“Note To Self”

I look at the picture that is posted above and I feel a little sad. I was in 3rd grade in that picture, and if I could tell 3rd grade me anything, I’d tell her sorry. I’d tell her not to give into what the media has pounded into her brain, the unrealistic expectations that we were all brought up on. I’d tell her that you don’t have to be a certain body type to be beautiful, to embrace the body she was given instead of shaming it. And most importantly I’d tell her she deserves to truly love herself, regardless what society projects.

For all my life I’ve struggled with body image issues. I would look at myself in the mirror and find all the things that I thought was wrong about me. From my stomach, to my arms, to the stretchmarks on my thighs, nothing was off limits. I remember watching the Tyra Banks show in the 4th grade, where she stood in front of her whole studio audience in a bathing suit she was recently shot in, where news outlets bashed her for her “imperfect” body. I remember watching Tyra choke up as she finished her speech, and I too started to get emotional.

“If I had lower self-esteem, I would probably be starving myself right now,” Banks said. “But that’s exactly what is happening to other women all over this country… To all of you that have something nasty to say about me, or other women that are built like me, women that sometimes or all the time look like this, women whose names you know, women whose name you don’t, women who have been picked on, women whose husbands put them down, women at work, or girls in school, I have one thing to say to you… KISS MY FAT ASS!”

I was young, but Tyra’s speech hit home. I’ve been insecure all my life. When people talk about weight or appearance, I cringe and hope that the attention isn’t put on me. I have a tough exterior, but the one thing that can bring me to instant (angry) tears, is when someone thinks it is okay to comment about my weight or appearance. That has always rubbed me the wrong way. Growing up I would get : “You gained weight,” “You’re getting bigger,” “You should watch what you eat,” “You would look so good if you were smaller!”… alright, dawg, you don’t think that out of all people I would know if I gained weight? And even if I wasn’t aware, I feel like it is never anyone’s place to casually bring it up.

Reyna Rochin, body builder and personal trainer, felt the pressure of the media and those around her growing up as well. She’s 100% badass, and has a huge heart. She uses her Instagram account to show her workout progress and to also share personal stories. She confessed her insecurities and personal stories on a couple of Instagram posts promoting self-love. Rochin has a ton of tattoos on her upper body and explains why.

“When I was 15, I HATED my upper body,” Rochin said on an Instagram post. “My wide shoulders and back were not what the other popular girls around me had and I was told by several boys that ‘you look like a man from behind.’ My tattoos are there because I love art and the aesthetics of tattoos but if I’m going to be honest, they are also a testament of new found self-love. My arms, shoulders, and chest used to be parts of me I loathed. And, as cheesy as it sounds, it wasn’t until taking lifting seriously did I realize that my broad shoulders could hold a 200 lb front squat no problem, or my strong chest could allow a 150 lb bench press to fly up easily.”

Rafaella Pereira also used working out to deal with her insecurities. She’s a wife, and a mother to a beautiful girl. Her Instagram feed is filled with personal stories of her struggles with body image issues. Growing up, she was told that she was fat, ugly, and dark. And for a big portion of her life, Pereira believed it.

“I would look in the mirror at times and scream, ‘you’re ugly, fat, and you will never be happy,’” said Rafaella Pereira. “I used to blame God for my lack of self-love and lack of motivation to be better.”

But Pereira has used the negativity as fuel to better herself. Her greatest accomplishment, but surely not last, was running a marathon that she would wake up every day at 5 am for. She hopes one day to publicly speak and help others.

As an older woman who is finally trying to come to terms with loving herself, accepting her body, and trying to unlearn all the things that were/ are detrimental to my peace of mind, I see and intake media differently. Up until recently I would look at pictures on Instagram of models, and I would think, “I wish I looked like that…” But ever since Ashley Graham started to break the mold in the model industry, I started looking at media realistically. There are people that edit their photos to try to uphold a “beautiful” image, they airbrush things that they don’t want you to see. But the thing is… IT’S NOT REAL. It’s all a lie. Stretchmarks, cellulite, rolls, IT’S NORMAL. EVERYONE HAS THEM. IT’S REAL.

