Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Beautiful Woman Photo Challenge

Today, I was challenged by a dear friend to the Beautiful Woman Photo Challenge. The goal is for each participant to share five photos they feel most beautiful in.

Yep. That's it.

Isn't there more to it, you ask? Well, not really... Why five photos? I don't know. Who started this project? I don't know that either. What's the goal of this project, anyway? Well, I'd assume it's got a little something to do with self love and self esteem.

But here's what it means to me:

It has to be five photos because most women won't be able to find three. Not that they feel truly beautiful in. And the goal of the project is to help you rediscover the personal, unique beauty that is within you. The same beauty that has always been within you. The beauty you weren't focusing on (and were probably even critiquing) when you snapped the photo.

I'm going to be real honest with you. I accepted the challenge with the hope to prove a point. I'm prettiest when I'm happy! I wanted to say, or I'm prettiest when I'm teaching! or laughing! or reading! But the five photos I found could not be more different, and I had an extremely difficult time searching for a universal statement like the ones I listed above.

So without further adieu, I present to you the five photos in which I felt most beautiful.

Photo #1
I love this photo because it is so me. I'm in a sweatshirt (my staple clothing item for November, which was when the photo was taken), and it's a Disney sweatshirt nonetheless. What you can't see is me wearing my favorite dark jeans and my killer polka dot sneakers, but I can assure you I was wearing them.

As you can see in this photo, I wear very little makeup because I think there's so much elegance found in being natural. With that being said, I think girls should take enough pride in their appearance to wear it whenever they want to (not when someone else tells them they should).

This was also my first selfie ever posted on social media, which I posted just after analyzing your survey answers in Love Yourself(ie)

Photo #2
This photo was taken around 9 p.m. in my car after a three hour guard rehearsal my senior year of high school. I snapped it quickly because I still managed to look decent after a night full of running, dancing, sweating, and performing my heart out.

I chose this photo for this challenge because it features me in my natural habitat: in my car (probably running to go eat somewhere), in an all black wardrobe (a signature colorguard outfit), a straightened ponytail (despite humidity's best efforts to curl it), and a smile on my face after concluding a full night of doing what I love most. Though it's an old photo, it seemed wrong not to include it because I've carried it in the camera roll of my phone for four years.

Also important to note... I took this photo four years ago and never posted it until now because I feared being viewed as conceited for posting a selfie. Now's a good time to go read that post linked in Photo #1 if you missed it before.

Photo #3 
 As much as I wanted to say that I would only include photos of me naturally, sometimes a girl's gotta feel prettier than she does on an average day. This photo was snapped at the banquet concluding a long, hot week of hard work in the sun, allowing us all a chance to put on a nice dress, fix our hair, and actually put some makeup on our face without the guarantees of sweating it off.

I also received a trophy and a medal for my marching skill this night (I won a drill down, for my readers who understand band. For those who don't, just don't worry about it). The point is, I felt confident in my talent. I felt valued as a team member. And I felt beautiful because I had the chance to represent myself with the style that is uniquely my own: classy, elegant, and signature stamped with a t-strap high heel.

Because of this style, I've been nicknamed the "First Lady" of the Pride Color Guard. And as you can see in this photo, I was workin' it.

Photo #4
Ignore how old this picture is. I was a freshman in high school. Eight years ago. Probably evident by my pig-tailed hair and Christmas painted nails.

But I included this photo because it is important. In this photo, I am pictured doing one of my favorite things.


Is it the healthiest meal in the world? Nope. It's Chickfila. Did I gain a little tummy pudge after this meal? You bet. But did it make me any less beautiful?


No, no, no. If anything, my choice to fuel my body the way I deemed acceptable rather than the way society told me to fuel it (or starve it) is a testament to my confidence and self love. And to me, those are two things that define beauty the most.

Photo #5

This one is my favorite. I'm in a pretty dress, I've got some pretty hair, and I was having way more than a pretty good time. When this photo was taken, I was watching my prom date climb into the arms of every other guy in our prom group for a photo, only to have them accidentally drop him smack on the ground. I was laughing so hard, which is one of my absolute favorite things. I love to laugh. And I love this picture. What a candid photo capturing my happiness bottled in this evening.

