Beautiful…what does this word mean to you? In our society, beauty is seen thru external perfected imagery.  From airbrushed models in magazines, to perfectly casted commercials and flawlessly edited social media posts.  It’s no wonder how beauty has become defined by outward appearance.  My question is this, “How do we take off our tainted lenses of preconceived external acceptance and see the true beauty illuminating within each of us?”

This post is about my personal inward journey; I am 36 years old and just now awakening to who I authentically am.  Meaning, I am stripping myself of all self-imposed labels that I’ve thought define me.  I am letting go of who I once dreamed to be…as my dreams were not from my heart but from my head.  I can say this; I have always felt like a free spirit that doesn’t quite fit in to the normalcy.  So I’ve adapted, shapeshifted and molded myself into what I thought would be accepted – I was choosing to lead with my mind.  There is much falsity that resides in this eggoic head space; it’s full of deception, fear and judgement.  Though I sensed I was being accepted and heard; I never really was.  People can’t love you fully, see you entirely and accept you with respect until you show up as your authentic, soul embodied self.  As I’m writing this, I ask myself why it has taken this long to awaken to the discernment between expectations & truth.  I thought that perhaps by sharing my personal navigation into self-love, this might resonate with some.  And even if it doesn’t, somehow this post is a part of my growth, putting it all out there to speak my truth. 

I’d like to share some of my background, as a good chunk of my life was all based on outward image. There was an impactful time in my life when a big shift happened.  It was the summer of 1992; I recently had my braces removed & celebrated my 12th birthday.  That summer I also experienced a significant growth spurt; I went from 5’7 to 5’10 in three months.  All of a sudden I hugged my Mom and she was shorter than I…it was an odd felling. Later in the summer I started middle school, 7th grade. I would walk down the hallways to class and towered over all of the kids; I felt all eyes on me…I stuck out like a sore thumb! I actually would hunch over trying to “fit in” and not be noticed.  I felt very insecure and self-conscious, both physically and emotionally.  Ironically one afternoon at the mall, my Mom was approached by someone asking if I might have an interest in modeling.  I couldn’t believe it, as I never envisioned myself as “beautiful”. I didn’t think much of it at the time but my Mom did.  She could see that I was struggling in school and wasn’t involved in sports or other activates, so she asked me, “Are you interested in modeling?”  I remember thinking, I do love fashion & I’m not doing anything else, why not give it a shot.  Though I also remember fear coming thru and asking myself, “Can I handle the rejection or can I live up to the high perfection standards?”

That fall at 12 years old, I signed with a modeling agency in Las Vegas.  I did my first photo shoot and felt odd and super intimidated.  I also had my first runway casting for Niemen Marcus, to my surprise I booked it!  Brooke Shields was a guest model in the fashion show; I was beyond excited and nervous at the same time.  While rehearsing for the runway show I worked with a wonderful man who would be my mentor for years to come, David Cordoza.  He took me under his wing and taught me every runway walk you could imagine, and this is an understatement – “no one could walk better in stilettos then David!”  Before I knew it, I was working constantly in print and runway in Vegas and LA.  I had to start home schooling because I had too many absences at public school from working. Honestly, I loved being home schooled because I never felt accepted in school.  Also I never have been the scholastic type.   As I started the home correspondence testing, I found out I had a learning disability, I am dyslexic.  After being diagnosed with Dyslexia, I had clarity on why I always felt so confused in class and struggled with reading, testing, etc.  Thankfully I found this out and I actually applied myself to read more and came to an understanding, “I’m not dumb, I just learn differently”.  My mom was very supportive and never made me feel “less than”… in fact, she encourages me to see the good in Dyslexia. This is my gift to experience life as being unique and not like everyone else.