That’s why I believe all these fashion shows are a joke. For the simple fact that not all body types are being represented. Not everyone is 5’10 or taller, under 110 lbs, with a size 0 waist. And if you are, then cool! I’m not trying to put anyone down for not being like me. However, representation is everything. Young girls and boys are growing up seeing the lack of diversity, and it encourages them to strive to be something they are not. Sometimes not even genetically possible.

Towards the end of 2016 it hit me that I basically spent my whole life hating my body. I look back to the photo above and around that age I had wrote in my diary “I’m gonna go on a diet.” I had an epiphany, and realized instead of being miserable and hating myself, I should love myself and be the person I wish I could look up to growing up. I’ve had too many instances in the fitting room when I just wanted to leave, even cried a couple of times. I’ve always been the bigger girl, and I’ve always tried to compare myself to others. I’ve vowed to try to stay body positive, even though I have my days when I feel the opposite. It’s awesome that there are people like Ashley Graham that promote self-love and accepting your curves and body type, but still also promotes the importance of a healthy lifestyle and working out.  You can be built bigger and still be healthy, but there will always be people and the media telling you that it is not okay. But it is okay. And I wish I could’ve told 3rd grade me that. It’s a long road to unlearning all the horrible things I would think about myself, but it’s so much more worth it than staying in a state of self-loathing and self-hate.

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Not My President 

Today my friend and I attended the Women’s March in Oakland, CA. I thought it was important to go because of all the craziness that surrounded this election. 
While on BART, seeing crowds of people with signs entering the trains warmed my heart. Many brought their children, some that were old enough to walk, and some in strollers. It was a family friendly event and I was happy to be apart of it. 

I’m not one to go ham on anyone when it comes to politics. I’m usually like “believe what you want to believe, and I’ll believe what I want to believe.” BUT, this election made me realize so much that I was SOOO blinded to. 

I’m from the Bay Area, basically a diverse and accepting bubble that I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in. When the results came in on election night I was dumbfounded. “HOW?!?!” Was all I was thinking. It was a slap in the face. Here I am thinking everyone is accepting of each other whether it be race, sex, sexual orientation, etc, yet here I was looking at all these states turn red. 

After I came to the realization that he won, I had to stay off social media for a while. I do it to myself all the time, I end up going on a hash tag that I know is going to lead me to a thread of tweets or photos of those who I disagree with. It gets me worked up and my blood starts to boil as I read through people who support this man that can publicly bash certain groups of people and STILL BE ELECTED PRESIDENT! Then on instagram I would see videos or stories of people fearing for thier safety, and it really made my heart ache. 

Nobody should ever feel like they are not protected or safe. I don’t care who you are, even if you’re my family, I do not understand nor respect that man at all. I refuse to call him my president. 

As a woman of color, I marched for what I believed in. The government has no place to restrict a woman’s right to her own body. If you’re pro-life, good for you. HOWEVER, IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS NOR PLACE TO TRY TO TELL SOMEONE ELSE WHAT THEY CAN AND CAN’T DO REGARDING THIER HEALTH AND BODY. 

If you know me, you know I’m passionate about Planned Parenthood. It provides young adults and families with not only birth control, but check ups, pap smears, STD tests, screenings, and so much more that benefits the community. It gives families and young adults access that they wouldn’t otherwise have. It also gives the gift of CHOICE. The choice to choose when you have children, the choice to make a smarter decision and protect yourself, or the choice to terminate a pregnancy. Nobody should ever have to travel to another state to terminate a pregnancy they don’t want. And that’s what he’s aiming for. 

That is not my president. Someone who belittles women and minorities will never be my president. I marched with pride even though I know that the odds are against me. I’m a colored woman living under a racist and sexist “president.” To those who believe that we’re being sore losers, you are wrong. We just want a president that represents all of his/her people, that gives everyone equal choices, that respects ALL. And he’s clearly not that. 

Seeing all the love and support at the Women’s March gave me hope. I saw people of all races, ages, and orientation marching in peace and unity. It was truly a beautiful experience. 

Emotional Abuse

“Jo” has been one of my best friends since high school. We sat next to each other in every class we had together senior year, and that made us especially close. From getting yelled at in our cooking class for eating butter, being totally lost in physics class, and asking a police officer to take “gangster” pictures of us in the back seat of the police car when they came to our school- she’s been the friend that always knew what to say and always understood me. Especially when I was going through an emotional abusive relationship, she knew exactly how I felt… and that’s because she was in the same boat as me.

