Hello everyone! It’s 2018 and this is my first post of the year. Being a consistent writer is a lot harder than I had expected. I began the new year in a completely new and unknown state of mind. I no longer was heading off to college to start a heavy semester. There were no books or homework waiting for me. I was just heading back home to start a new chapter in my life.
For my New Year’s resolution, I decided to do something different. This year I decided I didn’t want to change anything about my body. I wanted 2018 to be the year of truly helping people and exploring/finding myself. These are two things I have slowly dipped my toes into in the past four years, yet truly haven’t committed my life to.
On January 1st, I waited in the immigration line in Miami for more than 2 hours. It was chaotic, haha, just as I felt my life was at that moment. I had just returned to the U.S. from Mexico. That night I slept on the floor of Miami’s airport. It was freezing cold and I was not mentally prepared for the cold to dig deep into my soul. The night was long and tiring. As I laid on the airport floor, I remembered feeling anxious about my life and the person I was and who I wanted to be. I had spent my last few days in Mexico confused and trying to figure out why people do the things they do and what their motives are behind their actions. Through the amazing women and men I met, I was able to sort of grasp these confusions enough for me to realize, I too, had motives behind my actions. These motives were sometimes good and sometimes unclear. So, as I laid on the floor at the airport, I had to make a decision of what my motives would be this year.
Within the past 3 months, I finally understood what 2018 was about for me. My motives were changed from “how I can help” to “what do people need”. This made it clear to me that I needed to share my story about how I learned to love myself and how I saw my worth. So let the journey begin to where it all truly started:
It’s funny to me to look at this photo and think, “Wow she looks happy, energetic, and possibly even playful.” Although, what was behind the mask of that girl was different, I was sad. I had literally zero confidence in myself. In my mind, I was the ugliest and fattest girl you could have ever seen in this world (Let’s be honest those glasses were not helping the situation). Growing up, I had these two beautiful, younger, fashionable, athletic sisters. People were drawn to them, just as much as I was. I wanted to be them. As the older sister, I wished countless of times to change bodies with them. I wished to not feel fat or weird around them. I was the sister who was passed down clothing from her step-mother. It was just easier that way because my body was different. The clothes passed down were not being used. At the time, I never thought about how accepting these clothes would affect me mentally in the long run. Growing up, I was also told not take pictures by myself, but instead to include people. Therefore, literally, 2004 was one of the last few years you can find many photos of me by myself, at least looking like this. After that, things went downhill. I look awkward in all of them, haha.
I don’t think people realize how much actions and words can affect young children. If you are constantly hearing that your sister, who is half your size, needs to watch her weight and not eat that or this. I mean what do you think the others around them will feel? Yea, maybe it wasn’t me being told to watch my weight, but I sure understood what was going on. I understood that I must have been obese or something (which obviously from this photo and looking at other ones I WASN’T). In 2016, Dove came out with new research about women and girls and the beauty pressures and how their self-esteem has impacted them. “Girls (79%) [said] they opt out of important life activities – such as trying out for a team or club, and engaging with family or loved ones – when they don’t feel good about the way they look” (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-dove-research-finds-beauty-pressures-up-and-women-and-girls-calling-for-change-583743391.html). I can agree with this. I didn’t try hard enough or try at all in sports because I thought it wasn’t for me. I kept comparing myself to my sisters and I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me. For example, in 5th grade, there was a jump rope team at my elementary school and everyone wanted in, including me. I saw my sisters jump rope and I knew they were good. We have a home video of us three jump roping at the park. It was mainly focused on them and how well they did. I was there. I kept messing up. So at tryouts, I literally talked myself into believing that I was too fat to be a real jump roper. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get in, but my sisters did. The coaches felt bad for me so I became the new team manager. Oh man, I hated this. I hated being left behind. I hated people feeling bad for me. Therefore, I pretended to be really happy. I eventually was given a group on the team. I didn’t earn it. I just got it out of pity. At home, I felt like everyone knew I was an impersonator. Sports just never became my thing. In middle school I dropped out of the cross country team even though I loved it. I did soccer and loved it but dropped as well. Finally, I tried swimming, I hated it but didn’t drop it (Yes, I was surprised as well). I tried cross country in college. I seriously loved it. I improved my mile time like crazy. I enjoyed running long-distances, but because I was afraid of failing, I thought better to quit while I’m ahead.
My change began in High School. I wasn’t confident, but I definitely enjoyed figuring out who I was and what I wanted. When a guy liked me, I literally turned into the weirdest girl ever. Ask my friends they will tell you. I didn’t know how to interact with the opposite sex. I remember this one guy I liked, every time I was near him I did something stupid. I couldn’t even form a sentence. I was surprised to find out he liked me back. I somewhat became obsessive. I bet he knew. Everyone did. He still liked me. Man, maybe that’s why I may never be able to forget about him. Let me tell you, it took years before we had our first kiss. Anyways, the point is, I finally started to realize that I must have been attractive, for people to at least like me. I started to even question my thoughts on obesity. This was life-changing for me. Most of my life I thought I would die from my weight, just to finally start realizing I wasn’t really fat.
Then, things rapidly changed just after graduating from high school. I started to look at myself and not see that awkward 11-year-old. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and finally seeing something beautiful. It’s the weirdest feeling to have. I finally started to let go of that scared girl I once knew. My friends at the time were a huge help for me. I don’t think they realize it but I will always be indebted for their love and patience towards me. They always gave me compliments and they taught me how to dance. In general, they taught me how to be comfortable in my body. These wild girls gave me life, a sense of purpose in our group. They accepted me as a transfer student my freshmen year, and they still accept me today.
Now, time for the heavy stuff. Change doesn’t come easy. It’s a lot of work and you have to experience a lot of bad before the good. Or, at least see others go through the bad to make you feel the need for change. My change in how I saw myself took years and some awful experiences I had to go through. Many of you know, but some don’t, I was assaulted before I started college and then was raped my junior year in college. This part is the hardest for me to write. When I laid on that airport floor, I had to think about all my experiences. Everything connected in some way or form. I am not the woman I am today because my life has been all super good and happy. I am the woman I am today because of all the experiences I’ve gone through. Not growing up with my mother, living in a foreign country, feeling insecure about myself, not knowing my purpose in life, and not being good at particularly anything. These were things I had to think about. Just a few things I have personally been through. I know many other women who have gone through worst. Some wished to be able to read but never have owned a book or gone to school. To love myself, I had to accept my past and the decisions I choose. I chose to quit sports. I chose to compare myself to my sisters. I chose to go out that night that led me to be taken advantage of. I knew I had to accept that these were my choices but that they were not my fault. I had to take the actions away from who experienced those things to the person I could be. It’s hard. But, I knew to find my worth in myself I had to see my bigger purpose in life. Everything I have been through has led me to realize who I am. I advocate for women. I advocate for the most vulnerable.
My time in college I blossomed, just like many others. My best friends inspired me to be the change-maker I am today. My experiences led me to spread awareness on ending violence against women. Everyone super close to me saw that I was beautiful, confident, vibrant, outspoken, adventurous, intelligent, and yes a runner. I then soon started to see all of this for myself. Now I have many pictures of myself. I love to dance by myself. I finally like being by myself. I finally understood that accepting my body meant accepting all of me.
I have made it my goal in 2018 to continue to explore who I am and most of all to see what are the needs of the people around me (physically and virtually).
To the readers, you are capable of anything. You are worthy to live the life you want and desire. Make the choice to love yourself.
And finally, to my 11-year-old self. You were always worthy.