The other thing I find important to note about this photo is that there were at least thirty other people present in this vicinity (50+ if you count all the family members who came to take pictures), not to mention the ridiculous scenario occurring that had me laughing, and yet, the photographer focused on me in this moment. This is more than a picture where I feel beautiful. This is a picture where someone else noticed I was beautiful.

I suppose it could've been the dress. Perhaps the hair, or the accessories I put in it. But this picture doesn't focus on the dress or the hair or any other accessory. It focuses on me. On my essence and happiness in the moment.

That's what beauty really is. And we can dress it up and accessorize it all we want, but no dress, headband, or matching shoe could possibly parallel the captivating beauty of a woman's soul; the one revealed in a smile. In a laugh. In this photo.

As I mentioned before, the photos I found were the furthest thing from what I expected to post, but my goal was a to prove a point, and that I still intend to do.

Some of these photos picture me posed, but most of them are candids. Sometimes, I'm wearing makeup, and sometimes I am not. Sometimes I am sweating. Sometimes I am eating. Sometimes I am laughing.

But I am always me.

That's when it hit me. I'm not prettiest when I'm happy. When I'm teaching. When I'm reading. When I'm laughing.

I am pretty because I'm me.

I am pretty every day. I am pretty every way. I am pretty in a car. I am pretty near and far. I am pretty in a box, I am pretty with a fox! {Sorry, I'm getting a little Suessical...}

But I am pretty here and there.

I am pretty everywhere. 

And so are you. So don't you forget it, beautiful.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dear High School Me,

It gets better.

Just had to start with that because it's important that you know. Because you don't even know what awaits you. Because six years ago today, you were getting ready to start high school.

I'm writing to you because you never listen to anyone else. I know you probably won't listen to me either, but I do know you better than anyone else. Wanna test me? You're fifteen. You just broke up with the first boyfriend you swore you loved. {Don't get too down on yourself, there will be plenty more situations just like that}. You just received your first journal from your mom because she was worried that you weren't channeling your pain productively. You just finished the worst two years possibly imaginable: Jr. High. It was brutal. It was so awful that you sought to make yourself someone you weren't. But there's no need for that honey, and this is your chance to start over.

Don't get too excited. This chapter of your life will hold plenty of other disappointing scenarios. Sure, you'll grow from them. You'll make some much needed mistakes. But you'll make some stupid ones, too. So I'm here to keep you company. To try to prevent some of those stupid mistakes, and to be there for you when those needed mistakes happen. I could tell you what they are but it wouldn't do any good. You wouldn't listen, and experience will teach you more than I ever could. It's a harsh teacher, don't get me wrong.

But you learn.

So settle down with that plate of french fries and a can of diet coke. {Seriously, do it. Because your jeans won't allow many late night french fry snack runs when you're my age.} Flick your lamp on and don't forget the ceiling fan. Then, set aside the journal I know you're writing in, and let's get those future questions answered.

Like most other experiences, the first few months will seem beautiful. A whole new worldddd.... if you will. You're cute, you're fun, but most importantly, you're new. So don't be fooled when those older boys hit on you. It's probably not because of your kind heart or your quick wit or your fiery mind. Honestly, it's probably not because of your body either. It's because you're new.

You're going to take a brutally awful history class for the sole reason that it was blocked with AP English. I'm not going to tell you not to take it, because you didn't listen to anyone else and you're not going to listen to me. So when you're crying in the shower because nothing makes sense, remember that there are more important things than Reconstruction and Alexander Hamilton. A hit Broadway musical is going to come out in about five years to teach you all about him, anyway.

There will be teachers who will tell you that you're stupid. You're not, and by the time you're my age, they won't be teaching anymore, anyway.

There will be counselors who tell you that you should keep your options open when looking into colleges. But your gut feeling was right. Go where you want and never look back. You belong.

There aren't words to describe the power of breakfast at midnight. Fry the bacon, girlfriend. Just fry the bacon.