An emotional abusive relationship can be hidden from others very well. Unlike a physical abusive relationship that can leave scars, bruises, and in other words evidence, being emotionally abused gets you from the inside. The abuser tries to control you and uses fear and your insecurities against you. The sad thing is, “Jo” and I thought it was normal. We thought it was just fights and boyfriends were supposed to act like that. We didn’t see the signs until we were at rock bottom.

Each day it was a new problem for us. One day it was me crying, the next day it would be her. There never seemed to be a day where we were both happy. Even though we were in different situations, the verbal and emotional abuse was all the same. We knew exactly which profiles to click on to find the information we needed to get. One time she even sent me a screenshot picture of a tweet asking me to examine the granite tabletop and ask for my opinion if it was her boyfriend’s cousin’s place or not because his ex had posted the picture. It was small things like that that made us feel like we were crazy.

We were constantly feeling horrible about ourselves because they would try to keep us down to control us. Her now ex would be hanging out with other girls, and would only keep her around when it was convenient for him. He was never consistent and always felt differently towards  her day to day. My ex would call me fat every chance he could get so I’d feel so ashamed of myself that I’d consider myself lucky to  have him. We were smart girls falling for mind games of little boys.

“I had low confidence and took his BS because I was scared to lose him,” “Jo” told me as I asked for her approval to write this blog post. For about 4 years she dealt with her ex’s inconsistency and verbal/ emotional abuse. There was a time where she had to tell one of his new girls to back off. This lead to the new girl’s family over reacting and trying to file charges on “Jo”. It was our first ever Christmas party (which is now an ongoing tradition for the past 4 years) that we planned with us girls. “Jo” got a call from the police saying she had to come in for questioning. It was situations like that that made her insecure. The fear that her ex would leave her for someone else. He made her feel so low of herself, always calling her stupid and annoying, that lead her to be even more insecure. She didn’t like the way she looked and didn’t think she was attractive, so the fact that she had him by her side made her feel better. She didn’t want to lose him, even if she wasn’t being treated right.

I remember thinking to myself after a fight and trying to justify why I should continue in a relationship that made me miserable, “ok… think of 3 reasons why you love him…,” It took a while until I realized I couldn’t think of 1 reason. “Ok,” I thought again, “one thing you at least like about him… just one,” …Nothing. At that exact moment I knew I was done. Years of being put down left me with no positive thoughts of him, 3 years and I couldn’t think of one thing.

A switch flipped in our heads during the time we first started college. I thought to myself “this isn’t high school anymore, I’m over it. New school, new beginning,” and started the process of removing the one negative person that was bringing me down for 3+ years. “Jo” was doing the same, except it was her ex who was calling it quits. But regardless if she ended it or if he did, I was happy to see that my best friend was making moves to become a better her and recover. She was with him for 4+ years and in the end of it, she lost herself. We both did. We went through it together, and we got over it together.

When we talk about it now, we laugh. Though emotional abuse isn’t funny, we just like to consider ourselves lucky. We got out of it successfully and sometimes other people aren’t as fortunate.

A little over two years has passed. “Jo” and I have now found ourselves with different people who actually treat us right. School, work, and life  has gotten in the way, and “Jo” and I can’t hangout as much as we used to. We used to text everyday, but now fill each other at least once a week. I never miss the opportunity to tell her that I’m so happy that she has someone that has been with her for over a year and is still all about her. He’s honest, loyal, and so respectful to her, her family, and her friends. Every time I update “Jo” on a story that happened regarding my boyfriend, whether it  be story that’s funny, random, etc., she never fails to voice her opinion on how she loves the way he treats me and how he’s a good guy. He’s gained the respect of my friends- the ones that really knew what I was going through- and my girls are not easily impressed! I now can confidently say that I have it good- but that’s another blog post ;)!

So there is a  happy ending to this unfortunate double story. Like I said, some people aren’t so fortunate. Click here to learn more on what you can do to get out of an abusive relationship.

Through the abuse, the break ups, the rebuilding, the new beginnings, and new found happiness, “Jo” has been by my side. I never had to go through it alone.