There was a time in my life I would change myself and my appearance to conform and fit in with society's version of acceptable. I grew up thinking that I had to look, act and feel a certain way to be ‘normal’ and accepted to fit in. A frustration only exacerbated by the fact that I knew, in my heart, I could never and would never be the idea ingrained in me of ‘normal.'
Not only did I have a thicker than your average body shape, a booty more prominent than a dinosaur at a shopping mall, an untamable fro, a loud personality, even louder voice with an oversensitive nature that commanded crying at the drop of a hat (happy or sad). I believed, all these things pushed me so far out there onto the island of 'not normal' it's a wonder I’m still not floating around on a dinghy lost at sea.
As a young adult and all the way into my late twenties, I would slather my face in toxic chemical based makeup, wear extremely uncomfortable and ridiculously expensive shoes, in an attempt to appear taller, and even surgically changed my body once (which almost cost me my life), for the price of conformity. I used to want to fit in at any cost; it was this desire to be accepted by everyone around me that sent me into a self-loathing frenzy that would consume me, blur my lines of integrity and had me living entirely out of alignment with who I was. I became defined by my physicality and constricted by the idea I had to be someone other than myself to be 'accepted'.
I have always been on the curvier side, and at times rocked more KGs than at others. It is safe to say I have NEVER lacked junk in my trunk. My weight has been a point of issue for me my whole life. A sore spot if you will and with that my booty has been the illusioned imperfection that got me both unwelcomed comments and ‘good times’ depending on the person. Body image issues, for me, have sat alongside the lines of my palms for as long as I can remember.
Growing up, I can't remember a single day where I engaged in positive self-talk. It was always more like ‘I wish I had thinner legs’ or ‘I wish I had a less chunky ass’, ‘a flatter stomach’, ‘straighter hair’, ‘smaller thighs’, ‘be less emotional and ‘less weird’, the list was endless. I would strip myself down so harshly that I would no longer resemble the real me. I was no longer Cristina.
Sadly, I have been the recipient of cruel and nasty commentary all throughout life. But being the target of the insecure and wounded bully, ended up taking its toll.
My internal critic and most of the outside world seemed to express to me that I needed to change. Reinforcing this message that I wasn’t ok the way I was. This belief overtook my life; I adopted it as my own. I even took it one step further and applied it to my personality. I would change how I responded to situations and people, all in an attempt to be more palatable. To ensure I wouldn't offend anyone with the real, uncensored, loud and outspoken me that swears way too much and for the life of me can’t hold back my truths, even when not be appropriate to share.
Once I hit my late teens, it became very apparent to me that I was going to have to make some serious changes if I wanted to enter the dating scene and be 'acceptable'. I believed the condemnation of outside influence that I was not acceptable the way I was and had no choice but to change. Resulting in relinquishing all my power by allowing the outside world to govern how I thought and felt about myself, this was the beginning of my long battle with self-acceptance.
This way of being flowed onto my relationships too, sure enough after every relationship breakdown I would be hit with a wave of urgency and not feeling 'enough'. I would suddenly realise I'm on the market again and 'oh crap' I need to reach that certain level of 'acceptableness' quick smart. Because shit, time is running out! And this relationship has taken its toll, I got too comfortable and now I’m tired and look it, and I’m a total hot mess, nowhere near fit for public consumption, let alone ripe to attract someone who is going to desire me, want me and love me the way I am!
In the past I have found myself starving, exercising in ridiculous quantities, indulging in all the accessories, clothes and beautifying products on the market in an attempt to hide the real me. And sure enough I would drop massive numbers in weight, and my poor body was always left damaged and hurting with this hectic level of extremism. And let me tell you my bank account certainly wasn’t impressed either. Thousands of dollars later, I was still unhappy, still me and left with a pile of new stuff on my bedroom floor that nor made me feel better about myself or be a better person. This pattern of reactionary rebirth was deeply rooted in this idea that I had to change to be acceptable and I lived it for most of my adult life.
I want to be super clear here; I fully support wanting to look and feel good. This is very different from forcing change with the intention to fit the mould or be more acceptable. Intention is everything. I now enjoy organic make-up and changing up my hair from curly to straight depending on my mood if I want to, not because I feel I have to! I also enjoy the simplicity of just being me and not needing to water down my awesome for anyone or anything.