Definitely take Drama over Spanish III. It changed my life. I met some amazing people in that class and haven't had the urge or need to speak Spanish once.

PreCal is definitely a waste of time. I haven't used it once and you won't even need Calculus for your major in college.

Stop. Looking. For. The. Next. Man. To. Be. Your. Boyfriend. You're pretty cool on your own.

The number of times a guy cat-calls you in the hallway doesn't diminish your self worth or credibility at all. It diminishes his.

Quality over quantity. Please. Friendships, boyfriends, makeup... Quality over quantity.

Never, ever, underestimate the power of a late night phone call with your best friend / sister at heart. Just because you can always feel her there with you even when you don't talk for weeks doesn't mean you shouldn't fill her in on the totally stupid thing you did when you were hormonal. She deserves to laugh at your expense, just like you laugh at hers. And even though what you did was totally stupid, she'll somehow make it seem totally normal.

She'll also tell you how much of an idiot your crush is for several months and then console you when you realize it for yourself.

While we're on the subject... Boys are stupid.

Girls are mean.

Life would be so much easier if everyone else were just like you.

You can, and will, be best friends with a guy. Don't get me wrong, you'll fight with him more than you breathe. You will drive him up the wall sometimes and it will irritate you beyond understanding when he ends up being right about basically everything. But in exchange, he'll never make a move on you and he'll protect you like you're his little sister. You need him.

You've always wanted to cut your hair. So just do it, okay? It looks super cute on us, and the quicker you cut it the quicker you'll be frustrated that it doesn't go into a ponytail and you'll grow it out again.

Your mom was right all along. So stop trying so hard to prove her wrong.

Speaking of mom, she totally had a type. She loved the dark haired, dreamy eyed, musician guys, just like you. And once she stopped settling, she got to marry one of them! So don't settle.

Oh yeah, and when you're my age? There will be girls from your graduating class already married with kids. There will also be some who had huge dreams to get out of your hometown and never made it out of McDonald's. So relish in that happy middle-ground your dad was always talking about.

Dad. Hahahaaa. You and Dad aren't meant to get along right now. You're just starting to date, you cry for no reason, and you have to use tampons. He isn't fond of any of it. Just cut him some slack. You may never stop the eye-rolls, but you two become a lot closer later and you definitely share the same sense of humor. {I know, I never thought it would happen either.}

Unlike your parents, you will totally lose contact with every single one of your high school sweethearts. If they weren't God's plan for you, you shouldn't try to hold on. So when it's time to let them go, just let them go.

Now you're probably wanting to know what God's plan is for you in the love department. Good question. When I figure it out, you'll be the first to know.

Enjoy babysitting. I know you want a "real" job, but I've had several now and still babysit. It's my favorite job to this day.

You love kids. So be prepared... Some kids don't have good home lives. Some of them haven't even hit double digits in age and have already been through hell and back. You can't take them home with you, but you can love them as your own. You will have the power to be the parent they never had; their first hug in the morning and their last high five when they walk out the door. Just remember that the kids who need love the most will often ask for it in the most unloving of ways. Never lose sight of your primary job. Teaching and care-taking isn't it. Loving is.

Don't stop writing. People dig it.

One day, you're going to be a beauty distortion blogger. And you will have girls you knew from high school contacting you because they were dealing with an eating disorder. Because they were suicidal. Don't think you have to be a blogger before you help them see the truth. You aren't the only one struggling with inadequacy, so take the time to notice others who are.

You're not fat. I know you think you could lose some weight, but soon you'll be in college where you actually could lose some weight and you'll realize that you never needed to lose weight.

And if there's only one thing you're going to take from this letter... Let it be this:

There's really nothing "high-school" about high school. High school, like college and marriage and parenthood and retirement, is just a necessary chapter of life. If you don't cry too many tears, laugh too many hours, and work harder than you've ever worked before, then you're doing it wrong. Don't let people tell you that you're young and naïve because you're in high school. I've come to learn that youth and naïvity is so relative. My parents' friends still think I'm young, but the preschoolers I teach every day think I'm the oldest and wisest woman alive. You're not too young. You're not too naïve.

