Stascia L. Horton: There Is More Beauty In Self-Confidence Than You Will Ever Find In A Tube Of Lipstick Or Mascara

Stascia L. Horton

I am a 40-year-old female. I have struggled with self-image since my toddler years. I have been a preschool teacher and seen other toddlers with the same struggle.

There are many things that impact a child’s self-image at such a tender age. It is often a child’s parents who hinder development of self-confidence. That was my case. My mother and stepfather used to actually tell me that I was fat and ugly. I have heard parents berate their small children over their appearance: if their hair was messy or they got dirty or if their clothes were not just so. I simply do not understand doing this to your child, but I do understand that a person who subjects a child to this has low self-esteem themselves. No self-respecting person would subject another person to such behavior. However, even small children have celebrity obsessions or a warped sense of what they should look like. We live in a world so focused on celebrities, beauty pageants and the need to be pristine. Gone are the shows with normal looking children, and in have marched cartoons where the girls and boys are fashionistas. The trend setters are the heroes and the fashion mishaps become the villains. 

I also was born with a spinal deformity on top of being subjected to dismally self-depressed role figures. This made me even more self-conscious. The kids at school made fun of me for the way I walked because of the deformity. This did at least motivate me to work really hard at camouflaging my deformity. It was a feeling of accomplishment when I was successful enough to abate the teasing. 

Despite the fact that I have modeled on occasion, which I did to confirm for myself that I could look every bit as good as a girl in a magazine, I still resent the fashion industry. Being in the industry allowed for enlightenment about the reality of this presumed beautiful array of women. Oh they are beautiful, and they were before all the touch-ups and makeup and posing and lighting. Most people don’t get that inside look to learn the tricks of the trade and aren’t able come to the realization that these people are very real and look like everyone else before all the adornments. Men and women both keep trying to strive to be model-perfect, when in reality most already are. 

Here I am at forty years old finally starting to accept that hey, maybe I can be beautiful just the way I am. I am an artist and I find everyday people to be beautiful. I find their imperfections to be unique. I find their personalities exude an appearance. I am enthralled by smiles and laughter and intelligence and find that people who attract me inwardly are attractive to me outwardly. It took me a long time to apply all of that to myself. 

Forty years old, a scar that runs almost the entire length of my spine from surgery to insert metal rods to keep me straighter, a pin in my right foot with its corresponding scar, crooked teeth from a car accident and stretch marks from having a child and I finally realized that I am more beautiful now than I was when I was younger. I am more beautiful because I am a survivor and a fighter. My story of struggle and achievement are more beautiful than any runway walk I have ever taken. 

The reason? I learned to smile. I cast off people who made me cry and made me doubt, and surrounded myself with people who loved me, believed in me and supported me. I began to smile and laugh again and I have realized that smiling and laughing are what made me beautiful to other people. I realized that I needed to see myself the way I saw others; from the inside out. For I truly can see someone who may look beautiful on a magazine cover but who lives in such negativity that I instantly, upon actual interaction, no longer find them attractive. Yet to me, someone a talent scout would cast off is more beautiful than anyone you’ll see on the cover of a magazine. No magazine cover will ever be able to capture the beauty of one’s heart. 

Something I said recently: There is more beauty in self-confidence than you will ever find in a tube of lipstick or mascara. 

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Copyright Ark Stories 2012


Susan Schenck: I Adore BEING In My Body!






I love my body! I adore BEING in my body!

But this wasn’t always the case. At age 16 I went on my first diet and gradually developed an eating disorder: anorexia. It lasted for three years and I got down to 95 pounds at 5’4”. Due to the starvation I was putting myself through, I became obsessed with food. Overnight, the eating disorder flipped over into its twin, bulimia: bingeing and purging. That went on for a hellish seven years. I finally got a grip on it and stopped purging. I began to exercise, reading that repetitive motion such as swimming and running can calm a person with eating disorders. Over the decades, I came to love being in my body.

The yo-yo dieting continued nonetheless. Over the years, I have lost hundreds of pounds–the same ten to thirty pounds over and over! I have tried every diet from Atkins to Zone.

I counted calories from age 15 to 34 for nineteen years. Then I quit for nineteen years. It worked until, at age 39, I went on Prozac. I gained 40 pounds in just a couple of months!

I went on a raw vegan diet for six years. I lost but then gained weight from eating all the nuts, trying to get some protein.

Finally, at age 52, I tried an 80% raw paleo diet, which included raw eggs and lightly steamed meat. I also went back to counting calories. I got my weight down from 160 to 122, where it has stabilized for three years. I feel like now I know what is important: high raw (fruits and veggies), meat and eggs to stabilize the blood sugar, moderate on the carbs and a food journal in which I count calories. (This keeps me from fooling myself.)

