Category Archives: Make Beauty Not War

Some Mighty Precious Values


Skills: Gratitude, Make Beauty Not War, Recovery

from Contributor: Laura Eshelman

In the words of OutKast, every day is another [expletive]in’ holiday when you don’t have a regular job, but I still wanted to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year.  Since I missed the parade, I decided to do some individual community service by splurging a little on groceries and spend an hour or so distributing them in areas of Durham where the city’s homeless frequently gather.  With a big paper bag full of apples, oranges, and breakfast bars, I hit the streets near the main library first, hoping that I hadn’t bought more than necessary.

I needn’t have worried.  After I greeted a sizeable crowd on the curb, the bag didn’t survive a minute before it was torn apart and everyone divvied the contents among themselves.  Suddenly, there was nothing left for me to do but shrug, bid a happy day to a couple of people who thanked me, and figure out something else to do with my afternoon.

Even as I drove back to the “comfortable” part of the city (scarcely five minutes away), a growing discomfort eclipsed my Good Samaritan glow.  I’ve learned some cold realities through various interactions with people affected by poverty for equally various reasons, and thus wondered why it was at all bewildering to see those groceries disappear so quickly.  Reflecting on this encounter naturally brought up guilt about my own socio-economic privileges, but the shame seriously kicked in when I thought back to the breakfast bars I’ve personally consumed, only to intentionally throw them up afterward. “You’re an asshole,” I told the rearview mirror.

By now, I can usually dismiss the myopic rhetoric about eating disorders as “privileged illnesses” sparked by vanity.  To use them as a buttress for an argument about social stratification is, to say the least, misguided.  That’s not to say the criticism does not get still under my skin, because it does carry an icky element of truth: white, middle class women such as myself do make up the majority of those diagnosed with anorexia and/or bulimia.   Curiously, I’ve also met a number of such women through treatment who experience the same moral conundrums that rattled me.  They have doled out meals at soup kitchens, witnessed famine firsthand in Africa and Asia, and still fear the thought of pasta for dinner.

I guess part of me that day did want to get my jollies by proving that I am a “good person”, despite all the rotten stuff I’ve pulled over the years.  But as I continued to mull over this issue, I realized something else:  I also know what it’s like to be really hungry.  The visceral sensation of hunger blended with feelings of overwhelming sorrow and abandonment laced too many of my not-so-distant memories.  I left the library street corner with a recurring image of the first person I made eye contact with, a young woman whose seemingly flat stare couldn’t conceal the depths of the pain behind it.  It was a stare I became quite familiar with in the mirror a year ago when I had given up, impatiently waiting for my eating disorder to hurry the hell up and kill me off.  I do not know whether the woman was as resentful of her life as I was, but I did know enough to understand that as much as her body needed an orange, another part of her desperately needed a hug.

No one can quantify suffering. But an important variable in different types of whether one has the gift of choice to change their situation, whether they take the opportunity, and what they do with it.

Part of why I eventually revived my interest in social justice, once my thinking cleared up, is because my change in outlook forced me to find significance in my blessings:  a safe and quiet home, access to transportation, freedom from daily violence, a great education, indoor plumbing, etc .  I often compose little lists like this, but “food security” has always been conspicuously absent.  It’s not as if I don’t understand what that means.  Recent CNN footage broadcasted images of kids in Aleppo scraping the bottom of pots just for residue of food. Scores of Latin Americans travel for weeks and risk death to migrate to the U.S. for the sake of feeding their families at home.  In this same country, most states deny food stamps to many of the neediest citizens due to have non-violent criminal records for drugs, a trend with an alarming ripple effect on whole communities. In fact, Americans are the leading researchers in urban “food deserts”, a term describing zones where residents must cobble some way to get to the opposite side of town if they want to buy anything not found at a convenience or liquor store.

