How I learned that my body is beautiful just the way it is.

It started out innocently enough. I was born. They counted 10 fingers and 10 toes. Everything appeared to be in working order.

My arms were where they were supposed to be, as were my legs. Family and friends admired the adorable chubbiness of it all. Every inch of me was perfect from their perspective. Everything about my existence on this Earth represented possibility — the chance to make good, to right wrongs, and to make a fresh start. This is not unique to my experience; it’s what we do with children They are our window into what might be.

Image via iStock.


I moved predictably from infancy through toddlerhood and my legs carried me along on that journey. They toddled about, carrying my new little self to all the adventures awaiting me. No one had judgments about the shape of my face or the heft of my behind.

There was only wonder at the magnificence of my existence. There was still the possibility that I would be built like a goddess and fulfill the desire of many women to be beautiful, perfect, and without dimples on my thighs. There was still hope for me.

Yet, at some point, I began hearing things in my adolescence that changed my understanding of my body and its value.

Puberty hit me early — very early — and I had a woman’s body while I was still a child. Statements like “pinch an inch” or “I’m so sorry you got my legs” or “you need minimizer bras” began to shape how I thought about this suit that my consciousness had been born into.

I started to become increasingly self-conscious and developed my own judgments about what was bad about my surface self. I had glasses and braces, big boobs, and a terribly neurotic brain. I was now being betrayed by my own body, as it seemed to not live up to the standards or expectations of beauty set forth in society.

Let me be perfectly clear: No one every said, "You are ugly. You are fat. You are not OK just as you are." I was loved. I was deeply, deeply loved. But I did receive a message many of us do — that the way we look is not sufficient.

John Moore/Getty Images.

There is a vicious cycle in which generations of women hear their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts talk about their own bodily imperfections. They lament upon the disappointments at how their feet are shaped or the fact that they gain weight through the middle. Never once as I was growing up did I hear any women reflect upon the astounding capacity of their own bodies.

I have always hated my legs. They are ugly by traditional beauty standards. Throughout my 38+ years on this planet, I have never said one nice thing about them.

It recently occurred to me, probably much too late in life, that this body of mine has been with me since the beginning. Of course it has — what a ridiculous thing to say — but we often take our bodies for granted. We abuse them, talk badly about them, judge them negatively, and put unrealistic expectations on them.

How does my body withstand my unrelenting disappointment? Because my body is incredible. I have decided I have an incredible body.

It doesn’t look like the ones at the gym in their Lululemon, or on the covers of the magazines, or lounging at the beach. And, yet, I have an incredible body.

It has been with me from the beginning. My heart and my brain have withstood sadness, anxiety, and deep emotional distress. My whole self has been crushed under a car, broken then healed, and with beautiful scars to show for this accomplishment. This body has grown three lives; it has stretched to fit their growth, disseminating nutrients, building little brains and blood vessels, hands and toes. These legs have carried me through races, walked cities, climbed mountains, and bounced my crying babies through many sleepless nights. My stomach has experienced the butterflies of love. These arms have hugged and held and carried and cheered through all the moments of my life. My eyes have witnessed life and death, grief and joy, the miracles of nature, art, love, and family. My ears have heard the giggles of my children and my ears have listened to instructions on how to peel potatoes or make a hospital corner. What kind of weird, magical miracle makes all those things possible in one place for one single individual existence?

Through every pain and joy, and fluctuation of the scale, my body has been with me. The way it looks or the way it moves or even the way that all the parts don’t work the way they used to — those changes are only a part of me. We are the sum of our parts, the culmination of our life’s work, a massive piling on of beauty and pain, of successes and failures.

I want “I have an incredible body” to become our mantra and I don’t want it to have anything to do with what the outside looks like — but rather, what our bodies are capable of enduring and creating.

Let’s reflect this wonder and reverence to the young people in our lives. The next time you feel like saying something negative about your thighs or your jiggly arms, instead just look in the mirror and say, “I have an incredible body.” Because you do, you really, really do.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Anderson Cooper has interviewed hundreds of people, from top celebrities to heads of state to people on the street. He is fairly unflappable when it comes to chatting with a guest, which is what makes his reaction while interviewing inaugural poet Amanda Gorman all the more delightful.

Gorman stole the show at President Biden's Inauguration with a powerful performance of her original poem, "The Hill We Climb." People were blown away by both her words and her poise in delivering them, especially considering the fact that she's only 22 years old. But it's one thing to be able to write and recite well, and another to be able to impress in an off-the-cuff conversation—and Gorman proved in her interview on Anderson Cooper 360 that she can do both at a level most of us can only dream of.

In the interview, Gorman explained how she dove into research to prepare her poem to fit the occasion, and then how that work was disrupted by the attack on the Capitol.

"I'm not going to say that that completely derailed the poem, because I was not surprised at what had happened," she said. "I had seen the signs and the symptoms for a while, and I was not trying to turn a blind eye to that. But what it did is it energized me even more, to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope and unity and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear."

After explaining how she used tweets and articles and messages about the Capitol insurrection to hone parts of her poem, she shared thoughts on reclaiming the power of words.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.