The key for me to love my body has been diet & exercise and also knowing which supplements to take. I eat a high raw diet with some steamed meat and vegetables. I work out at the gym twice a week, bounce on a mini-trampoline at least ten minutes most days, do half an hour of yoga a day, walk at least forty-five minutes most days and do half an hour of facial exercise. I have integrated these habits into my life so I can multi-task (ex: do face and yoga while watching TV, walk while I am going downtown anyway). I keep fit so that I can go hiking, skating or do anything I want. Two days ago I climbed a steep hill, 1100 feet, to see a gorgeous waterfall that cars cannot get to.

I cherish my body’s health more than anything except for my mental and spiritual health. But they are all intertwined: the healthier my body is, the sharper my mind and the higher my spirits! I have gone on to write two nutrition books sharing with others all the insights and information I have learned. and

Susan Schenck, LAc, is a raw food coach, lecturer, and author of the 2-time award-winning book, The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet, which has gained a reputation as the encyclopedia of the raw food diet—as well as Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work. Go to and register for the free newsletter to get a copy of the first chapter of The Live Food Factor.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Marc Lerner: Dating Without Self-Consciousness

 Dating Without Self-Consciousness

I am a 60-year-old male. I have had Multiple Scleorsis (MS)  for thirty years and one of the biggest problems of having a chronic and disabling disease is finding someone to love you in a romantic way. I have always had a girlfriend and I have definitely dated people who loved me, but either within me or within them there have been limitations. These were the fears of my condition getting worse. Then, I committed to a lady who had equally as bad disabilities. Now, when we are together, there is no thought or concern about either person having a disability. In fact, when we are together, it is as if neither of us is disabled.

I feel that when two people accept each other exactly the way they are, a strong foundation of love is established. That acceptance, when it comes to disabilities, is crucial because the subtle thoughts about disabilities create automatic limitations. When I dated a person with a handicap, they had the ability to relate to me and acknowledge my handicaps. Then, they could easily ignore them. The fact of two handicapped people coming together allows you to ignore the thoughts of handicaps. It opens up a depth in the heart where real loving sharing can take place.

Now, not every handicapped person can be in a relationship with another handicapped person. Handicapped people have chemistry and beliefs, and need to find another person with the same chemistry and beliefs to make a powerful relationship. I share this because of the hesitancy to date a
handicapped person, even if you are handicapped.

I encourage people dealing with any kind of body abnormalities to find someone who personally knows the struggle. Dating is not always easy, but when you can support someone’s weakness and they can support yours, a powerful bond is created.

Let me share an example: I often fall with my MS and my partner knows that reality within her own life. One time, I fell down when she was sitting right next to me. All she said was, “lah dee dah.” Instantly, my ego reacted but then I realized she knows that making a big deal does not really help anybody. In fact, some of my biggest hassles happen when I fall and someone overtly tries to be nice to me. Now, don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the kindness of people but by her saying “lah dee dah” instantly
forced me to see the situation as not unusual. It was up to me to take it from there.

Sometimes, during a fall, I would have appreciated kindness and sympathy but it was nothing like being met in the moment with a loving heart that understood my situation. I wholeheartedly encourage people dealing with physical limitations to at least search in the disabled community.

Marc Lerner, author of A Healthy Way to be Sick , teaches people how to tap
inner resources to become an active participant in life. Go to, where Marc has expert author status and has posted over 70 articles on health and mental health. Go to:  to review his work and listen to 14 radio shows, which he hosted on World Talk Radio.

Editors Note:

It’s my job to edit the stories that come into the Body and Self Image Blog and I do so with a grateful heart. I consider it an honor to be able to help people share their stories and I am touched by them all. This story, however, has a special place with me. My older sister was afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis for over thirty years and I know how difficult it was for her to deal, not only with the disease, but with the fact that other people viewed her as not just different but as somehow less. Inside she was the same person but her body, through no fault of her own, had betrayed her. I applaud this gentleman for giving us his story and hope that it will help others who may be dealing with similar issues.

Ann Werner 

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Being Different


This post came unsolicited (the best kind!) from someone who already shared her story on this blog. This time she chooses to be anonymous and you’ll see why. She deals with a variety of issues that are not so common. I would imagine part of why she keeps her identity private is to avoid judgment.
People can make snap judgments, especially when it’s about something embarrassing or something we secretly fear.
What I like most about this story is that it shows we all have these weird little quirks, issues or experiences with our bodies that we would rather not have. It’s embarrassing. We feel like if anyone knew the truth about who we really are, we aren’t going to be accepted or loved. Here is proof that is just a bunch of malarkey!


Being Different

As women, we all have issues with our body image and self-esteem.  Some grapple with these issues more than others.  For every issue that makes you hate to look in the mirror, know that there IS a solution.