You are exactly where you need to be.

I wish I could tell you that you'll miss it when it's over. You'll miss parts of it, yes. You'll miss meeting new people in classes, but you have another four years of college to do that. You'll miss spinning around in a pretty dress on prom night, but you still have your wedding night to do that. You'll miss those guys you swore you once loved, and you have every right to, but you've got the rest of your life to love the man God has in store for you.

So take your time, high school Bethany. Enjoy it while it lasts. Because the bad parts will be over before you know it, and the good parts are only a small taste of what the rest of your life has in store for you.


The Real Me
{The Future You}

Friday, August 12, 2016

Getting to Knowww You...

{Sing title as Julie Andrews from The King And I...}

The cashier looked at me like I was insane. And why wouldn't she? I was coming through the check-out line with a package of M&M's, a double pack of post-it notes, and a Disney princess bouncy ball. And then she asked the dreaded question: "What's all this stuff for?" 

Explaining color guard to a normal person is hard enough. Explaining why these materials are crucial for a group of high school girls is even harder. But, just as community is important in blog-land and educational classrooms, a team cannot thrive without community.

Every coach and extra-curricular instructor has seen this battle. Do I expect all my girls to be best friends at the end of the season? No. Do they have to hang out with each other outside of practice? Quite frankly, I don't care if they do or not. But they are required to perform together, as one complete team rather than several individuals. They are required to converse respectfully and humorously during rehearsal, and these things would be impossible to do without first getting to know one another.

When I first began coaching color guard, I made the mistake of making rehearsals about color guard. Yes, the end product will be color guard. Yes, the judges are scoring color guard. But rehearsals are not about color guard. Rehearsals are about the girls; about instilling strength, endurance, teamwork, and motivation in these young women that they can use later in life, wherever their future may take them. These skills are not molded by technique and choreography. They are molded by community.

Taking an hour out of camp days to do nothing but play games was the smartest thing I've done since I began coaching. From the outside looking in, it seems anything but productive. The directors were laughing as girls were getting whacked in the face by bouncy balls and raced to shove countless M&M's in their mouths. The girls and I were laughing, too. But by the end of the season, no one was laughing because we had molded and recruited some of the most dedicated, hard-working individuals I've had the privilege of coming to know.

So today, I had my girls vote on their favorite team building activity; the activity I would share with my beautiful readers. Naturally, we had a tie. So, if you're a teacher, coach, director, or camp counselor, today I'm clueing you in on two of our favorite team building games: The M&M Quiz and The Question Ball.

The M&M Quiz
What You Need:
--Instructional Index Card / Card Stock
--Packets of Fun Sized M&M's

What You Do: 
--Give each member their own packet of fun sized M&Ms. {Tell them they can't eat them...yet.}
--Review the Instructional Index Card. It should cover what they should mention for each color of M&M's they have.
--Go around the circle. The members have to answer the information corresponding to their M&M colors as fast as they possibly can, eating the M&M's as they answer the questions. The one who answers the questions and eats their M&M's the fastest wins!

Some Ideas for Color Prompts: 
RED: A skill you've already mastered
ORANGE: Something you do well.
YELLOW: Something you're obsessed with.
GREEN: Something you watch / listen to.
BLUE: A goal for the upcoming season / school year.
BROWN: Something you can't live without.

The Question Ball
What You Need: 
--1 oversized beach ball / bouncy ball
--full package of post it notes
--Sharpie / permanent marker

What You Do:
--Write one question per post-it note.
--Cover the ball with post-it notes, taping the notes on so they don't fall off during the game.
--Start the timer and choose the first question you see. Answer the question as quickly as possible before passing it to someone else.
--Whoever catches the ball chooses the first question they see and answers it as quickly as possible.
--Keep passing the ball until all the post-it notes have been removed and answered.

