The beauty of getting older is that most of us — finally — start to understand and appreciate our bodies and all that comes along with them. We go through enough experiences where our bodies have worked hard and haven’t failed us. That’s why it’s kind of funny, but also brutal, to think about the times when we weren’t so into ourselves.

I remember when I was 11 and had officially hit one of the most uncomfortable stages of puberty — a time when my body hair started to become noticeable and an easy target for teasing. You don’t have a choice in the matter and it’s painfully awkward to attempt to do anything about it other than hide or experiment with the endless forms of removal. As the youngest female in my family, I was the only one who actually needed to start shaving before 13. It became a battle with my older sister who thought she deserved to shave before me, and I remember thinking, “Are you kidding? I would do anything to not have to worry about this!” My parents didn’t know what the right thing to do was, so they told me that it would be best to wait until I reached my sister’s age in order to shave. That logic will never make sense to me, but I obeyed them with total confusion — it felt like I was being punished for something I couldn’t control.

I spent the entire summer that year wearing jeans to cover my legs from the dark hair I wasn’t allowed to groom. I was sweaty and uncomfortable, but would rather deal with heat exhaustion than be made fun of. As we know, kids can be cruel and all I wanted to do was fit in with the blonde gals who could get away with their light body hair. I still feel weird exposing my legs over 20 years later, regardless of the fact that I can shave, wax, laser, or let the hairs run free! That short time where I felt shame for growing up still stays with me a little bit, especially in the summer months.

I’m sometimes reminded of that experience through my clients who fear exposing their own body due to body acne or extreme cases of eczema or surgical scars. They express their fear with me hoping I have a remedy to help them feel better in their own skin. It brings me back to my inner 11-year-old — and this is what I wish I could have told that confused little girl:

1 | Don’t compare yourself to anyone —

Your body is completely unique to you, and though it can be frustrating to feel like everyone is photoshopped when you can’t hide your skin’s imbalance or scars, it’s never worth it to compare yourself. Everyone has their own journeys with battles and insecurities of their own.

2 | You’re in constant evolution —

Just because your body is showing certain signals or is healing itself, doesn’t mean you’re stuck with that circumstance forever. Let it teach you grace and patience as you age.

3 | Imbalances don’t dim your light —

Your essence shines through, regardless of the scars or breakouts — but you must continue being your authentic, awesome self.

There are plenty of shifts the body will experience throughout a lifetime, so it’s okay to not know how to transition with it all of the time. Never cover up your light because of an insecurity. You can still be you and enjoy each moment of this life, whether or not you cover up. And if someone teases you or is made uncomfortable, it’s their problem — not yours!

Born in Canada, with roots of the Midwest and Texas in her upbringing, Hayley Wood is now fully rooted in the SoCal lifestyle. A holistic facialist and reflexologist with 12 years of experience in the industry, she is the founder of Therapeutic Skin Coach.

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