

Kyira: “Well I really appreciate you taking the time to meet with me this morning and for your courage to step up and fight back against that negative self talk this morning.”

Beth: “Absolutely. Thank you for creating this space for me to be a part of.”