From a young age, I was taught that I needed to know certain things and look a certain way. I needed to be able to cook and clean, to be able to keep a man and frizzy curly hair was messy and not neat and put together. Also, dressing like a “tom boy” was potential for me liking girls in the future, a parental fear back when I was growing up, although liking women has never been something that I looked down upon, you love who you love and that is no ones business. But apparently my choice of wardrobe made it a concern. I can’t really blame my mother because this is how she was raised and this is what she learned. Societal views were what were instilled in her and she just wanted us to fit in. She grew up in Puerto Rico, didn’t know English and was raising her first gen children here in the states.
As a child, I was always extremely resistant to what everyone said to me. My mom would tell me that I wouldn’t be able to keep a husband if I didn’t learn how to cook or clean and I would always tell her that I would never get married if that was a requirement. I told her I would cater to no man if he couldn’t equally cater to me. She would get so mad at me for having a smart mouth but those “arguments” really made me the person I am today.
Thoughts about the way I looked always concerned me. I have always had frizzy hair with loose curls. In 6th grade, when I decided to do my own hair, I would straighten it to make sure it was “neat”. I would put all types of frizz control products in it to keep it smooth. I even ironed my hair with a clothing iron to get it as straight as I possibly could. I remember that curly hair meant “pelo malo” or bad hair in English and that we didn’t want to be unfortunate and have that type of hair.
Watching TV further made me self conscious, here in the US we would only see blonde hair, blue eyed women. I wanted blue eyes to go with my pin straight hair. I would never allow myself to go outside with my hair a “mess”. I also started dressing like a “girl” in middle school to attract the boys attention but I never had the big booty or the big boobs and people used to always say I was anorexic which was FAR from the truth. Anyone that knows me knows I love to eat! I couldn’t do anything to make everything bigger so I would tear myself apart in the mirror and be sad that I didn’t look like what people expected me to. I would continue to struggle with my body image through high school and beyond.
At age 21, I had my first child and I gained so much weight, I went from a size 3 to a size 12 and then I would get comments about how if I didn’t stop eating I would be overweight. So when I was a size 3, I apparently had an eating disorder according to societal views and now that I was a bit bigger, I was a sloppy overweight person that had no self control eating. What people didn’t know is that when I moved into my first apartment in Somerville, MA, I would literally eat 1 meal a day. My son ate 3 good meals a day and his snacks in between but I would only cook enough for him and none for me. I spiraled into a depression due to lack of support from the people around me (not including my husband he was at work most of the day but loved me regardless, but when he complimented me I thought ‘that’s his job of course he would say nice things’), never mind that my friends stopped being my friends because I had a child now.
Fast forward to age 29 and I still struggle with image some days. I wear my hair in a huge frizz puff no matter what anyone thinks but some days I feel like I should straighten it because it looks “messy”. As for my body, no I never “snapped back” after my second child. I have a loose belly, stretch marks and cellulite. Some days I will get upset looking for clothes that flatter me and not make my love handles noticeable but I can say that now when my husband compliments me, I believe him more than I ever did. I am definitely learning how to love myself more as everyone else should. I do not judge a person for being skinny or being bigger and I don’t make assumption as to how the eat and take care of themselves. I have been in BOTH positions and I would never want to make someone feel the way that I did.
Every body type is beautiful the way it is, we just need to learn to appreciate the different molds we have come from. Just because a person is skinny does not mean they are healthy and just because a person is big does not mean they are unhealthy. There are girls that are bigger than me that are extremely flexible and fit while I still have a hard time getting through a 30 minute workout. I am 145 lb currently and starting to learn to better love myself at any weight, any shape and to tell myself that it is okay to fall off the wagon and get back on. Even if I was never on a wagon it is okay to accept myself sitting here as I am no matter what society thinks because the only mind that matters is the one that wakes up in this body every day.
Do you guys struggle with self image due to societal standards? Please share in the comments or join my Facebook page @theprenvironmentalist!