Me + My Body
We all have that friend.. you know, the one that is always there for you but that you need a break from sometimes. It's not that you don't love them because you do but things get overwhelming and you get exhausted at times and that's okay because in a couple of days you'll both love each other again. That's the relationship I have with my body from time to time. Being a confident person doesn't mean I'm not allowed to have bad days. In fact, I'd be quite scared if I didn't have them because having lousy days is normal.
I grew up around secure and resilient women like my mother who taught me to love myself the way I am. I walked around school at age 10 confidently because I didn't pick myself apart yet. The first time I looked at myself in a negative way was the time a boy in one of my 5th grade classes called me a ‘fatass’ because I refused to kick the soccer ball he threw that was coming my way. I was fat shamed though at that time I didn't know. I didn't even know what that meant, I just knew that it sucked. A couple of seconds passed and I was reminded of the power that girls hold. As I stood there in complete shock not knowing what to do or say, my friend walked up to the soccer ball and threw it in the opposite direction farthest from the boy. “At least she has something to show!” she yelled as she walked toward me and grabbed my hand. Her name was Cindy. I doubt she does but I hope she knows that bold response that came so easily to her is engraved in me so vividly. I was lucky to not have put much pressure on myself and my body after that. So I continued, confidently.
The second time I looked at myself and my body in a negative way was the time a girl came up to me and asked me when I was delivering the ‘baby’ I was carrying in my stomach. I was 15 and in high school and not pregnant. Like before, I stood in shock as she walked away laughing. I didn't have a Cindy then and I didn't know what to do so I continued to class with red filled watered eyes that were seconds away from exploding but that never did. That was usually the way it was when it came to my body insecurities. I bottled the doubts I had about myself and never released them because I was afraid. How could I talk about my weaknesses when I was raised by such strong women? I couldn't show them. I couldn't share it. Especially because of my little sister. I needed to be the most for her. So I continued, shamefully but secretly.
My body doubts grew along with time. I started to notice I didn't look like the girls that appeared in the shows I watched in the media. Then came the worst of all. Boys.
“Why doesn't he like me?”
“I don't look like his ex. He'll never look at me.”
“Maybe he'll like me if I lose weight.”
I often compared myself to the girls the guys I liked looked at. They were tall and thin and pretty. Those comparisons were the most damaging. I will never know why the boy I loved didn't like me but I was aware that constantly comparing myself to those he once loved was harming me more than it was healing.
The unintentional shaming directed by my family has also been the hardest. This is complicated because my family doesn't shame me on purpose rather they do it without knowing they are. During family gatherings if you pay close attention, you'll find the same women who raised me, lost in a conversation that goes something like this:
“Did you see so and so? S/he lost so much weight.”
“S/he looks so good now.”
“S/he should've lost weight years ago.”
Or the lines I've heard time and time again that go something like this:
“Ana you look good but you'd look better if you lost weight.”
“Don't be offended but do you think that looks good on you? You should try this instead! It's more flattering for your figure.”
Like most times in my life, I took the shame and continued and just like the bad, I found the good.
I love my body regardless of what has happened to me. This is the body I was given and losing weight isn't going to erase what happened to me in the past. Fitting to the medias standards is not going to stop the little boy from shouting at me in my school playground. Losing weight is not going to stop the sporadic moments I have when I don't feel comfortable or confident about my body. Losing weight was not going to make my high school best friend fall in love with me. Chances are, and I'm pretty certain about this one, that losing weight is not going to make me happier. I make me happy at any weight.
Two months ago I finished my last set of college classes and will be walking in my graduation ceremony in two weeks. It has been a long time coming but I am happy to be done especially because I will be the first in my immediate and extended family to go to and receive not one but two degrees. I did this as a Latina born of immigrant parents. Clearly, there is so much to celebrate.
One aspect of graduation I can remember being excited about as a first year was taking cap and gown pictures along my campus once I finished my degrees and now that I'm actually done, I don't want to. I don't want to because the thought of someone taking HD photographs of me in a dress is killing me. The friend I mentioned in the beginning is the friend I currently do not want to see. I don't want to wear an outfit that will show my arms and my thighs and the area below my right knee where I had surgery to remove a lipoma that never healed and now shows a scar I try so hard to conceal. I’m having a bad day and although I know that soon the days will be good, I am upset that my insecurities are ruining the excitement 19-year-old Ana once had.
I am a confident person and I have good and bad days. It's just that some days are harder than others. It's not as easy as it was when I was ten. I wish I could take the bad days and kick them to the curve like Cindy kicked the little boys soccer ball. The journey of self-love, especially when it comes to my body and my skin is ever-growing and evolving. Although the days are not good now, I will continue to love myself and be reminded of my worth by friends, family, the support system of bigger bodied women I have created online and most importantly myself. It truly is a process, friends but I'm learning.