By Wendy Davila
Whoever made self-love seem as if it was a linear journey with no ups and downs sold me some high expectations. No one told me that I would endure sleepless nights in which I contemplated why I wasn’t good enough. Or dwelled on why my body wasn’t that picture-perfect image when someone thinks of “body goals”. I never seemed to be enough, and the funny thing is that I couldn’t even meet my own standards. The idea of self-love for me was to simply attain it, gain all the confidence in the world, and never look back. The truth is, that the real journey is falling in love with yourself only to realize that now you have to maintain that relationship.
Surrounded by mountains of books, I was always engulfed in the main character’s life and wondered to myself when my life would begin. I saw people around me as these magical beings who had everything set in stone. They knew what they wanted to be from the young age of five and stuck with it until college. Me on the other hand, I dreamt about being a marine biologist by day and a spy by night. My love for animals launched me into a craze at my school library and I would check out multiple books all at once so I could have my nightly routine of educational reads. As for the spy, I read way too many Nancy Drew books and it gave me the idea that I could be the ultimate hero.
This was my life, creating unrealistic expectations for myself instead of slowing down and holding gratitude for what I did have. Funny enough, everyone still saw me like a ray of sunshine when I was in my darkest of days.
Fitting in was always the goal but never the result because I just seemed to be too different for every friend group that I tried to involve myself in. Either I wasn’t ethnic enough for some or way too Latina for others. My features being so prominent and obvious never seemed to be enough to prove that my culture is rooted deep. It felt like a void that I simply couldn’t fill. Especially when a man told me that I was only pretty because of my “white girl” features insinuating that if I was more ethnic I wouldn’t be eye-catching.
We had a debate class together, and it’s safe to say that I crushed him in every assignment. That’s not the point, the simple fact that I would let strangers depict me and let their opinion sway my own is upsetting. My value and worth are held at a much higher standard than I could ever say it was back then.
My body has always been curvaceous and I was never able to appreciate it because everywhere I turned there were girls with glamourous supermodel bodies. My own best friend was petite and whenever she would complain about how fat she was I would look down and wonder if I was overweight. I got into the habit of skipping meals and praising my hunger because it meant that maybe one day I could be the ideal kind of skinny.
When I was 20 I was driving to a social gathering when I looked at my wrists and started to cry. They were skin and bones and I understood what I had been doing to my body. Slowly but surely I was depleting myself from nutrients and I was fragile. Everything hurt, my anemia shot up and I felt broken inside and out. I ignored what my trainer had warned me about. My body fat percentage was so low that my organs would have trouble functioning on any given day. My coworker would even pull me aside and tell me that I looked tired and worn. I no longer filled my clothes out but since everyone praised me for being skinny I felt like I should fulfill their expectation of me.
I snuck cookies at work and started to look past the calories and gained weight. It’s not easy gaining weight after being in a heavy cycle of disordered eating. Seeing my curves fill out again was hard, convincing myself that my natural body was not a waste of space was a journey on its own and it still is. Some days come easier than others but every morning I look at myself in the mirror and remind myself of my worth.
Sometimes I go to my favorite park with a good book in one hand and a bag full of my favorite snacks in the other. I lay on the freshly cut grass, gaze up into the sky and breath. I smile at the realization that I am a work of art, a world-renowned masterpiece. It just took me a whole lifetime to figure it out, and that’s okay.
Self-love isn’t the end goal but rather a milestone. Little golden nuggets that we find along the way to better our journey. Endless sadness, constant fatigue, and a sense of failure come lurking around the corner every so often and sometimes it prevails. But what helps me in fighting back is knowing that I am worth more than what meets the eye.
So take a moment to breathe in all of the love you have for yourself and breathe out all of the hate. It’s a daily battle of falling in and out of love, but it’s acknowledging it that makes all the difference.
Wendy Davila is an editorial intern who is knowledgeable in all things environment, sustainability and arts and culture.