Before I turn this blog into a soapbox forum, what I am trying to get at is this:  by ignoring issues and behaviors that make us uneasy, we let fear override our inner wisdom.  The lesson I eventually contrived from my somewhat ironic act of kindness was that my set of values does not make good bedfellows with an eating disorder, and that peace with one of them precludes practicing the other to its fullest.  I finally got out my journal last night and wrote:  I AM GRATEFUL FOR FOOD.  Although the words did not come easily, I made sure they got out because someone with a much greater gift for eloquence gave me a push:

“My friends, all I’m trying to say is that if we are to go forward today, we’ve got to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we’ve left behind.”

~Dr. Martin Luther King

mauiAbout the Contributor: Laura Eshelman is a 2008 UNC Asheville alumna with a BA in mass communication.  She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice from UC Denver and holds a master’s certificate in domestic violence studies.  Laura is an avid writer, political junkie, and an advocate for various social justice causes; at present, she is an intern with Witness for Peace Southeast and volunteers with NC Harm Reduction.  She enjoys travelling, cooking, hula hooping, and long walks up steep mountains.

Slogging through the Swamps of Rejection: A Veteran’s Guide


Skills: Beauty Lost, Beauty Found, Emancipate Yourself, Make Beauty Not War, Self-Compassion

from Contributor: Laura Eshelman

The past 18 months of my life have not been the kindest.  In the wake of failing to find employment, several fallouts with friends, and getting dumped like a sack of potatoes, I’ve spared no efforts to exorcise the residual “owch”iness of rejection.  Although writing a few letters mean enough to make Stalin cry and stubbing lit cigarettes through photos of my ex provided temporary relief for a while, I am still reticent to say it’s done a darn thing to help me move on.  Whether it’s a romantic partner, a best friend, school or a job that’s told you, “Peace out,” rejection can easily become its own beast to battle long after you stop caring about its source because we too often interpret it to mean we are inherently undesirable, or inadequate.  The harshness of the last year forced me to evaluate a lot of the unhealthy responses I developed to mitigate and protect myself from the pain of rejection—and I maintain that there’s little pain out there that compares.  So, here’s a seven-point plan to help others out there.  It might not speed up the process, but you might save some money on cigarettes.

1) Don’t feel obligated to minimize it Not to be confused with re-evaluating your perspective.  Getting stuck on ancillary details about your rejection, such as how long/briefly you held a position or knew the person (or people) who blew you off, does not help you lurch forward.  It can be hard if it followed a long-term and personal commitment, but it can also be surprisingly painful sometimes even without that, and there may be a temptation to harp on yourself for how challenging the situation feels when it “shouldn’t”.  Whether you were fired from a peon-type job that you held for a week versus a career several years in the making, there’s no biological rule for how much pain one individual to the next is “supposed” to feel as a result—no matter what we hear from third parties (and there’s plenty of those, with mouthfuls of nothing useful to say).  Regardless of how much sense your feelings surrounding a rejection make, acknowledge them without judgment…and once you can do that, it’s time to move on to problem-solving.

2)  Do something amazing One of the most awful things about getting dumped, fired, snubbed, etc. is the sense of sheer worthlessness that you’re often left with in the wake.  If you find yourself questioning your intrinsic value or even struggling with guilt, take a detour before you get to Wallowsville.  Learn a skill, discover a new area of expertise, or get involved in something civic.  Taking up a new or unique hobby doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, especially if it’s volunteering—and that goes for any Good Samaritan act, whether it’s an afternoon at an animal shelter or helping a friend move.  Recently, I began volunteering with a local organization that works to reduce HIV rates by distributing contraceptives and other sanitary materials in low-income communities.  In addition to having fun and meeting people who express gratitude for outreach, it’s also forced me to count blessings I usually overlook.  It’s hard to sulk when you realize how lucky you are to be able to afford a simple box of band-aids.

