“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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“Lost Ones”

Dedicated to my Goddaughter 

Baby Girl,

I still remember the first time I knew of your existence. It was my first semester of college and I was taking the long 1 hour bus ride home. I was talking to this guy from my class when I looked down at my phone to see that your Mommy was calling me. I let it go to voicemail, it had to be a butt dial. Your Mommy is that friend that never calls me, we text 24/7 and she texts back as fast as lightening, it had to be a mistake.

I texted her something along the lines of “what bitch haha.” And then immediately Mommy responded.

“I’m pregnant.” 

Woah.

I knew she suspected she was pregnant, and I knew she had an appointment that day to find out for sure, but I never expected it to actually be true. I locked my phone. I had no idea what to say. You see, me and Mommy are like one person. We react the same, we think the same, we’re just in sync. So I couldn’t imagine what she was thinking of… probably all her options and how screwed she is if she tells your Grandma and Grandpa.

What I want you to know is that Mommy loved you the moment she knew you were growing inside of her. The love she has for you is a love like no other, and I know for a fact you know that already. You probably also know how deep Mommy mourns for you…

For days Mommy felt torn on what to do. I remember thinking that either way, her life would change so radically. I wasn’t prepared for her to make a decision.

It was the hardest decision of her life. She was 18 and felt like she had no options. Mommy and Daddy disagreed and teeter tottered back and forth for days on the decision. It simply came down to Daddy telling Mommy she’d be doing it alone because they’re both not ready and too young.

I know you’re not angry, but Mommy still has doubts. In the beginning there was no reassuring her. She felt helpless, I felt helpless. What do I say to one of my best friends? Someone who was totally against the idea of abortion but almost had no choice because she knew she couldn’t provide the life she felt her daughter deserved? Nothing I could ever say would make her stop hurting.

Mommy hated what she ended up doing. She wasn’t raised to believe in terminating a pregnancy. Like I said before, me and mom share the same mind. We would constantly talk about imaginary scenarios like “what would you do if this and that happened?” She always said if she was to ever get pregnant unexpectedly, she would keep the baby because she could never get an abortion. But this time it was different, it wasn’t a scenario, it was real life.

She was so angry with herself and felt like you were angry too and that had to be the reason why you never came to her in her dreams. I tried telling her that you’re not mad. That you knew the decision wasn’t because you were burdening her, but because she simply wasn’t ready and couldn’t give you everything you deserve.

Though she was angry with herself and her decision, she knew it was the right thing to do at the time. There was a point in time where I was so scared for her. It was about a year since she gave you up to God, but she was still as depressed as the day she did it. I felt like she was in a hole, and the only person that could help her out was herself. But the thing is, Mommy didn’t want to get out. She felt as though she deserved to suffer for the rest of her life for what she had done to you, even though she knew it was the best logical decision. She was lost.

I introduced her to the song “Lost Ones,” by J.Cole. I just so happened to come across that song at the right time.  She listened to “Lost Ones” repeatedly and felt so connected to it. The lyrics were so relevant to her situation.

One morning I texted Mommy and said, “you know… I feel like the baby was a girl…” And she said she had the same gut feeling.

I told her that I had a dream of a baby girl, and a woman was showing me the new born in  a white blanket. In my dream I knew it was you. And I knew you were okay. That gave Mommy a little peace.

I was so  happy when she told me you came to her in a dream, wearing a white dress. And she knew it was you because you had curly hair. You don’t know how happy that made her. I feel like it was then she realized that you weren’t angry with her.

To this day Mommy isn’t 100% healed. I think there will always be a part of her that will always wonder “what if.”

Just a few weeks ago would’ve been your 2nd birthday. I just want you to know that even though only a few knew of your existence, you are and forever will be loved. For those of us that knew of you, we still celebrate you. Every Mother’s Day I’ll greet Mommy because we never forgot about you. You were going to be my first God child, and I still consider you my first.

You have no idea how much we love you. I told Mommy how awesome it is to know  that people she loved that have passed away in this life are with you right now watching you grow. Now she knows you are surrounded by people who loved her, and who also love you.

I know it’s a bittersweet story. Just know that you were never unwanted and will never be forgotten. Mommy has tremendous love for you and you’re always on the back of her mind. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of you. You changed her life. You made her a Mommy.