Some Ideas for Question Prompts: 
What is your favorite song currently?
What is your favorite book and/or series?
If money/salaries didn't matter, what would you do for a living?
What is your dream car?
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
What's one food you can't live without?
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Are you left or right handed?
Do you have a job? Yes = where do you work? No = what's your dream job?
Who is your favorite actor / actress?
If you could live in any era, what would it be?
What is your favorite music?
What is your favorite quote?
Name your absolute favorite dessert.
What is one article of clothing you can't live without?
What is your favorite animal?
What is the best gift you've ever been given?
What is your favorite scent / smell?
What is your best subject in school?
What is your favorite candy?
What are your favorite colors?
What's your favorite beverage?
What are you looking forward to most this year?
What emoji defines your personality?
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
If your life was a movie, what would the title be?
What is your favorite season and why?
What is your favorite holiday and why?
Who was your preteen celebrity crush?
Name something you do to relax.
Who is your favorite superhero?
What is your favorite sport (to watch or play)?

Feel free to put your own spin on these activities to make it fit your team even more, and I want to hear your awesome, creative team-building ideas, too! Email me at or drop a comment to share what you do for your team/class!

Have fun!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Why Is This Stuff So Important?

The question threw me. For the first time in my life, I didn't even know what to say.

A middle aged man (with golden intentions, don't get me wrong), had found my blog and thought it necessary to ask. Why is all this beauty distortion stuff so important? First, I was angry at him for obviously not empathizing with the struggles my readers and I deal with every day. Then, I was angry at me, because I obviously wasn't completing my mission very well.

Since taking a moment to process the situation, I understand where the man was coming from:
1) He's a man. 
And while men undoubtedly deal with masculine distortion in the media today, it is not as obvious, nor as viscious, as the beauty distortion and objectification women receive on all ends.
and 2) He's middle aged. 
Not that middle aged men and women can't empathize with the situation. Not that they can't understand the struggle, but this is far more than a Daddy-you-just-don't-get-it cry from a hormonal teenage girl. The reality of it is, previous generations often don't understand the struggle. Because they never had to deal with it the same way.

So today, we're going to take a break from attacking beauty distortion. We aren't going to talk about social media. Or advertisements. Or photoshop, or objectification, or even self esteem.

We're going to talk about why we talk about all those things.

And we're going to do so by answering some {very realistic} questions from our baby-boomer readers. So here we go.

Why did you choose beauty distortion as a platform? 
It is present in absolutely everything. I can write about whatever I want, and can inevitably relate it to beauty distortion.

But more than that, it makes women seem weak. We have always heard that the photoshopped advertisements, airbrushed models, and enhanced social media filters contribute to low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety in young women today, but we instead choose to blame these young women for being too naïve to notice the difference between distortion and reality.

My question is... How could we not be too naïve to notice the difference?

Bullying has been around forever. So has beauty distortion. The generations before us dealt with these inconveniences too, but they were also able to escape from it. They might have endured fights and prejudice at school or work, but they were able to return home to parents who loved them as children. They were able to choose friends who valued them for who they were. And those friends and parents were the only people they saw outside of school and work.

Today, teenagers return home to their phones. Their computers. Their iPads. They return home to the same world they endure at school and work; the same world where they are gossiped about, objectified, disrespected, and bullied. Bullied. What a harsh word, you say. It is harsh. It's also true. Today, our young men and women are convinced that everyone else's life is brighter, everyone else's body is prettier, and everyone else's mind is smarter because of the way their friends and classmates are portrayed on social media. They don't realize they are viewing a false self of the profile they have open, so they inevitably feel forced to portray a false self on their own profile. Not to mention, the comments, critiques, criticisms, objectifications, and bullying they endure in real situations follow them (often more viciously) onto their Instagram feeds, Snapchat requests, and direct messaging inboxes.

Baby boomers can say they experienced these things when they were our age. But they did not.

Not in the same way. And they won't experience them in the same way until they have their own child they are fighting desperately to save.

You don't struggle with beauty distortion. Why are you blogging about it? 
Alright friends, it's time to get vulnerable.
--I weigh myself at least once a day.
--I pull at my extra fat on my thighs, stomach, and arms.
--I check my body from multiple angles in mirrors, store windows, and dressing rooms.
--There are days I think about how easy it would be cut down my calorie intake.
--I buy the lowest calorie, lowest fat version of each grocery I have.
--There are days I hate the clothes I once loved because they don't make me look skinnier than I am.
--I have to force myself to not read articles about the fastest ways to lose weight.
--I hate myself a little more every time I sit down and have to pull the waistband of my jeans over that last little fat roll.
--I compare my body to others every single day.

