I look at old photos or even my Facebook Memories, and I often don’t recognize the person I was all those years ago. Besides the fact that every picture we took back then was filter free and yet we still managed to look great, I sometimes don’t recognize that vivacious and carefree woman in those pics. I was so fun and fearless back then. The confidence I exuded, just radiated around me. Thirty-something Niccole would be so disappointed in today’s Niccole and the self conscious and second guessing person she became.

During my late twenties and into my early to mid-thirties, my besties and I would hit the bar a couple nights a week for our girls night out. Upon arrival, we would do an opening lap around the place before settling at our normal spot at the back corner of the bar. This lap gave us an opportunity to say hi to anyone we knew, and also scope out anyone we may have wanted to avoid. Our usual spot at the bar was perfect too. We could see everyone coming in or exiting. It provided a great view of whatever band was playing, and it had a general aerial view so we could people watch. We rarely ever went out with the goal of meeting anyone or looking for a casual hook-up, but we had the confidence to go after it, if that would’ve been what we had wanted. I was never too shy to just talk to guys at the bar, or be a wingman for a friend. I occasionally even left with a phone number or two. Despite not being good at it, I also danced a lot, and even shook a tambourine while standing on the bar a time or two.

Beyond the bars and liquid courage though, I still had this confidence in myself that never stopped me from going after what I wanted. Back then I had just had baby number five and/or six and wasn’t my fittest, but I didn’t care. I never thought of myself as too fat or not pretty enough. In fact, if I saw and wanted, I typically went after it and got it. I’m still friends with a guy I dated about 8 or so years ago and he still tells me to this day that one of the things he was most drawn to about me was my confidence and the persona that I gave off. He says I acted like people should be glad I’m letting them in my life, rather than acting like I needed anyone. Even though, deep down I was yearning for the comfort of people’s company and silently battling my depression and anxiety.

These days, I question and criticize myself at every turn. I look in the mirror and I see a loose skinned and stretch marked tummy. I see breasts that are too big to allow anything to fit right, and thighs that touch when I walk. I see the onset of tiny eye wrinkles and thinning hair. Even got my first gray hair this year. Yay for me! I see someone that is almost always physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Someone that second guesses everything she does and constantly questions if she’s good enough. Someone that has become insecure with herself and life. As much as I’d like to blame my depleted self confidence on my narcissistic and abusive ex’s, whom tore me down, it was me that at some point doubted myself enough to start buying into the bullshit they were selling. It is up to me to reverse all of that and see me for who I really am.

As a strong and independent woman, I should’ve known better. I am better. Better than that and better than them. I don’t need filters to make me appear beautiful in pictures. I don’t need editing tools to slim me down either. I don’t need drinks to give me the courage to make the first move or to have a casual conversation. The power to do it all and exude beauty is right here within me still. What I am and who I am, is enough. It’s more than enough. Whether I turn fully gray, get wrinkled, or let myself get fat, I’m still a beautiful person and worthy of it all. So are you! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, that you’re not enough, or make you feel that you aren’t worthy of having it all.

We only have one life to live. Get up every morning and thank God for waking you up that day. Praise God for being able to grow old, even if it means getting some wrinkles, gray hair, or gaining a few (or twenty) pounds. Some people don’t get the opportunity to grow old. Don’t let your vanity or arrogance allow you to forget that. You have the privilege of growing old and living life, just as you are. Know that you are an amazing person just the way you are. Don’t lose the confidence you had in yourself or even the world, just because life has kicked your ass. I’ll probably still use Snap filters and other photo sites to edit my photos at times. Not because I feel I personally need it, but because I like the way some photo editing tools work and I’m a sucker for a funny Snap filter. Most importantly, I and those close to me, know who I truly am with or without the filter. Deep down, I am still that fun loving, vibrant and spirited soul that [most] people love to be around and have fun with. When it comes to life and my goals, I kick ass and take names, and it doesn’t matter if I look like 31 year old Niccole, or 41 year old Niccole while I’m doing it. It just matters that I am doing it. So, if you find yourself relating to me on this, get up and go look in the mirror and tell yourself how amazing you are, and how great you look just as you are. Because you are, and you do. You are your number one fan, so cheer yourself on!

Love thyself…no matter your size, your hair color, or the density of your skin. You are beautiful and are a work of art. #youareawesome #beautifuljustthewayyouare #filterifyouwantofilter

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