My awareness of my own differences began at a very early age.  Even before I began school, I was already physically scarred. That had an impact on my self-image, even as a child.  My mother told me not to be bothered by the inconsiderate people who stared;  she told me that if that happened, THEY were the ones with the problem, not me. Even though she meant well, I found her advice hard to take, at least for myself. There were kids who were inquisitive, of course, but only one that I remember as being really mean, and that was in high school. I used to be so self-conscious that I would wear long-sleeved shirts in the blazing heat of summer.  Even now, I will still catch people staring, and some are even bold enough to ask me what happened. I tell them the bare basics and leave it at that, because I have come to the conclusion that the part of me that’s scarred is just one small physical part and it by no means defines who I am as a human being.  I was burned by coffee at the age of four. My parents had one of those old coffee pots that percolated.  It was plugged in across from the kitchen table, and I was running around the table and tripped over the cord.  The pot tipped and the coffee went all over me.  I was wearing long-sleeved pajamas, and when my mom took my pajama top off, she inadvertently peeled off a layer of skin with it as well. I had a skin graft, but to this day my arm is still scarred. I used my mother’s advice to teach my own children compassion. However, that wasn’t the only demon I was struggling with.

For as long as I could remember, I had a problem with bedwetting. Certain children struggle with this problem more than others and in the majority of cases, it usually tends to correct itself by a certain age. I wasn’t so lucky. I remember having to undergo some painful and scary tests at a very young age, only for the doctor to tell my mother that my kidneys hadn’t “matured” yet.  We tried a lot of solutions—cutting back on drinks in the evening, using the bathroom before bed and sometimes being awakened to use the bathroom in the middle of the night but those methods didn’t work either. After I got to be a certain age, with no sign of my problem resolving itself, my self-esteem began to suffer.  Sleep-overs were a source of stress, as was going away to camp, family vacations, etc. My father seemed to take it worse than my mother did because he would get upset and argue whenever I would have an “accident”.  However, I didn’t find out until later that my father had endured the same problem until he was fourteen. I married at eighteen and even then I was still suffering from “accidents.” I informed my husband of it before we were married and his advice consisted of things I had already tried. My problem ultimately caused my marriage to suffer and even ended up being used against me in our divorce and custody proceedings. Fortunately, nothing bad came of the nasty and hateful affidavits that were presented against me. Between my first and second marriage, I had a few serious relationships but I tended to keep my problem a secret and just hoped for the best whenever I would be intimate with my partner. I developed a plan in my head, screwed up as it may have been, that if I happened to have an “accident” while with someone, I would just get up in the middle of the night and go home.  Fortunately, I never had to do that.  Finally, my mother nonchalantly asked me if I still had the same “problem” and let me try some medication that her doctor had prescribed. To my relief, it worked and I wasted no time in seeing my own doctor to inquire about taking the same medication.  My current boyfriend knew about my “problem” before we began living together and he was extremely understanding and even a bit humorous about it. His response was simply, “Well, I guess we’ll just do more laundry.”  My point here is that no matter how bad your problem may seem, there ARE understanding people out there, just as there usually is a solution.

Last, but not least, I address the issue of unwanted body hair. I’m talking hair in places where there shouldn’t be hair on a female body. Whether it can be chalked up to genetics or hormones gone wild, I have to deal with this issue as well. Unbeknownst to my family, I have to shave like a man (my chin) every day. I always make sure that the bathroom is locked so no one can come barging in and discover my shameful little secret. I also have hair on my breasts that I also choose to shave. I’ve had electrolysis done on my chin, to no avail. I’ve tried bleaching but the chemicals irritated my skin and caused my chin to break out. As for my breasts, I’ve tried the cream hair removers and they’re more of a pain than shaving.  I’m no stranger to looking at myself in the mirror and thinking of myself as a freak, just as I’m no stranger to looking in the mirror and wondering, “Why me?”  Despite all these issues, I’m still a woman who is liked and loved by many, flaws and all. And that, more than anything else, is what eases the pain and makes my demons easier to bear.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Toni Love: Women and Hair Loss

Women and Hair Loss

Today, so many women are losing their hair.  The reasons vary:  poor nutrition and improper diets, lack of rest, lack of exercise, stress, medical issues, medications and so much more.  Women are attempting to perform chemical services such as relaxers and permanent colors at home without the proper knowledge.

Some are experimenting with hair extensions, bonding glues, tight braids and weaves, as well as tension.  Tension and tightness causes “traction alopecia” which is very common among African-American women.  Many joke about taking aspirin before and/or after getting a hair service.  This is NOT funny!!!!  You should NOT be in any pain after receiving a hair service, including weaves.