Still want to say I don't struggle? Let's validate it even more.
--I have never once purchased a magazine containing weight loss tips.
--I have never once used a photo-editing program to alter a picture
--I have removed my business from many objectifying and technologically altering companies such as Victoria's Secret. (Email me about that if you have any issues, because it's one of my favorite stories to tell.)
--I have never taken diet pills.
--I have never participated in a strict weight-loss diet plan.
--I have never participated in a strict gym schedule.
--I am very active.
--I am within a healthy BMI.

You can't say that I'm naïve, because I have not bought into distorted culture. In fact, I've done my best to remove myself from it. If you've read some of my previous posts, you've probably noticed I'm a little outspoken. Yes, I am strong, but I still struggle with "this stuff" as it was previously called.

Contrary to popular belief, my work at Crayons to Confidence and other self-love crusades are not just a ploy for fat girls to feel validated, nor are they strictly a recovery tool for eating disorder survivors. They are for any man/woman with a heartbeat who lives in this toxic society. Just as you do not have to be diagnosed or on medication to experience anxiety or worry, you do not have to be laying in mental health rehab facility to struggle with beauty distortion.

Who is your primary audience for the Beauty Distortion Ban? 
I wasn't kidding. My primary audience is anyone with a heartbeat who is living in today's toxic society. If they are anxiety warriors, kudos. If they are struggling with an eating disorder, then I hope I can help (at least a little bit). But I'm writing just as much to the 12-year-old girl crying in the dressing room as I am to the model who was fired because her BMI reached the normal range.

If you're so passionate about all this stuff, why are you going to be a teacher? 
Good question. If I'm this passionate about beauty distortion (and all the other creative, beautiful, performing arts topics), it makes a lot more sense for me to go into the fashion industry. Perhaps modeling, makeup design, or even skin care. Or what about the psychological industry? I've had friends tell me I should look into being a therapist or a social worker. And I do have so much respect for individuals in these professions. We need them now more than ever. But my personal issue with these professions regarding beauty distortion is that they all operate on the back end. The fashion industry has too many guidelines and limitations to make any real immediate progress, and psychologists and social workers alike both work to save individuals after they have fallen victim to such toxicity. I wanted to work on the front end.

It's not that I seek to put therapists and social workers out of business. It's that I hope less and less people will grow to need them. Teachers have a choice: they can create a factory out of their classroom, where students learn to read, write, solve equations, and memorize facts. Or, teachers can create a community where students feel valued, respected, intelligent, talented, and given attention for their abilities rather than their disabilities. A teacher is one of the few people left in society who has the job to enhance the personal gifts that each child is given while also developing some new ones. A teacher's primary job is to turn discouragement into faith, hope, and success. The more a child grows up knowing they are valued for everything they are rather than judged for everything they are not, the less we'll have to fight this toxic battle.

So why is this stuff so important? 
Because it affects everything we do. It affects our health: how much we starve, how much we diet, how much we work out. It affects our wallet: how much makeup we buy, what gym membership we upgrade to, and the medical/cosmetic treatments we splurge on. But perhaps most importantly, it affects our mindset. There are more important things in life than losing five pounds, but I know I forget that every day. There are more important things to do than make yourself "pretty." And there are more important things to remember... Like the fact that God made you the way you are in this very moment for a reason, and He doesn't make mistakes. I'm not saying you shouldn't treat the body He gave you with healthy care. But the more you try to alter it from its natural state, the more you're telling Him that you don't like the life He gave you. And He worked so hard on you...

It's important because we're beautiful, and we don't even know it.

My prayer for you, dear sister (or brother), is that with each and every post on this blog, you will begin to know it. Not only know how beautiful you are, but that you will begin to love how beautiful you are. Because you deserve it.

You deserve to be completely and unapologetically you.