Written by Monica Rodriguez
AND THE JOURNEY FOR SELF-LOVE
Despite my fears and internal struggles about my body, I always yearned to be a woman confident enough to wear a bikini or swimsuit without worrying about other people’s opinions. Societal preconceived standards of beauty constantly served as reminders that I should only feel confident wearing a bathing suit if my body fit their beauty standards. The stereotypical “perfect” body that suggests you must have a flat stomach, zero back fat and no love handles along with perfectly toned legs. These beauty standards that shifted towards the end of the 80’s, and continue to plague us to this day and hardly anything has changed.
I come from a small town where everyone knows each other, where gossip inhabited by judgement are a daily occurrence. It is impossible to go unnoticed and not be in the day-to-day gossip. At the early age of 7, I became the center of attention due to my body’s weight: “Moni is chubby,” “Moni is the only chubby one in the family,” “Why is Moni so chubby?”; chubby, chubby, chubby! I heard that so many times that it made me question myself: Why was it so bad to be chubby or fat?
I was just a happy 7-year-old like the rest of the children in my neighborhood. I just seemed to carry a bit more weight than others, but I felt no different than them. Fortunately, at the age of 7, one is not conscious of the harm that these types of comments may cause, I continued to be happy, but at this point, I had given myself the task to find answers to my initial question.
“I began to believe that in order to be happy and for someone to love me one day, I had to change my physical appearance.”
Wondering around I concluded that while obesity was a problem that could severely harm my health, society’s concern on obesity was not purely health related, but rather aesthetical. Society’s preoccupation with obesity is that aesthetically it is unpleasant or ugly while diminishing the importance of any other repercussion that may come with it. Unconsciously, little by little, I began to internalize society’s beauty standards.
Standards that I could not even relate to, yet I accepted. One day, while looking at my reflection in the mirror I noticed the gravity of these standards. I began despising the person in the mirror. The older I got the more my own insecurities manifested themselves hindering my self-esteem.
I began to believe that in order to be happy and for someone to love me one day, I had to change my physical appearance. I felt the need to lose weight and not necessarily because of my health. That was the least of my concerns. The drive I felt to lose weight was purely in vain; the end goal was to be loved by anyone else, except myself.
At the end of last year, after multiple, failed attempts with dieting and workouts (all for the wrong reasons, I might add), I felt desolate. Wanting to make physical changes out of sheer vanity had finally taken a toll on me. I finally wanted something more… more self-love. But, how could I love myself? I hated everything; all, inside and out. Every back roll, every stretch mark and every dark spot caused by my overweight, everything.
New year resolutions were just around the corner, and for the first time I didn’t want to start the new year with the same purpose as past years: lose weight. It was then that I decided that this year’s resolution would be to read a book for every month of the year. I felt a great desire to discover the meaning of self-love, and I knew that reading would be a good starting point. Today, 7 books* later, I finally have the courage to say no more…
No more to depriving myself from wearing a swimsuit this summer. No more putting myself through ridiculous diets and excessive workout routines just to acquire the “ideal body” and therefore finally fit in. I decided I would not allow society to diminish my self-worth solely based on my physical appearance because it did not match those seen on Instagram, or other social media platforms as well as advertisements. With time, I have learned to love and accept my body figure as it is. It is important to note that the acceptance of my body and myself goes beyond being able to wear a bathing suit out in public. The process of accepting myself has not only been a physical journey, but a spiritual and internal struggle as well.
I began to understand that those things that were hurting my self-esteem were no more than my own interpretation of our society’s concept. When I would come across a model or an influencer’s picture wearing a beautiful dress that accentuated their figure my mind was instantly triggered with negative thoughts. I would convince myself that I could never possibly wear this dress and that would limit me from even trying it on or entering the store. I took it a step further and became a critic of other plus size girls. This monster I became was a coping mechanism I developed because they had the self-esteem and confidence I lacked. I finally concluded that I was my own worst enemy. I had become a toxic person not only judging myself, but anyone surrounding me. I had succumbed to society’s standards of beauty and became the biggest enforcer of them.
I concluded that when we judge a person based on their physical appearance it is because we are envious of the confidence they have and we lack. Today, I want to invite everyone to begin by accepting ourselves as we are. Let’s go out wearing whatever we want, radiating confidence and while we are at it give each other compliments and not let society infect us with their preconceived ideas of the “ideal/perfect” women. Let’s not let society destroy the most important thing we have as women: mutual support and respect for one another.
*Monica has shared with us the titles of the books that helped her through her journey:
1. The Universe Has your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
2. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck
3. Put your Dream to the Test by John Maxwell
4. Man in Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
5. Judgement Detox by Gabrielle Bernstein
6. Rise Sister Rise by Rebecca Campbell
7. Black is the New Light by Rebecca Campbell