Sadly, this has become a problem with young girls too.  Many parents get their children’s hair braided for convenience. Teenagers are experimenting with their own hair and damage is done and in some cases, before the child’s hair has completed the growth phases.  When this happens, the child has permanent hair loss damage, hence affecting her self-esteem and body image as she grows up.  And, of course, low self-esteem can be the platform for many other problems to occur throughout her lifetime.

If ever in doubt, consult a professional.  In regards to little girls, DO NOT use a chemical relaxer on their hair until AFTER they have started their menstrual cycles.  The hair goes through three phases:  anagen, catagen and telogen, and interrupting these phases with chemicals can cause permanent damage.  The telogen phase is when boys and girls obtain permanent hair: underarm hair, pubic hair, etc.  So, it’s best to allow the body to go through the proper phases. 

Therefore, your little girl won’t have to ask you, “Mama, why my hair won’t grow long?”

Author:  The World of Wigs, Weaves, and Extensions. Facbook:  Toni Love Cosmetology. Twitter: @cosmogirl205

Editor’s Note: Hair loss in women can be devastating. There are a variety of reasons why it may occur.
I have included some links for anyone who is interested or who may be experiencing this issue.
Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Interview with Didi Zahariades, MA. Psychotherapist & Coach

Didi Zahariades, MA. Psychotherapist & Coach, is located in Portland Oregon but works nationwide. She has practiced psychotherapy for the last six years and in the field of coaching for seven years.

What are the most common topics/issues that come up about body image?  Are the issues different for men?

The most common is simply that people do not like what they see in the mirror.  The issues are different in detail for men but the problem of body image is the same.  Society is overall kinder to men but as individuals, men are just as mean to themselves as women.  I think the difference is that men hide the problem better.  You rarely hear a man say, ‘Do I look fat in this?’  But for women it is an acceptable dialogue.


Do you see differences in gay and straight clients or do they share the same problems with self image?

Unfortunately they share in the problem.  Being gay is about sexual preference, not self-image.


What is the age range of your clients who have negative self/body image?

Gosh it would be so great if age was a factor.  My clients are men and women age 14-63; body image is an issue for all ages.


Breaking your clients down into age groups, do you find that there is one group that has more of a problem with body image? 

I think that there are more people involved in the negative body image of teens.  For example, parents, teachers, or friends may have noticed, hence the teen is in my office.  The reality is that LITERALLY all ages have issues with body image.  The difference may be that as a person gets older they become more accepting and in doing so they often start to give up or their frustration is higher.


Why do you think people have such a hard time with the way they look?

Media tells us that the average woman is a size 0-2 and this is who we watch on TV and see in mags.  This completely messes with us because the average size woman is around Size 14-16.  Not even close to a size 0 and in fact most women haven’t seen that size EVER.  If you grew up and went directly from a size 14 kids to a size 8, then there must be something wrong with you.


In your opinion, how does the way someone sees their body affect how the feel about themselves?

It shifts reality.  When you leave your house thinking you saw a fat person in the mirror, then you walk around all day feeling like a fat person.  And in the U.S. being a fat person translates into being less-than.


Who’s harder on themselves when it comes to body image? Men or women? Why?

I’m sure I should say women, but I don’t believe it.  I believe that women have more outside pressure than men, but I’m not even sure if that is fair.  Men have a different kind of pressure in society; pressure to be a man typically means being unemotional.  If you are unemotional, then how can you ever complain about your body image?  Men are much more apt to say, I’m fat and have their guy friend say, ‘Yeah you’ve put on some pounds.’  Well, women would never say this to one another but it is just different.  Different doesn’t mean one is easier than the other.


So often when we hear “body image” we think of women and eating disorders. Regardless of gender, everyone has a body image whether it’s good or bad. Do you have any suggestions as to how to achieve a more positive self image?

Recognize You Negative Self Talk.  We all have a cd playing in our head all day long… do you know what yours is saying?  If all day you are hearing negative commentary from the inside-out then most likely it will be affecting your body image negatively.  It sounds so simple, but most of us don’t even recognize our negative self talk.  Slow down, listen, and hear what you are saying to you… then change it!

Also, stick to the facts in regards to media.  For example:  Jennifer Lopez is said to be a size 4.  Jennifer Lopez is so great because she represents for the curvy girls!  The fact is the first part and the fiction is the last part.

Is there anything else you would like to add? (For instance: Is there an extreme or unusual story you can share? Or do you have key advice?)

Try this:   Treat yourself like your own Best Friend and increase your kindness.  What would your BFF say to you?  Apply this advice on a daily basis and it will be life changing!  Seriously stop yourself prior to the mirror and say, ‘What would I tell my BFF?’  Now start talking.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011