I have weathered my fair share of shit storms in life. From divorce, depression, massive weight challenges, prolonged periods of extreme sadness, loss and intense suffering both physically and emotionally. Nothing quite compares to the torturous prison cell I had voluntarily held myself in by believing that I was not good enough, normal enough, worthy enough and nowhere near acceptable enough, the way I was. Eventually, I came to the realisation that I didn't need to look or act a certain way for anyone else’s benefit. I deserved to feel happy and good about being me.
Of all the pains I have experienced in this lifetime not accepting myself has been the greatest pain of all. Nothing comes close to that feeling you get when you look in the mirror wishing you were looking at someone else. Not being able to escape my very own private Alcatraz has been the most excruciating, heartbreaking and soul-destroying pain I have ever felt. It surpasses the worst romantic heartbreak I have ever been through with a knockout punch landing me flat on my back.
Photo credit - Kayleigh McGlynn
Acceptance has been a long journey for me. I had to dig deep, engage in some serious soul-searching with the intent to find darkness. Shine a massive spotlight on every inch of doubt, hate, and self-loathing I held for myself. A scary and confronting process! For me this involved, self-enquiry, energy work, a shit load of meditation and ‘feel to heal’ type stuff. I got neck deep in the muddy swamp and then lead an expedition to the dark depths of my heart to find my emotional equivalent of the megalodon. YIKES! There were times I wanted to give up and so I would purposefully seek out distraction or drama to keep me occupied. But eventually, I succumbed to the work that had to be done as I got tired of living in my own shadow.
I challenged the beliefs I held about myself. I allowed my light to shine again. I came to realise I was not put on this planet to make others feel comfortable or lessen their suffering by allowing them to put me down or influence my beliefs about myself. I disconnected from the toxic messages coming from mainstream media and influencers with agendas to fatten up their bank accounts while slimming down yours in an attempt to do the same to your waistline. I gave myself permission to be seen and loved by the one person whose love I craved the most but had never received, my own.
I accepted that I was a beautiful person, with so much to offer this world! That I am a great writer, a caring, loving soul, a talented spiritual being, a massive wild heart that shines so bright and loves so hard and owns that shit wholeheartedly! What a homecoming! There were tears; always. Tantrums too. The tug-o-war of releasing versus holding on to the old was intense. I kept dinning at the resistance table. I wanted to let go, but the old way of feeling and thinking would grab me by the throat so tight I would almost turn purple. I was eventually excused though and had to allow myself to surrender over and over again and keep letting go in the pursuit of freedom.
Gaining self-acceptance and self-love has taken the better part of my thirty-odd years on this earth. I have finally set myself free from the prison cell I didn’t even know I was held captive. I am whole and complete and if I never change another thing about myself ever again I am ok with that.
I now worship my body instead of ripping her to shreds. I am grateful to her; for birthing two gorgeous children, for bringing me the greatest pleasures of intimacy with lovers come and gone and for continuing to pump life through my heart on days when taking a breath felt harder than taking a submersible down to the Challenger Deep. She has endured physical pain far greater than anything I could have ever imagined, pushed past breaking point and risen from the ashes like a Pheonix time and time again. The scars and wounds are all part of her landscape, worn proudly as a reminder of all that has been overcome. I love her, respect her and worship her for the goddess she is. She is curvy and delicious just like the cherry tattooed on her back.
Realising that self-acceptance was the only real demon sitting alongside me in that cell for all those years was liberating. I feel free, unleashed from the shackles of self-hate, unworthiness, and feelings of not being accepted.
I no longer compromise on which Cristina people get. I no longer bother delivering a milder, more acceptable version of myself. You can take the wildly beautiful, the loud, the messy, the awesome Latino cray-cray along with the tears and laughter or you can leave it. No fake love.
So here I am bearing myself to the world, this is me, the real me. I am proud of the woman I have become. No longer needing to hide, no longer needing to cover up, censor myself, or be more palatable. I love being me; I can't and wouldn’t want to be anyone else. Acceptance starts at home and home is within. It is not out there in someone else’s opinion of me, or in raspberry red matte lipstick or even in the hands of family and friends.
I am unafraid to bare my soul and myself to the world because I am no longer afraid to bare it to the one person I have been hiding from my entire life, me.
I am whole and complete; I love myself as I am right now today.