Stacey Leigh - Onword Journeys

Three years into my modeling career I had signed with multiple agencies in LA, NY, and Miami.  My Mom gave me strong guidance and fundamental tools to treat my career as my own business.  Though modeling wasn’t a true passion of mine, I learned so much about fashion, it created travel opportunities and taught me how to stay grounded & rooted in my core values.  Working in a superficially based industry can lead you down many different paths. Honestly I saw so much self-destruction with others; I think it scared me enough to keep me on the straight and narrow.

One of my favorite cities that I worked in was San Francisco, I moved there at 18.  I ended up living in SF for a year, enjoyed the balance of work and exploration of the charismatic city. In 1999 I decided to move back home to Arizona where my parents where living. AZ is where I meet my husband Ben – I was 19 years old; he was a hairstylist. Flash forward 17 years & we are still together and just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary…oh what a journey it has been!  Ben has a beautiful daughter named Sierra, she was 6 when I meet her and is now is a successful & thriving 23 year old living in CA.  I married Ben when I was 22, it was comforting to put my energy into my family vs just career.  Into my mid 20’s modeling just wasn’t feeling right anymore, I was tired of extreme dieting and having to look a certain way for others.  I found myself yearning for more challenge, creativity and to work from within.


At 27, I decided to retire from the modeling industry – I can’t describe how freeing it was to “let go” of my modeling career.  Yet I’d be lying if I didn’t also share how fearful it was to shift my energy into unchartered territory of simply “being” Stacey.   Modeling was all I knew, it paid my bills and gave me a sense of purpose for 15 years.

I had a potential new business opportunity that would support my transition from modeling into entrepreneurship.  My Mom, Donna Hansen had been hand-crafting our family toffee and selling at local farmers markets.  I worked with her in production and sales during the busy holidays.  I presented to her my interest to grow and expand the toffee brand.  Neither of us knew what we were getting into but working together was a win, win! 9 years later we are still in the biz of making toffee; our company is called Goodytwos Toffee Company.  We’ve had the pleasure to be featured on the cooking channel show called Food Crafters

“”Our toffee is hand crafted with a double dose of vitamin L-O-V-E… our cure for the common toffee”.


So here I am today, writing a blog post for my travel/lifestyle blog that I created in the fall of 2015. The irony in my bog is that I am tapping into and exposing my feeling of inadequacy due to my dyslexia…writing!  My little blog has created a space for me to share freely and shine from within. 

“It’s time to honor my imperfections, allow my quirkiness to show thru it’s own beauty and to own it”!

As I reflect back on certain stages in my life which include my modeling career, being a wife/ homemaker, a small biz owner. These are all labels that I have attached to myself; they are valuable and important relationships and experiences in my life.  But I’ve come to the realization that they do not define me, I must define me. It’s scary to say that because I have to ask the question…“am I enough???”am-i-enough-onword-journeys

This is where my self-discovery process has begun.  I’m not suggesting to abandon your dreams and to not set big goals; these are important building blocks to grow and evolve, they create drive within us.  What I am suggesting is this, take time to really get quiet and listen to the inner guidance from your heart space not your head.  Our minds are always going, going, going and can have big ideas and also create big fears.  If we quiet our minds and simply focus on just being present and conscious, there is wisdom and guidance waiting to be received based from truth and love.

I recently read an incredible book called “Meet Your Soul – A Powerful Guide to Connect with Your Most Sacred Self “ by Elisa Romeo.  I can’t tell you how impactful this book has been on my soul awakening journey!  I have also attended 2 workshops guided by Elisa Romeo, one in Scottsdale and one most recently in Bainbridge, WA held in Elisa’s Soul Barn. The retreat was so powerful, full of deep conscious soul connection and inner self knowing. 

“Instead of making decisions based on safety, security, or practicality, the Soul wants us to live our lives according to what we find to be most beautiful.” – Elisa Romeo

eart Awakening Soul Barn- Elisa RomeoHeart Awakening Retreat- Elisa RomeoHeart Awakening Retreat- Elisa Romeo- Onword Journeys

I’ve included the raw, vulnerable and beautiful video documentary from the “awakening from the Heart” retreat that I attended. This retreat was life changing and awakening for me and all of us who participated. With the sacred guidance by Elisa & her husband Adam we all experienced a deeper connection with our Soul and a new sense of authentic love embodiment.