3)  Do something crazy Sometimes the best therapy for going crazy is more craziness.  Be careful with this one if you are emotional and/or prone to rash decisions (perhaps review them with a more level-headed friend first), but I’ve found that doing something like getting a dramatic haircut, a piercing, a pet, or going on a random vacation can cleave some distance between you and the origin of the rejection while waiting for time to do its job.  This tip is the equivalent of a rebound after a break-up, because it can either be very good or disastrous, which is why I stress wariness surrounding spontaneity.  But when craziness is carried out with a little measured judgment—contradictory though that sounds, I argue it is possible—it can be a great mood-lifter.

4)  Build a pillow fort This is both a literal and a metaphoric suggestion.  Literally speaking, pillow forts are never bad ideas, especially if you are feeling at odds with the universe and/or have little money for entertainment.  Symbolically, they represent a cushioned safety-zone from harmful elements, and a return to simpler times.  Nothing makes me want to turn into a kid more than when the ‘real world’ shows its ugly side, and what kind of heartless element shuns a child?  Sometimes this is a good method for self-acknowledgment when we’ve gotten distracted by something that causes us to put our own preferences on the shelves.  The “pillow fort” strategy doesn’t have to necessarily involve childhood nostalgia, either—namely, it’s about re-affirming that you still deserve to feel comfort, no matter what has precipitated a rejection.  Rediscovering lost, forgotten-about pleasures is my own preferred go-to.  Watch an old favorite feel-good movie that you’ve forgotten the lines to, hit up a longtime friend who you haven’t talked to in a while, find an empty playground to take over, or drink something soothing from your favorite mug (as long as what you’re sipping doesn’t compound your problems).

5)  Find meaning in this Remember how Marty McFly’s hand started to disappear in Back to the Future after altering his parents’ pasts almost costs him his own existence?  Not the most pertinent example, since that more to do with plutonium politics and magical DeLoreans than coming to terms with rejection, but I use it because most of our most treasured experiences and relationships come from delicate circumstantial happenstance.  Take a moment to think about the people and opportunities that have sprung up in the wake of being ditched at some point in your life.  Some of the richest friendships in my life are with those who offered allied support after others unexpectedly flew the coop.   It’s a cliché adage, but doors don’t close without opening one or two others on impact.  Sometimes in retrospect, rejection becomes less of a door slammed than a bullet dodged.

6)  Be patient with yourself.  At all costs.  To anyone’s knowledge, yelling at an injury to hurry up and heal has never, ever worked.  But nursing it can be especially hard if you feel you’ve gotten the short end of the stick, and some wounds are particularly prone to infection.  If you’ve been laid off or fired from a successful business, or your old flame starts dating someone else, the temptation might be to decide that the world is out to screw you and to add an extra shot to your mug-of-something-soothing.  I don’t think it’s necessarily unhealthy to secretly hope that your rejecters fail at life (and for your sake, I sure hope they do), but preoccupation with revenge fantasies or those abstract “why me”s definitely prolongs harm, like repeatedly picking at a scab.  The best result you’ll get is a scar, and who wants a constant reminder of lost dignity?  Which brings me to point seven…

7)  Fake it ‘til you make it This one sucks.  Point blank.  But eventually, after trudging through one day after another, going through the motions, and doing whatever necessary to keep your head propped upright, there will be a morning when you wake up and don’t immediately think about this latest rejection.  Before you know it, there will be another morning like it.   And another.  The time lapses may seem long and arbitrary at first, but they will pick up succession until you can usually count on feeling normal and out of pain.  Rest assured, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you again down the road, but always make sure that the people who leave you are the ones missing out while those who support you are cashing in.  For instance, executives at Decca Records Company dismissed a small-time band in 1962 by stating, “They have no future in show business”; unfortunately for Decca, the band called themselves the Beatles, and that quote is now one of history’s most laughable. Living well is the best revenge of all—and it doesn’t have to be a fantasy.

mauiAbout the Contributor: Laura Eshelman is a 2008 UNC Asheville alumna with a BA in mass communication.  She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice from UC Denver and holds a master’s certificate in domestic violence studies.  Laura is an avid writer, political junkie, and an advocate for various social justice causes; at present, she is an intern with Witness for Peace Southeast and volunteers with NC Harm Reduction.  She enjoys travelling, cooking, hula hooping, and long walks up steep mountains.

