Empowered is a goal many women want to feel. Could you imagine feeling empowered at the age of 23? This woman wasn’t always confident, but had a fierce drive to become confident and empowered.
By Perizae (Peri) Tzantarmas
I’m 23-years-old — considered young by most. Many people look me in the eyes and say I have an old soul. I guess it’s because I’ve done a lot of soul searching, and sometimes that can feel quite tiring.
I grew up in a traditional Greek family, in which religion, family, and food were the only fundamentals in life. My genetics never allowed a fast metabolism nor a desire to be physically active, thus giving me curves in all the wrong places — as a kid. Naturally, I was bullied for being different. Although I was the chubby, nerdy girl at school, I had determination — a fierce drive to become an empowered, beautiful, educated woman someday.
While the other girls were idolizing Britney Spears, I was dreaming of becoming someone like the writer Toni Morrison, or the Dalai Lama, a change-maker in my community. I knew at that age, in elementary school, that as long as I was living on the planet, girls should never feel inadequate, and never be bullied for being unique. I knew that a paradigm shift in myself was deeply necessary for inner-beauty to thrive.
How in the world would I accomplish this? Throughout my adolescence, I continued to struggle with my sense of self-worth. Peer pressure got the better of me, and eventually bulimia, the eating disorder, was a governing wager of my happiness, along with young men and partying. At age 16, it took a huge leap of faith for me to find what ended up being the most beautiful discovery: who I was on the inside really did matter!
On My Way to Become Empowered
In my late teen years, I completed hundreds of self-development books — books that people in their 30s and 40s read after divorce, bankruptcy, and so on. I attended seminars and workshops for one purpose alone; to obtain a sense of myself — that little girl who wanted to create beauty, to create change.
Finally, as if by some miracle, I began to truly honor myself. I embarked on an inner-journey and totally embraced the imperfections and mistakes I had created for myself. One day, I looked in the mirror and said “Peri, you are beautiful.” I believed what I said, and that’s all I needed. I was empowered.
Once I accepted myself, my whole, perfect, beautiful self — opportunities seemed to fall in my lap. That’s when I met Debra Gano.
Empowered Times Two
Debra Gano is the CEO and President of BYOU “Be Your Own You!”, a girls’ self-esteem apparel and educational company. She is also the best-selling author of the Heartlight Girls series, and the founder/publisher of BYOU ‘Be Your Own You’ magazine for girls. Her book, Beauty’s Secret: A Girl’s Discovery of Inner Beauty is the recipient of multiple national awards, including Gold Winner of the Mom’s Choice Award. Debra is a former international model and actress who now dedicates her life to the empowerment of girls and women, and speaks as a national expert on self-esteem.
The majority of work she does is to help women and girls to overcome feelings of inadequacy. This feeling is deep-seated from childhood and affects both men and women, however the unrealistic standard of beauty and unhealthy role models and media women encounter daily exacerbates this issue deeply with this particular gender. This feeling can defeat dreams, crush opportunities, and remove much joy out of life, causing a person to miss much of her life and miss being empowered. That is one of the reasons she is so passionate about helping kids with this issue; so they don’t miss many productive years of their lives, living with this disabilitating, and common, fear.
Now, I work as Debra Gano’s personal assistant. It truly is an incredible feeling, knowing that I work with a woman who has extreme dedication to the empowerment of women and girls. Debra is such an inspiration to me, simply because she is real. When young girls and their mothers attend our workshops or read the book, I can see that it’s Debra’s authentic presence that truly allows transformation to take place within themselves. I work with Debra daily, and I can honestly say that she “walks the walk” as a person of integrity and power. Debra is leading a giant community of women and girls who have an incredible sense of their own inner beauty and healthy self-esteem. I had to learn about my sense of self-worth the hard way, so I am honored to be a part of Debra’s mission – a mission that places such powerful tools in the hands of young girls and their mothers, in a very tangible way!
Both Debra and I have visions of beautiful, unique, empowered young women. I have dedicated my energy to BYOU “Be Your Own You!” and Heartlight Girls because I want to give girls the means to overcome any situation of feeling inadequate. I want them to know that they are beautiful, and unique, and powerful — just the way they are. I want them to know this, because I understand that they might not believe it themselves. If just one girl is able to look in the mirror, as I did, and genuinely find beauty in her imperfectness, I have done my job in helping another feel empowered.
1. What have you accepted in your life that took time, physically or mentally?
It took a while for me to accept my physical body. I used to loathe my wide hips the most. I’m finally able to look at myself as my loved ones do— a curvy, voluptuous goddess!
2. What do you appreciate about yourself and within your life?
What I appreciate the most about myself is my ability to create beauty from thin air. I try to find the lesson, and the opportunity to see perfection in imperfection situations. To me, that’s what beauty is all about.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What goals do you still have?
The most rewarding achievement in my life was when I decided to write a novel. It’s strange and different — totally not the type of book I enjoy reading by other authors. It’s an ongoing collection of thoughts and ideas right now and there is so much passion behind it, I can’t help but considering that finishing the book as a goal I still have.
4. What is your not-so-perfect way? What imperfections and quirks create your Identity?
I’m an Aries — and can own up to every positive and negative quirk that zodiac sign possesses. I’m extremely driven and passionate, but sometimes I can bulldoze right over people — and their feelings. I know it’s not-so-perfect of me, but I can’t help who I am!
5. How would you complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
….books. I love my books! I never want to stop learning and experiencing. Books are my vehicle to transformation, being empowered and I can’t have enough of them!