Name: Aly Peterson
Tell us a little about yourself: I was born in Arizona but I've lived in Utah for the majority of my life. I have four sisters and I danced competitively all growing up. I enjoy cooking, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and being adventurous. I currently work with kids ages 6-18 as a Recreational Therapist at a behavioral health facility. I am also the creator of Build Your Beautiful-- a blog focused on self-love and holistic health.
When is a time in your life where you struggled with body positivity and self-love? The most memorable time I struggled with body positivity began towards the end of high school. To make a long story short, after an injury I needed surgery and I was told I needed to sit out of all forms of exercise for a few months. This was heartbreaking to me because at the time, much of my self-esteem was centered on competitive dance and physical appearance.
I knew I wanted to eat a little healthier during those few months to ensure I recovered and returned to dance quickly. However, eating "healthier" turned into an eating disorder and my self-esteem took a major hit.
At the time, I was convinced my value increased if my weight decreased. I was convinced my value increased if my thighs didn't touch, my cheekbones stuck out, and my ribs showed. I was convinced my value increased if every day I ate less than the day before. I was suffering in all aspects of life and my self-esteem tanked.
This was my rock-bottom for my lack of self-love and my negative self-perception. Over the course of a few years, and with the help of several trusted individuals, I was able to recognize that my true value never increased or decreased; it was my self-perception that had drastically changed. From that point on I was determined to focus on self-love and holistic health, and also to help those suffering from the same challenges I faced.
Do you remember how old you were the FIRST time you had a negative thought about your body? I don't remember the first time I thought something negative about myself, but I do remember hearing the women I grew up around speaking negatively about themselves. Because I looked up to these women and wanted to be just like them, I began saying those same pessimistic comments to myself every time I looked in the mirror. This became a powerful habit and over time, I persuaded myself that those negative statements were true.
When is a time in your life that you genuinely loved yourself-- inside and out? This is a constant work-in-progress for me! I loved myself inside and out before I abided by the judgments of the world. I genuinely loved myself when I obsessed over the things I love about myself instead of over the things I dislike about myself.
What is one or two things that you really like about yourself?
I really like that I genuinely see the good in others. I really like that I know myself well inside and out. I also really like my unique eye color! The color fades from yellow to green in the center and then has a dark blue outline.
What does real beauty mean to you? To me, beauty is unique to every individual. Ellen Degeneres once said, "To me, beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It's about knowing and accepting who you are." This is my favorite definition of beauty to date. I believe beauty starts on the inside and radiates outward; the women in my life whom I deem to be the most beautiful have a kind, loving, confident soul. These women know and accept who they are!
For the times in your life when you have felt insecure in your own skin, what have you done to try and get out of that mindset? I've found I am able to get out of a negative mindset when I look myself in the eye and name three things I love about myself. These things can be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or social. I also talk to my husband and tell him why I'm feeling insecure; he's the one who helps me push through and feel amazing even when I don't think it's possible.
Do you think social media plays a part in women and girls lacking self-love? Believe it or not, every media channel sends a message. Trying to avoid media messages while looking at social media is like trying to avoid breathing while living in an air-polluted city-- it's not going to happen. I believe we choose whether media has a positive impact or a negative impact on our self-love. If we choose to "friend" and "follow" people who are kind, confident, and optimistic then our self-love will increase. If we drown our social media with people who are constantly unkind, insecure, and pessimistic then our self-love will decrease. It's okay to "unfriend" and "unfollow" people who are having a negative impact on you! I believe social media should be a place to build friendships and confidence, not a place to gossip and tear others down.
Why do you think there is such a problem with women loving themselves and their bodies? We are bombarded with advertisements in magazines, movies, and websites on how to lose weight, how to eat better, how to contour our faces, and how to dress perfectly. Truth is, the standards that are constantly advertised do not work in a healthy way for most of us! I believe beauty comes in many different forms. At one point in my life I was completely persuaded I was worth nothing if I did not fit these standards. I used to prove my worth by the amount of food I ate and the number of calories I burned. I used to prove my worth by my jean size and the number on the scale. I’m here to tell you something I wished someone had told me long ago… those numbers DO NOT reflect your worth!
How can we change this mindset? We need to abandon the bull crap we've been brainwashed to believe about perfection and beauty. A certain size, weight, height, and color cannot buy the freedom that comes when you embrace who you are and own your imperfect journey.
How do you plan on teaching your daughters to love and appreciate themselves and their bodies? I want to do positive affirmations with my daughters every single day; I believe this will teach them to see everything their body is instead of everything their body is not. I want to show my daughters everything our bodies are capable of such as walking, running, jumping, lifting, holding, helping, loving; I believe this will teach them that our bodies are worth so much more than just physical beauty.
If you could tell your younger, insecure-self one thing, what would it be?
I would tell myself that I am stronger than I think, more beautiful than I believe, and more capable than I know.
Aly Peterson // @buildyourbeautiful