Image: Leah Joy

Three Little Songs

photo (3)

Since hearing the tragic news of the shootings in Connecticut, I have been looking within myself to see what I am doing that either contributes to or can help prevent such horrible, violent events. I believe in the power of one to make a difference. One person can make a difference by assessing their most primary relationship – their relationship to them self. Ask yourself – is this relationship violent or loving? Cultivating a non-violent, loving and compassionate relationship with ourselves ripples out to create non-violent, loving and compassionate relationships with family, friends, community members, neighbors, people everywhere, animals, the whole earth, and all beings…

I pledge to take action every day to create a more loving, compassionate and non-violent relationship with myself and therefore create more loving, compassionate and non-violent relationships with the world.

I pledge every day to make beauty, not war

I offer three little songs for helping shift your relationship with yourself. The first two songs were shared with me by two Reclaiming Beauty Queens, Marybeth and Stacie, who found them helpful on their journey towards self-compassion. The last song offers some comic relief and is especially for any one in a similar place in their reclaiming beauty journey as myself.

Make a healing offering to the world in the face of this most recent tragedy, an offering of non-violence in all of your relationships.

Love you all,


Phillip Phillips: Home

I like to think the home he sings about as myself… being at home and safe with myself. ~Marybeth

Glen Hansard: You Will Become

A song of hope, and someone offering belief in you. Today I must believe in myself to truly grow.

Your beauty is nothing compared to what you will become.

Garfunkel & Oates: Self-Esteem

And this song is for me, and all other women grappling with the modern day dating scene…

My self-esteem’s not low enough to date you. It’s close, but not quite there.

Speak With Me Body

Soul Collage Card: May 2012

Befriending our bodies is an important first step in the Reclaiming Beauty process. As women in this society obsessed with extreme thinness, we are so used to waging war on our bodies. However, this style of relating to ourselves just perpetuates shame and a desire to escape the pain with addictive, compulsive behaviors. Developing a loving, trusting relationship with our body gives an opportunity to benefit from its wisdom. I love this poem about listening to and honoring the messages of the body from Mili Dillard, the facilitator for a recent Soul Collage training I participated in.

What would it take for you to develop this kind of respectful, loving relationship with your body?   

Speak With Me Body

Speak with me body

Tell me our truths.

Rumbling, shaking,

Contracting, then stretching out.

Trembling with your imminent proclamation,

Now very barely below the surface.

Perhaps it is time.

We are ready you and I

As our closely held secrets

Move nearer to your lips.

Not my little mouth lips

Instead our deepest lips of skin and muscle

Lips pursed from holding back

What has so long gone un-uttered.

Together we speak truth.

Listen with me body

Let us hear our truths

Listening fully and intently,

To these pieces of our story so ready to be heard.

Hearing not with my little head ears

Instead with our ears of sensation, felt sense, images,

Inner voices

Our deepest hearing ears

Together we hear truth.

Know with me body

Let us both know our truths,

Now ready to receive and accept fully.

Me trusting you enough

Me loving me enough

To know, really know, you do not lie.

Knowing with our body-mind,

Together we know truth.

Speak with me body

Speak through me body

Let us speak, hear, and know Truth


Releasing that which we are ready to release

Accepting ourselves more fully than before

Feeling radiant love from the Source…our Source.

Giving and receiving,

Our efforts are grace filled

And freedom is ours.

Make Beauty Not War

Check out the new skill added: Make Beauty Not War

Make Beauty, Not War is a Reclaiming Beauty call to make peace with yourself in order to gain access to your unique gifts, talents and passions to make a positive impact in the world.

I need a graphic designer to help me make this slogan into a t-shirt. Anyone out there feel inspired to help me with this?

Image: Documents & Designs