My relationship with my body has been an important part of my leadership journey. Like most girls, I did not have a positive body image when I was a teenager. Here’s the first stanza of a poem I wrote when I was 16:

Sometimes at night I sit
And try to figure me
Because they all have boyfriends
Meanwhile I lie here lonely
Ok so I’m no Miss America
I admit I can’t dance and can’t sing
And you-know-who is voluptuous
While I’m 24-22-23…

Body Image Lessons

Every time I came home crying to my mom about how I was teased because I was too skinny (I’m from Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” era) she would promise me that although I was in pain now, one day I would love all of the things that I hated about my body. She was right. I remember the day I stood in the mirror as a grown woman and thought, “I can’t believe I’ve spent so much time hating these long skinny legs… they’re amazing!” That was a powerful moment for me because I realized that it wasn’t my legs that had changed, it was my mindset.

Over time, I grew to genuinely love every inch of my body. I was not prepared for the setback of this perspective after I had kids. I particularly loathed my tummy, which, after having been stretched twice to the size of a giant watermelon, refused to comply with my wish for it to just go back to its original state.

One morning my daughter—then 3 years old—barged into the bathroom as I was stepping out of the shower. As she stared at my middle, her face frowned, she blurted out, “Mommy, why does your tummy look like scrambled eggs?” This experience led to another “aha” moment. With my daughter standing there, I lost it and immediately started sobbing with my face cupped in my hands. How was I going to be able to afford plastic surgery and send her to college? But then something incredible happened. As I began pulling my hands away from my face, I caught glimpse of my entire body and my mother’s voice came to me. Suddenly, I could see that I was beautiful. In fact, every inch of me was perfect, except for my tummy. “Girl, you need your scrambled egg tummy,” the voice said. “It’s the only part of you that proves you’re a real woman. Your tummy is your street cred!” I laughed joyfully.

You can change so many circumstances in your life by changing your mindset about them. In fact, understanding you’re the most powerful change agent in your own journey is critical to elevating your career. Begin by expressing gratitude for the things you’re struggling with, which are often connected to lessons you’re supposed to learn. Beauty and our perceptions of it are so much more than skin deep.

Have a mantra or routine that helps you remember the incredible power of your own body? Share with us in the comments!

Ask Levo Mentor Bonnie McDaniel, Founder of the Women are Talking Initiative, how she has learned to have gratitude for any situation in which she finds herself!