15 Ways To Feel Truly Beautiful

I turned 34 not too long ago. It’s that magical age where wrinkles, grey hair and zits can all explode on the scene simultaneously. It’s a time where subtle changes become less subtle, and the idea of good lighting is actually a concept you ponder. Though ten years ago I would have shuttered at the idea of these “imperfections,” I have never felt more beautiful, radiant and at peace with who I am.  “So what’s changed?” you might ask. The answer, is everything from the inside out.

4 years ago I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I gave up everything I had to do charity work with kids from around the world. Though on paper it sounds glamorous, in many ways it was anything but.  I went from having a closet full of vintage numbers that would have made Carrie Bradshaw drool, to wondering what tiny article of clothing would be sacrificed at the expense of my tiny backpack. Within months my fashion dilemmas went from “What outfit should I debut to the next premiere” to “Which of my 3 outfits is the least worn in.”

I must admit, the transition was harder than I had expected. Though I had traveled on my own before and been very aux natural, I felt like I was lacking a sophistication that other people my age had. After giving most of my stuff away, i was left with a computer, a camera, and a few articles of clothes. I remember after the first year of wearing the same thing over an over again, my partner Filip and I got invited to an event. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed to attend because it was clear that I would stick out like a sore thumb. After much convincing I decided to go. I wish I could say that I went, didn’t care and had the time of my life but the truth was, I didn’t. I felt humiliated. I got some comments and some stares but there was nothing worse than how I judged myself. I felt so ugly from the inside out. My criticism and lack of self-confidence weighed on me like a dark cloud. As soon as I got home that night, I collapsed on the bathroom floor in tears. I felt like a shadow of my former self and embarrassed to care that deeply about my appearance.

After that night I did some soul searching. I wasn’t about to give up the charity work for a better wardrobe, so something inside of me had to change. I began to realize that it was my perception of beauty that was messed up and ugly, not me. I realized that if I wanted to be authentically beautiful, I had to feel beautiful and I had to learn to love and appreciate all that I am. From that day forward I made a promise to honour all aspects of myself and to strive for inner beauty and perfection.

So here is what I did. I began to focus on the things that really mattered to me. I saw the beauty of my journey and the sacrifices it took to make it possible. I honoured the deep sense of compassion that I had developed toward others. I focused on how beautiful it felt to get letters from children in South Africa and Namibia thanking us for “the best day of their lives.”  I focused on the radiant glow that came from my heart when I connected with different families from around the world.  I saw the beauty in not only giving but in receiving. I loved the way people lit up when they played a role in helping us help others.  And last but not least I began to honour and respect my body giving it the nourishment it needed.

A multitude of gifts became available to me once I changed my focus and dropped the fear.  The more I focused on the love in my heart, the more my insecurities began to melt away. I was less concerned with my developing crows feet and more concerned with meeting people with a genuine smile.  I became less concerned with what I was wearing and more concerned with being present and listening to those around me. I cultivated the ability to look each person in the eye when we spoke and could do so without judgment or fear.

It is only after coming home after the 4 years away that I can truly appreciate how much my perception has truly shifted.  Just a few short weeks ago, I was waiting in line in the bathroom and I overheard 3 girls talking. They were only about 22 and gossiping back and forth about who had the worse wrinkles, cellulite and who had the best guy for Botox.  It truly saddened me because I saw so much of myself in them. I felt for the first time in forever the pains of perceived perfection. It is painful when we don’t understand how beautiful we really are, and such a shame wasting a lifetime wishing we were different than how we were made.

I have absolutely no judgment on what is right or wrong when it comes to what someone does to feel beautiful. I like wearing makeup and getting dressed up like anyone else and love doing things to feel “beautiful”. But what truly troubles me is when we believe that these things are who we are. It saddens me when I see beautiful young woman wasting their energy striving for a “perfection” that doesn’t exist. We are so much greater than the sum of our parts. When we put so much emphasis on the outside, we miss the true beauty and love that is on the inside. The more we embrace our true nature and radiate from within, the more the world will embrace and honour us for all that we are.

These days I have conquered my former insecurities, whether I’m in my cowboy boots, high heels, with makeup, or without, the beauty I feel within is never diminished.  I truly wish for this feeling to permeate the hearts of all woman and men, especially for those that are young and have their whole lives ahead.

Here are 15 things you can start doing today to feel beautiful from the inside out:

1. Let your smile start from within.

2. Practice random acts of kindness, it will make your heart shine

3. Let go of the worry and fear. Laugh Play & Have more fun

4. Tell yourself you are beautiful ( In the mirror )

5. Tell someone else they are beautiful

6.  STOP comparing yourself. There are 7 billion people in the world. Are we all supposed to look the same????

7. Make a list of all of your amazing accomplishments and attributes.

8. Meditate – calm your mind and cultivate peace

9. Work out, walk, do yoga, move your body!!!!

10.  Accept compliments. When someone tells you that you are beautiful TAKE IT!!!!!

11. Treat yourself. Bubble bath, walk in the park, do salsa. Do something for YOU!!!

12. Notes. Post notes everywhere reminding yourself of your beauty… especially around the mirror 😉

13. Feed your body with nourishing foods, honour and respect it. It is your temple and one of your best tools.

14. Stand tall. Use your body language to communicate to the world that you are PROUD to be you.

15. Make eye contact and connect with people. There is no better feeling than making a true human connection beyond the physical

I hope this article served you. I would love to hear from you in the comments bellow, what do you do to feel beautiful.

Many Blessings,

ashley cooper, success, struggle, triumph, inspiration, motivation, coaching,

P.S. If you want to learn more ways to practice the art of self-love, here's a great article!