Welcome to a new yet short series I wanted to do as a way to close out my twenties and pass on some valuable advice. I’ll talk about dating, body image and self-esteem and the working world from a female perspective.
This will be a 3-part series lasting only until the end of 2018. Why you might ask? Well, in just a few short weeks, I will cross over into a new decade.
It’s a little bit scary to type that out on paper so to speak but they are literally just around the corner for me. My twenties have personally been hands down my best decade and they have largely been full of things I’ve wanted to do or places I’ve wanted to go. It’s truly the decade where I not only found my voice but my home abroad, my purpose and my passions in life.
But, before I embark on a new decade, I wanted to pass on some advice I’ve learned through my own life experiences to those who will still be going through the trenches and navigating these very formative years.
So, without further ado…these are my unedited thoughts on body image and self-esteem.
Basing self-esteem on how you feel vs. what you’ve had to do in order to get to where you are
A lot of people who interact with me have told me that I seem very comfortable in my own skin. I seem to be totally accepting of who I am (female), what I look like (skinny) and that I’m always encouraging and optimistic (indicating a high level of self-esteem).
I am very accepting of what I look like and I am a very encouraging person but…I’m also human. And we are our biggest critics, aren’t we?
I’ll let you in on a secret: though I’m mostly happy with my size…I haven’t (and still struggle with) always liked myself. I used to always get defensive after I received a compliment from someone or would swirl the comment around in my head wondering if I really was…cute, beautiful, intelligent, just to name a few.
You may be reading this and can relate to me.
Did you also have:
Crooked or discolored teeth?
Unwanted facial or body hair?
I’ve had (and still have) all of those.
Physically speaking, I’m far from perfect.
And I let that single thought stunt my emotional and personal growth for many years. During those ever so sensitive and fragile teenage years and up until my mid-twenties.
That was a big mistake I made but at the time my physical flaws and imperfections were hard to look past. After all, when you’re 15, looking the most fashionable or stylish may be one of your main concerns. Or getting straight A’s might be your only focus. I couldn’t control or compete with the first thing so I focused on the latter. If I couldn’t look like the most beautiful person in school or my city (though it was never my goal to be this), I could focus on having the most beautiful mind.
From a physical standpoint here’s how all those things on that list above held me back:
Acne held me back from seeing my true beauty. It held me back from talking to a guy my age and dating in my teens or early 20-something years. (I wasn’t emotionally ready to date at those times in my life so I don’t regret letting some of those opportunities pass me by.) It made me self-conscious at interviews or when speaking in public or presenting a project for a class. It wasn’t until I started eating fresher foods and focused on truly nourishing my body that I started to see it disappear and my self-esteem go way up. (But as I write this at 29, I’m still struggling with it but in the form of hormonal imbalances.)
My less than straight and genetically discolored teeth have usually held me back from speaking up and letting my voice be heard. This is why I began to love writing so much from my late teens until now. It let me use my voice without ever needing to open my mouth. I still have never been able to afford braces or have consistent health insurance (until I moved to Spain) so I struggle with this one on a daily basis. But it’s not in such a painful way as I did before. More on that later.
Unwanted facial (and body) hair has been something I’ve struggled with off and on for a number of years but it wasn’t until 2014 that I was able to find an almost permanent solution. It’s bad enough when women have hair in a place they don’t want but when your complexion is pale and your hair ranges from dark brown to jet black? Yeah…that’s a problem! This also held me back from realizing my true beauty and was the reason why I almost always refused to be seen in public in a bikini. Or go to a spa with my friends because that would require a lot of careful personal maintenance to even be able to go and enjoy it. To some, I have the perfect body and can wear or eat practically anything but that one minute (yet enormous) detail used to ruin the experience for me.
Behind a couple of physical scars are stories about two of the most painful times in my life. One was just physically painful but the other hurt me down to my soul. By having private health insurance and waiting until it was the right time, I had surgery to repair my torn earlobe and you can learn more about the procedure I underwent.
The lingering response I would always have for someone was (and still is at times)…if only you saw what I saw in the mirror.
But you know what? They don’t.
The majority of people that I know are real people. With acne scars, love handles, imperfect teeth or complexions…they’re a normal person.
However, their personality or sense of humor or passion for whatever it is they dedicate themselves to in life makes them the most perfect person in the world.
And the same goes for me.
The people who really love and care about me see the whole package: my personality, sense of humor, voice, passion, values, character and lastly, looks.
If you focus only on looks you’re missing out big time. I wish I had learned this years ago but I’m glad the lesson finally stuck. And it will for you, too.
Think about the people closest to you and write down what it is you like or love about them.
Your whole perspective will change.
Hide only to heal your wounds, not to hide your beautiful self from others
I did this for a while and probably longer than I should have but I did it.
I wouldn’t recommend it.
But from the years 2013-2016, I stayed in on nights I should’ve gone out. I hid behind glasses, heavy fleeces, giving myself a curfew or blaming the public transportation or the weather as to why I couldn’t stay out later.
Something you may not know about me is that I’ve never owned a car. And I’m from the biggest car-dependent country in the world.
Cause my country is ginormous.
What’s more is that I decided to go study in the largest city by area in the country: Jacksonville, Florida. And I never owned a car during the 6 years I lived there.
But in early 2014, I moved out of there and made my way over to Spain once again. As much as I wanted to start over in a new region and ultimately meet someone special, I spent the first two years in Spain mostly hiding from the world.
Trying to heal from the damage of having excess facial hair and the painful experiences I had with waxing it off.
But that was when I discovered laser hair removal and that made all the difference for me. The problems didn’t go away overnight but I was able to get back to feeling comfortable in my own skin. I describe this phase as like being in a cocoon and then when I finally left Galicia, I emerged as a butterfly, ready to spread her wings and fly once again.
Accepting your flaws and scars
This will probably be the shortest section of the entire post as there’s no rhyme or reason to it. You simply must accept the things you can’t change about yourself. And love who you are. Period.
I do love myself but there have been many times in my life -even still today- that I don’t care for myself. I treat myself really poorly and carelessly.
Nevertheless, there was a moment in my life a couple of years ago when I realized that I love who I am. And I didn’t feel that way because someone told me to reflect on all the things I love about myself or to try and treat myself better. It was the moment in which I really felt comfortable in my own skin.
I was sitting alone in the Praza do Obradoiro