You stare at the photograph from ten years ago and realize with frustration you don't look the same.
Your skin is looser, your stomach is bigger, your legs are chunkier. Your arms are thicker now, and you wouldn't dare squeeze into an outfit like that. Maybe the scale says you're heavier. Maybe you can't fit in those jeans anymore. You are not the same, and it irks you to the core.
So you do what the media has taught us to do. You say no to the birthday cake when you want to say yes. You cut calories so you go to bed hungry. You make yourself dizzy, all in the sake of calorie deficit. You deny yourself any joy when it comes to food. Maybe you try a diet where you cut out a certain group of foods altogether. Starvation is your new mantra, even though life feels joyless. You are not the same.
Maybe you start counting your steps obsessively, and even when your body screams for rest, you push it anyway. You lift weights until your shoulders ache. You skip fun dates or time with your dog or dinner with friends because you can't miss the gym. You take up running even though you dread that alarm clock every single morning because of it. If you didn't sweat enough, you're not worthy. You have to earn rest. You are not the same.
You cover your body everywhere you go. You change your outfit twenty times because of the way your shirt clings to your stomach pooch or your leg cellulite shows in those shorts. You are not the same--and that is your deepest, darkest secret you hide at all costs.
You worry about what others think as they peruse your social media. You're terrified of being "that girl" who let herself go, who looks bloated and chunky compared to who she was.
You are not the same.
But you know what? You're damned right you're not the same. Because after all these years, you really shouldn't be. You've lived life. You've had successes and failures. You've fallen in love, dealt with heartbreak, lost, loved, lost again. Maybe you've had babies. Maybe you traveled the world. Maybe you learned new skills or took up new hobbies. You've made new friends and taken new jobs. You've survived. You've failed. You've conquered. You've learned.
You've done that thing you never thought you could do. You showed up when you didn't want to. You made life better for others. You saw that sunset that you can't forget about. You got on the stage, you stood up for what was right. You had surprise after surprise, some good and some bad. You lived through countless days of wonder.
You've grown in so many ways in the past ten years that no, you're not the same. You've outgrown that girl you used to be in all the best ways. You are wiser now, smarter, more mature in some ways. You are more open-minded yet also more grounded in who you are and who you want to be. So of course, you are not the same. Isn't it crazy we would expect you to be?
You are not the same--celebrate that, not just emotionally, but physically, too. Stop seeing the changes in your body as something to hide. Celebrate who you are, right now, today. Celebrate every beautiful inch of yourself. Stop hiding. Stop trying to "get back" to the size or shape you used to be. Stop looking back.
I think the sooner you learn to love yourself, to love the skin you're in right now without comparing yourself to yesterday--that's when life opens up. That's when true joy settles into your bones. That's when you can exhale, live your best life, and be truly, 100% healthy.
Stay Safe and Be True,
the real secret to success
“Those who succeed do what others won’t.”
An awkward haircut, an uncertainty about where life was headed, and a Jansport backpack accessorizing my ninth-grade self, I walked into the biology class rumored to be a nightmare. The teacher, Mr. Stevens, was known as being very stern, tough, and a no B.S. kind of guy. I was always the studious type, but I knew that Honors Bio was going to be a challenge.
I was right.
Looking back, that class was probably harder than most of the college classes and grad school classes I would take years later. Mr. Stevens pushed us to the limit of our academic abilities. On a Friday, he’d assign a chapter that we would be tested on less than a week later. Words like mitochondria and photosynthesis floated in my fifteen-year-old brain; I would look at those chapters and wonder how I would ever succeed. I cried. I worked hours and hours on weekends. It was no joke.
But through it all, Mr. Stevens always reminded us of the sentiment: Those who succeed do what others won’t. He always pointed out that the last word was won’t, not can’t. In other words, those who achieve their goals put in hard work, something most people won’t do.
And here’s the thing—that class changed everything for me. First, I realized I could do it. I could be successful with dedication. Now, over twenty years later, I still think of those words and those lessons I learned. I might not remember the full photosynthesis process or every bone in a frog. But I do remember that when things feel impossible, I’ve been there before—and I also know I’m capable.
Mr. Stevens gave me something I think we don’t value enough in today’s education system and in society in general—the chance to work hard and challenge myself. Through that hard work that sometimes made me cry, I learned grit, tenacity, and most importantly, confidence. If you’re never pushed past your limits, you’ll never know what you’re actually made of.
And finally, he taught me that to get where you want to go, you have to be willing to make sacrifices. You have to sometimes do what others won’t.
You have to get up at 5 a.m. so you have time to work on that book.
You have to turn off Netflix to study for that degree you’re chasing.
You have to plan ahead so your meals don’t get off course when you go out with friends.
You have to sweat a little, sacrifice a little, and be willing to get knocked down.
You have to do what others won’t in order to live the life you want.
I’m so thankful that twenty years later, Mr. Steven’s words still ring true for me, still inspire me to chase greatness. Most of all, I’m thankful that the tough-love teacher (who probably would be scolded today for his tactics) came into my life when he did so I could learn the true value of hard work and also my own capabilities.
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books