“Elisa’s mission is for you to fall madly in love with your Soul.  After meeting her own Soul during an out-of-body experience, she found her life’s purpose–to help others find their own personal, all-loving and always-present guide to help navigate daily life. Using her background as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with her psychic abilities, Elisa merges psychology with modern-day mysticism to help you remember and reunite with the loving Source of your being.” –

There are many books, workshops, groups and activities that can support us all on living into our authentic being.  I encourage anyone who this is connecting with this post to make the time and create the space for self-love…YOU deserve this.  If we take away the labels and external acceptance and then replace them with inner knowing, our self-imposed filter is lifted.  We’re no longer viewing ourselves thru tainted lenses, instead, we see with clarity and shine our higher selves.  Our true beauty is revealed. 

“May we all have the courage and vulnerability to live into our most authentic, Be-YOU-tiful self”.

With love and gratitude,


Stacey Leigh Barnes- Onword Journeys


  • Reply jessica Chaplick September 16, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a personal message. You are such an amazing person and I am so blessed to call you my friend, soul sister! Love you Stacey!
    PS – I think I need to pick up Meet Your Soul

    • Reply jessica Chaplick September 16, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      And Stacey, you are one of the most BEAUTIFUL people I know, both inside and out (your inside is even more beautiful) XO

      • Reply Stacey Leigh Barnes September 17, 2016 at 6:16 am

        Jessica, thank you for your loving, supportive words. Beyond grateful for your authentic friendship & sisterhood. xoxo?✨

  • Reply Alexis McNeil September 16, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing and inspiring Stacey, we all need this type of reminder to connect back with soul and let it lead the way…you shine so bright, thank you for the courage and clarity to share…lots of BIG Love sister:)

    • Reply Stacey Leigh Barnes September 17, 2016 at 6:10 am

      Sending so much love your way Alexis. Your courageous soul journey & big heart shines so bright. Love you sis. ?✨

  • Reply Shannon Thorpe September 17, 2016 at 10:01 am

    What a beautiful message… I’m honored to be on this incredible journey of growth and discovery with you! You are truly stunning (inside and out). Thank you for sharing yourself and your bright light with all of us. Love you Stac?

  • Reply elisaromeolisa September 17, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    What I first notice about these photos is a Soul seeking Truth–Those eyes! Piercing through falsities and waiting for true reflection of Love. Thank you so much for the shout out and mostly for your heartfelt work of shedding the lies of limitation society whispered in exchange for the fierce dharma of your Truth. You are a courageous Soul and I am so grateful to know you. Love you forever! Elisa

    • Reply Stacey Leigh Barnes September 20, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      To my wise & fiercely Be-YOU-tiful Elisa. This Soul truth reveal is all thanks to you. You seeing my soul, acknowledging her & hearing her truth thru my limited & unawakened embodiment ignited my souls voice & purpose. The work you are doing is so powerful & needed. Beyond grateful to you & Adam for your bravery & holding the sacred space to awaken & acknowledge all souls. More Soul work to come with your courageous guidance… my Soul journey has just begun. Sending my deep love & honor ?✨

  • Reply Micheline Etkin September 19, 2016 at 9:46 am

    I am so proud of everything you have acomplished and have watched you grow your amazing soul for the last 20 years!! Congratulations beautiful Stacey and thank you for sharing your light with us and the world! Love you!! Micheline

    • Reply Stacey Leigh Barnes September 20, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      So much LOVE to you Micheline! Meeting you at 17 was completely soul orchestrated. Your angel guidance, spiritual wisdom & glamours essence radiate from deep within. Your light illuminates purity & love. You are my angelic Soul sister… our bond is sacred & forever eternal. ?✨

  • Reply Kirin Christianson September 21, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Love this and Love YOU!! xoxo

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