It gives me great pleasure to introduce today’s post by long time forum member, Sarah (who I refer to as TexasSarah because we have several Sarahs on YLF). Sarah’s weight loss and style journey are an absolute inspiration to us all. Her powerful story reflects on her years of soul searching, which have resulted in a killer sense of personal style, a positive body image, and more importantly – a very happy heart. It’s clear that Sarah is a beautiful person both inside and out.

I’ve always loved fashion. There is little more I enjoy than the fun and boost to my confidence of putting together a successfully fabulous outfit that presents me at my best. I haven’t always felt this way…in fact, my beginnings were mostly filled with fear, frustration, insecurity, even depression.

I always knew I wanted to be confident and fabulous, but there was a disconnect between my desires and the ability to actually make them happen. My childhood and teen years of being the “big-boned” chunky girl set the stage for intense insecurity about my body image, and I ended up an early 20-something, trapped in a box of labels and limitations. I didn’t know I could be anything better than what fate had dealt me, which I believed to be the worst combination of flaws and imperfections any one girl could throw at a wardrobe. I had stacks of fashion magazines dog-eared with fabulous outfit inspirations and in the next room a closet full of nothing to wear.

This disbelief in me wasn’t a conscious choice, it was just my reality. I’d grown to reject who I was, and accepted that there were no alternatives. Why try to be me? “Me” was no good. So instead I’d copy people I admired or celebrities I wanted to be, via what they wore. But my unhappiness and insecurity in my own skin was a poison that left unchecked, promoted damaging and unhealthy habits, both inside and out.

It was at this point in my life that I hit a speed bump, and it jarred me all the way to my core. I’d trashed the inside of my body to the point where it was rejecting itself, and I underwent an emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder. At age 26, this was a serious wakeup call back to reality that forced me to take a hard, honest look at things. My introspection resulted in a brand new outlook. I decided that I was going to live the rest of my life as Sarah, and start learning to live it the best I could. My life was mine for the taking, and I was done living passively, letting negativity and lies boss me around.

The five years since my surgery have been a nonstop journey toward retraining healthy patterns in my daily life, but I can tell you every step – both up and down – has been worth it. I realized that the body I now accepted was worth taking care of, and through encouragement and education, I learned to eat right and exercise. I accepted that Sarah is valuable and a person to be appreciated, which helped me start treating her that way.

Enter Angie and YouLookFab. I was nervous to post outfit photos on the forum initially, but once I did, I was overwhelmed with acceptance and support. I realized that Angie and the other forum members saw me as someone with great potential, not as the scary, ugly, monster I’d always seen. This outside affirmation was so healing! I learned valuable tips and tricks for my body type and lifestyle, and I was encouraged to discover my personal style in a way I’d never allowed myself to do. This “permission” opened up a new world to me, and I was suddenly free to embrace the real me.

The environment of the YLF community gave me confidence for the next baby step, and the next one, and the one after that, and I gradually bloomed into the person I am today. I see now that I had been the one holding myself back all these years. Life isn’t about arriving at a destination, it’s about a journey. It’s not about being “right”, it’s about being YOU.

Not to say there weren’t struggles along the way. Even today, there are times when my mind’s eye sees nothing but distorted images of me. In these moments though, I have to remind myself that this is indeed a process, I’ve worked very hard to be where I am, and I need to trust those around me who see me for who I really am. If I don’t accept and support me from the inside out, I will never be confident regardless of how fit I am or what is hanging in my closet.

I’ve chosen to surround myself with positive influences, which I found through YLF, good friends, family, and healthy eating and exercise. The 75lb weight loss and closet full of pretty things are just the outward signs of an inward transformation. I am finally the person I’ve always wanted to be. Not a perfect style icon, but someone who is full of confidence inside and out, learning to accept where I am at the moment and who I can become in the future.

You can be what you want to be, but it all starts with you. Don’t sell yourself short of your potential. I’m rooting for you!

Stop by Sarah’s style blog the Daily Sophisticate where you’ll see Sarah successfully work a simple, chic and polished look to perfection. Sarah is quite the style icon at YLF and sports perfect pant lengths like no other!