Choosing to Love Myself | Melanie Burk
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hey there! I am Melanie Burk. I am a designer, a mother, an entrepreneur, hand letterer, and outside junkie. I live in San Diego with my dear husband and three girls (with a little boy on the way!) I grew up playing sports and being outside year round, but then in college realized I loved art and design too–and I haven't looked back since.
More than anything, I am a daughter of God, and I love myself for who I am, and I love the body, talents, and soul that I have been given. It hasn't always been a strong love–I am a woman who has grown to love myself, but it has taken WORK.
Was there a time when you struggled with loving yourself? Why are you so passionate about this topic?
As a teenager, I always loved myself, but it was a love based upon achievement; I always identified and found confidence in myself because I was an athlete, good at what I did, and I had confidence that I could push my body to achieve extraordinary things. Then one spring, I tore my ACL, MCL and meniscus in a basketball game. Four years, six surgeries, and three ACL's later, and after a lot of tears and heartache, I realized my body and knee would never be the same. Over that time I came to realize that I couldn't base my self worth, or my confidence, on athletic achievements, it needed to be something deeper. I realized that I needed to love myself as a daughter of God, but even more, I needed to apply that love and REALLY learn to love myself.
I am not one to quote celebrities, but I remember once reading something from Kate Winslet that stopped me in my tracks: “When I grew up, I never heard positive reinforcement about body image from any female in my life. I only heard negatives."
After reading that, I started to reflect on the messages I had heard as a girl growing up. It was always varied, and to be honest a bit two-faced. I was always told that I was beautiful and a daughter of God by women I loved and trusted, but then I watched these same woman struggle about themselves and their own body image. I saw them put themselves down, and I never heard them praising or loving their own bodies. Though they told me “You are beautiful,” with their lips, the way they talked about themselves showed that they didn’t believe that the message applied to them in the same way. I don’t wish to be hard on these women–Having three children (and currently growing another) I understand the constant change that goes on in a woman’s body. How often have you told your sons or daughters- you are beautiful and wonderful and precious, and then later looked at yourself in the mirror, and couldn’t think the same thing? It’s a hard realization and hard honesty to face for every single woman.
I would be lying to say that many times through the years, I haven’t woken up to wonder—who is that woman in the mirror there? I have gained and lost so much weight—first in that period of years where I had those six knee surgeries, and then again in the past 7 years through pregnancy, child birth, and nursing. It's crazy how much our bodies can change and fluctuate, depending on what we are going through, the time of life we are in, and just our normal, everyday fluctuation of hormones!
In ancient times, women’s bodies were compared to the moon—ever changing, ever beautiful, and life giving, which I find comforting and beautiful, as well as in direct contradiction to what the current media would tell us about woman’s bodies. Current fads tell us we should be one size at all times, constantly dieting, never fluctuating, and never changing. How contradictory this is to our very role as woman, mothers and givers of life! Our bodies and the way that they change is the very thread of our existence, and quite frankly–this change and fluctuation is part of the very core of Heavenly Father's plan.
What motivated you to change, and how did you begin the journey to loving yourself?
Immediately after having my first daughter, I was filled with a tremendous love for her precious body. Having spent 7 of the 9 months utterly sick—I suffer from an illness in pregnancy known as Hyperemesis–I fought daily to gain pounds and keep the food down. It felt that I had given years of my life away to create this precious body, and I realized two things. First, that I never wanted her to tear down her own body—something I had made such a great and difficult sacrifice to create. I wanted her to see her own body the way I saw it—beautiful, divine, and precious in its imperfections. Secondly, I realized that I didn’t feel the same love to my own body, and I wanted to change that. When Maggie was just a young baby, I made myself a difficult promise that she and all my children would never hear me say a negative thing about my body. I would learn to love and praise my body, no matter its condition. I realized that it started with me.
I now have three darling girls, and I am grateful for this promise I made six years ago. Of course in those years there have been times where I didn’t love my body, but I learned with hard work and practice, to stop those thoughts and never utter them. I have learned that when I think those thoughts to verbally utter something outloud that I did like about myself. And the practice and hard work has paid off. I love my body. I really believe that I am beautiful—every wrinkle, every stretch mark, every saggy part and tight part too. I am beautiful. Somedays I work out, some days I eat cookies, but no matter how my body changes, I have learned to look in the mirror and love me for me.
Everyday before school, my girls and I have a ritual. We stand in the mirror and say together- all out loud: “I am a daughter of a King. I am beautiful because I am kind. I am strong, and I can do hard things.” We say this all together, and it is my hope that my girls know that our bodies are beautiful, not because of make up and how we dress, but because we just ARE. And I hope they will know this not only because I tell them, but also because I show them in the way I love myself.
We all know that God’s love is what matters most. How do you take His love, truly accept it, and let it change how you view yourself?
After embarking upon this goal six years ago, to never utter a negative thing about my body, I found that not only did my self-love change, but also my relationship with my Father in Heaven. Because I was learning to love myself, I could more clearly see myself as HE SAW ME. The negative thoughts I had been having about myself, had kept me from seeing my true worth and true beauty.
This has been incredibly powerful to me. Not only because I feel closer to God, but I also see more clearly what I am here on earth to do. My mission and purpose in life is clear to me, because I am not blinded or blocked by self-doubt.
And just because I have felt this love and peace, and know my mission and purpose, doesn't mean I am out of the clear. I think that the challenge has changed for me. My mission is clear, I love my body and myself, and so now Satan has attacked a new area of my confidence. I find that Satan works really hard to tell me that I don't have enough time, and to fear that my efforts just won't be enough. I find that bit by bit, this can really weigh on my self-esteem, and make me doubt if I am strong enough to achieve what God has asked me to do.
But the cure to this is FAITH. My goal I set this year really has helped me on those days that I feel like I just can't do everything I need to do, and that I am just not enough. It is "Faith over Fear." I think sometimes we are fearful of loving ourselves, or fearful of not being enough, or fearful of just not being capable of doing everything we need to do, and that fear can be really paralyzing. Just as my cure to learning to love my body was casting out and refusing to say negative things about it...I have been working on casting out negative thoughts of this nature too. Not allowing myself to doubt, or be fearful of my capabilities. I chant to myself my mantra for the year: "Faith over fear. Faith to work miracles. Faith to trust in God's will. And Faith to do the impossible." This has really helped me to have more faith, and to trust that God will qualify my efforts and make me weakest desires and work ENOUGH.
Another quote that has become a mantra to me is this quote by Joan of Arc: "I am not afraid, I was born to do this."
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This #choosingtolovemyself challenge has been such a beautiful thing. I believe that no matter where we are at, we can always change for the better. Learning to love yourself and see yourself as God sees you is not an overnight process. It takes work. Lifelong work. It isn't something that can be achieved without great effort. But it is worth it. I have been working really hard to have more faith, to be more confident, to cast my self-doubt away, and let God make up the difference of what I lack. I am grateful to feel that I love myself, including my stretch marks, my fluctuating body, and ever-present scars, scabs, zits, and wrinkles. They are what make me unique and I have learned to treasure them. But I am also learning to love myself—including my doubts, inadequacies, faults, fears, and imperfections. And that type of self love–drawing from the source of all love—our Heavenly Father, is a power in my life that I am forever grateful to feel.
Melanie is a designer, teacher, collector of happy, and lover of life. She’s got a dreamboat husband and three little girls that have taught her to find the beauty in a messy, joyful life. She believes that life is for loving and believing, and that the only thing really important is helping others to feel that same eternal joy that comes with love and belief. You can find her here: Website / Instagram / Online Shop