My mother tells this story about me when I was about four or five years old.

I was standing up close to a mirror and making silly faces at myself. My mother saw me and said: “Sarita, you are a character!” Without hesitating, I answered back: “But I’m a beautiful character.”

I love this story about the child that was me. I wish that I could remember it clearly…or even a little. I wish that I could have bottled up those feelings to uncork the magical self-love potion whenever I needed to access it again. Because somewhere along my path, I stopped seeing that sacred image. Instead, I started shredding myself apart.

Suddenly, that beautiful little girl became a thigh that was too big. A tummy that wasn’t perfectly flat. A double chin. A zit or two…or more. A big nose. A few lines on my forehead. Instead of viewing myself as whole, my focus shifted to every. single. flaw.

A quick look at my stunning mother as she turned heads while walking down the street proved my theory correct. I was ugly. Real ugly. So ugly I was sure no man would ever, ever turn to look at me that way.

It was not only me who saw it. I got plenty of help along the way. At 9 years old, my best friend noticed me changing once and said “Ew!” when she looked at my undressed body. I felt ashamed. If my friend saw ugliness, surely it must be true. I didn’t blow off the story, though I suppose I could have. Instead, the mental record stored it and replayed it over and over.

At 13, when I went to the hospital as an outpatient to surgically remove two beauty marks from my face, the male nurse joked: “Beautiful mother—ugly daughter!” He actually had the gall to laugh.

I remember turning to the locker after he left the changing room and crying into the hollow darkness, wanting to crawl inside and lose myself forever. The echo of my sobs quaking in my ears. There were many days after that incident when I mentally put myself back into that locker and shut the door, hating myself, wishing I had never been born.

If only the story stopped there but it didn’t.

Every time I flipped through a magazine and looked at the thin, perfectly shaped figures on the pages, I dropped a few more notches.  “Why can’t I look like that?” or “How can I transform my body to look that way?” curdled in my head.

What about all those signs posted everywhere saying: “Is your body beach ready?” No, said my head. It will never be beach ready when I need to look like the impossibly perfect person on the billboard. Just no.

I’m sad for that little girl. So sad. I hated on myself for years. Even after getting married, I didn’t want my husband to look at my body. I was petrified that he would see the same flawed shape that I did.

Somewhere inside many of us exists that same body-loathing track. Maybe it was not a beautiful mother but a pretty friend, a taunting group of kids, or a snide comment that etched its way into replay mode. Why is it that we can receive 20 compliments, but it’s the one insult that haunts us like a stain that won’t wash out?

But guess what happens when we women hate on our bodies like that? We lose out on living fully in our bodies and all the pleasures and sensations that accompany being fully present. Because it is only when we love being in our bodies, when we know how beautiful we truly are, that we can fulfill our ultimate purpose—which is quite simply to be embodied.

THAT, my friends, is what the Embody Beauty Retreat is all about. Reawakening our soul purpose to embody our beauty and live into our fullest essence of ourselves.

If you can relate to my beauty story, even a little, or if you have your own story that you’re ready to release, I invite you to join two incredibly gifted women, Rebecca Casciano, Vanessa Codorniu, and me on Sunday, September 20th at the Center for Remembering & Sharing in NYC to free your spirit and embody your beauty at last.

This retreat has been a long term vision of mine because even after years of working on how I feel about myself, I still have more to go. And I am ready to be free.

For more about this incredible opportunity, please visit our invitation to you. If you feel called to spend the day with us, use the code SARITA for 20% off the original cost.

Even if you can not be there in person, but wish to join in spirit, please share so that somebody else can take advantage of this special day.

Thank you from my heart.