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"Why I like my reflection now at 38, more than I did at 20."

Even with those smile lines around my eyes.

I look back at pictures of myself at 20 and I see a young lady who was pretty cute.

I was 10 kilos lighter than I am now, and my skin was mostly flawless. There were no gentle lines at the sides of my eyes that smile for a minute longer than I do, nor was there any scarring on my chin from post-breastfeeding acne.

There was no pigmentation from pregnancy, just smooth young skin, that I treated with utter disrespect, regularly wearing make up to bed and rarely wearing sunscreen. All this aside, I look more lovely now and I’m not speaking with an ounce of vanity.

Exhibit A…. laughed a lot to earn these puppies.

At 20, my boobs sat high and proud on my chest. I’d whip them out at the drop of a hat because I was quite proud of them, and most likely drunk and disorderly.

This tall, slim dark eyed girl I see looking at me in photos was cute, no doubt, but the tragedy of the situation was I didn’t like or respect myself worth a scrap.

I didn’t know my worth.

I was only so slim because I didn’t eat for at least 3 days a week. Thursday to Sunda, I took a massive amount of drugs and I danced virtually non-stop. How I held a job remains a mystery to this day.

I had a ball…Don’t get me wrong.

I can barely remember a thing for about a good 5 years there, but I know it was cray-cray fun.

Danielle, age 20.

I think about my kids partaking in this manner of cray-cray and my skin wants to crawl straight off my skeleton.

By the time I was 21 I had had a couple of boyfriends who did considerable damage to my self esteem, so between the violence and the drugs and the emotional abuse I actually didn’t think very highly of myself at all.

I could have looked like a friggin’ super model but nothing would have made me see anything in the mirror that reflected anything light. I reflected broken fragments like a shattered mirror.

The years following I traveled a lot, and there were eating issues, and my weight yoyo’d and then I had kids, and I guess I grew up and realised that although I will always be somewhat vain, my external appearance actually comes from the inside.

Our external appearance actually comes from the inside.

I started reading the children Roald Dahl’s The Twits. It’s “a little bit scary” so we’ve swapped to James and the Giant Peach, but a wonderful quote of his tumbled out from Chapter 4, the introduction of the horrible Mrs Twit.

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“If a person has ugly thoughts it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it’s so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick out teeth but it you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

The fact is I don’t look that much different. A little older, with body parts located in slightly more southern locales, but the simple truth to why I look better than I did those 17 years ago, is because I now love myself.

I train really hard, and I eat really well, and those things help to quiet my monkey mind because my stuff will always be there on some level buried as deep as Inception, but my internal thoughts and feelings towards myself are now mostly shiny reflections.

I still get anxiety and I still stress about spots but I’m kinder to myself than I have ever been.

I’m proud of myself and to be able to say that loud and proud is an achievement in itself.

A recent picture of Danielle at the beach.

One of the questions I ask my portrait subjects is “what’s something you have done in your life that you’re proud of” and some people think long and hard and scratch their metaphorical chins, and others blurt some amazing moment, without a moment’s hesitation, where they lived to their fullest.

It’s not about age or experience it's about being able to quickly reflect back and say "I did this, and I owned it".

When I was 20 I would have scratched my metaphorical chin. I did have a swathe of things to be proud of, but I wonder if I would have been able to quickly draw on them. If I met me now, and I pointed my camera in my face, I would still scratch my chin.

Not because I would now struggle to think of something, but because I would struggle to pick just one.

What's something you have done in your life that you're proud of? 

This was originally published on Keeping Up with the Holsbys and is republished here with permission.

Like this? Try:

Your proudest moment as a parent. Go.

Shannon Noll: My family saved me from drugs & depression.

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