Ashley Graham is a shining symbol of body confidence, but even she admits it wasn't always so easy.
In fact, the supermodel opens up about the process of learning to love herself — and all the toxic relationships along the way — in the October issue of Self magazine.
The cover girl explains how she hope her own journey to self love will inspire other women to do the same:
"I'm trying to change how women think about themselves. Some people just don't get it—I've been denied jobs because I was too big. I've also been denied jobs because I was too small. At the end of the day, I'm never going to conform to what anybody wants. This is my body; I'm happy in it."
"I had to realize that if I didn't really love who I was and if I couldn't appreciate this — my body — as my moneymaker, then I wasn't going to make any money … I always felt second best. I was never the prettiest, never the skinniest, never the fastest in my sports. Never the smartest, because I have dyslexia. Then, all of a sudden, people were like, 'You're gorgeous.' And I was like, 'What?!'"
Related: Kate Upton Talks Body Shaming, 'Cruel' Bullying, & Haters
Miz Graham says her feeling of overwhelming self-doubt led her into toxic relationships time after time, as she often sought validation from men:
"I dated all the wrong men. I thought I could feel appreciated in my body through guys. [My ex] never hit me, but he did throw me up against a wall. I didn't know to get out then because I was so insecure."
She recounts another painful breakup because of her weight:
"He said, ‘I'm afraid you're going to be as fat as my mom.' [That] was the start of how I began to look at my body and relate it to men. Like, Oh, I'm not pretty or skinny enough for men."
When the Nebraska native was 21, she decided to become abstinent as a way to change her relationship with men:
"I was looking for love in the wrong places. I wanted to keep a level head and make sure I was dating not in a lustful way but in a logical way. So it was like, okay, I'm an athlete. I need to move. I know that working out releases endorphins and makes me feel my best."
And A.G. kept up with this promise to herself until she married cinematographer Justin Ervin back in 2010:
"I was like, ‘Look, I'm not having sex ’til I'm married.' And he was like, ‘Great! Let's not.' We stuck to it."
That is, until their Jamaican honeymoon:
"We had sex all the time for, like, 10 days."
She adds of her healthy relationship now:
"Justin and I have this amazing marriage. I respect my husband because he's allowed me to thrive in who I am. We really are invested in each other's growth. Every business decision I've made, he's made it with me."
LOVE wins again!!
[Image via SELF Magazine.]
Tags: ashley graham, body, body confidence, cover shot, girl power, justin ervin, self love