Conversations of beauty and self-esteem are in my opinion seriously lacking in our society today and has been for quite some time. We are living in a world where reality shows and airbrushed beauty rules, leaving young girls vulnerable to unnecessary scrutiny and competition against themselves and each other. But thanks to brands like Dove and partners such as The Girl Scouts and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, these necessary conversations about beauty and self-esteem are becoming a reality and are making a difference in the lives of these young girls.
For me, my images issues started with I was about eight years old. Growing up in the 80’s, in a predominantly Latino community whose definition of beauty consisted of idolizing the Puerto Rican bombshell, Iris Chacón made me feel inadequate in my own body. Her good looks, spectacular curves, and killer moves became what I felt as I needed to look like in order to be accepted and fit in my own community.
Scraggly and underweight, I did not look anything like America’s showgirl. Instead, I looked more like someone that needed a hearty meal. I grew up being tormented by comments made by individuals criticizing my knobby knees and boyish figure, which I ended up hiding under baggy clothes. And the fact that I preferred to watch baseball than play with Barbie’s didn’t go over too well either. I never wore dresses unless I was forced to, I rarely took pictures and barely participated social activities with other kids my age because I didn’t want to have to show my underdeveloped body to anyone. As a young girl, I felt that I did not fit the mold of what a typical Latina looked like. I didn’t have the long, straight hair, fair skin or any of the numerous qualities that were often boasted on the various Spanish-language TV shows, leaving me to wonder where I would fit in the world.
To be honest, I never made attempts to talk about how I felt, not to friends because they were my age and figured how much wisdom can they provide me and certainly not adults because they were the ones making comments about how I looked. I would lose myself in books, and school for me was my safe haven, it was where I went to be myself and just be me. I went to school every single day and participated in as many activities as possible to keep me occupied and away from those critics. It also gave me to open up and try new activities and sports to get a feel of where I could find my place.
It wasn’t until high school when I slowly began feeling comfortable in my own skin. I am not sure if it had anything to do with the improvement of fashion in the 90’s or if I was simply growing up. Either way, I began to embrace and be proud of my skinny frame. I still wasn’t thrilled with my boney knees but did not feel at all out of place for not having those killer curves. Graduating high school for me was an opportunity to find an out and to experience life outside of my community and venture off and finally be able to accept me, all of me.
Going away to an all girl’s college for me, was by far the best thing that ever happened to me. College allowed me to accept all of me and not just the parts that looked nice in a pair of jeans. I was able to get away from a lifetime of negativity and ignorance and embrace a new chapters of opportunity and hope that would later help define who I am and what I was meant to be.
Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Dove and Latina Bloggers Connect. All thoughts and opinions are my own.