Self Love is one of those tricky topics. Funnily enough, we all have some level of expertise in this arena. We can all share a story of how our love for ourselves was questioned, compromised, or misplaced for awhile. In this new series, #SelfLoveWithSondra, I want to explore some of these topics with you, and hopefully remind you (and myself) how and why loving ourselves is so essential!
Do you remember the first time you saw your flaws? If I dig way deep in the archives, I can remember a few of my own pivotal moments:
-When that one kid on the school bus sang the 1-800-94-JENNY theme song really freaking loudly every time I made my way down the aisle to find a seat.
-When my friend (and second secret Love of My Life) Adam pointed out my speech impediment, a light slur with ‘s’ sounds, and would always talk to me with a lisp to make fun of me.
Crazy thing is, until someone else pointed these “flaws” out to me, I was pretty much oblivious. My mom would tease me about staring at myself in the side-view mirrors when I got to sit in the front seat (I was obsessed with how shiny my new Lip-Smackers gloss made my lips…sue me). I entered every talent show. I stood in the front row in every dance class (preferably in my leopard print leotard). I would pretty much perform on demand for anyone! Sing you a song, teach you my latest dance routine, tell you a story….I had it covered! I read at a college level at a young age, practically lived in the library, was sought after for church solos in the choir… I thought I was pretty amazing! Ah, to be young!
As I got older, kids got meaner. Fitting in became inherently important. I wasn’t interested in what I was good at, or where I excelled. I just became obsessed with the negative. I’m a bi-racial girl who attended predominantly Caucasian schools until the end of 10thgrade. I’m not usually “Black enough” for my Black friends, or “White enough” for anyone. I’ve got distracting curly hair, I’m tall, and I’m plus sized. I take up space.
For the larger part of my life, I resented all of these things. These perceived flaws. They owned me, and they began to dictate my life. I tried to shrink to fit, rather than gracefully owning the space I occupied.
I tried to straighten my curly hair. I begged my dad to send me to Fat Camp, and eventually developed a Binge Eating Disorder to deal with my stress and anxiety in a verbally and physically abusive home. I feigned interest in things I could care less about, to be like everyone else. I was nervous performing in front of people, plagued by the idea they’d laugh at me. I dreamed up new identities and wrote about my other life in journals, wishing I could be “Alexandra” instead of Sondra, a name everyone pronounced as “Saaaaandra.” Not that I cared to correct them, and draw more attention to myself!
Shrinking is exhausting. It takes a toll on your mind and body, and it doesn’t actually prevent anyone from talking about you if they really want to that badly! All this time and effort, and I was the only one who noticed whether my lunch tray was composed of only salad bar items (or the pre-approved “cute foods” list that I made to insure I didn’t look like a glutton when I ate-eye roll). I was the only one who knew what size my jeans were. I was the only one fixated on my size 11 feet. I was the only one obsessing over the way my “s” sounded in a sentence. The only one trying to squeeze herself as close to the bus window as possible, and avoiding planes for fear the person next to me might get angry and/or hurt my feelings.
Time went by, and I realized my will to blend was crippling me from existing as a whole person-even when I was by myself.
I came up with my Five Steps to Self Love (you can read more about them in this post), and started re-claiming all of the things that made me unique.
You’ll see my hair curly more often (it’s just easier when its straight!). I tried out for American Idol. I frequently nurture my love for karaoke. I dress in the things I love, not just the things people think are “acceptable” for my size. I book every plane ticket I can, and relish every moment in every destination-even though some of them make it very clear I stand allllll the way out. I speak Italian proudly, and stopped worrying about the way the words might sound. I make time for Self Care. I educate people, and I tell them how to properly say/spell my name, or ask them to be more aware of the stereotypes they bring up around me. I eat what I want, and I mindfully savor every bite…and if it’s not good, I leave it without guilt.
It’s not a quick fix. There’s no magic pill. There’s no lemonade-cayenne-maple syrup concoction you can buy. No essential oil or body wrap or concentrated form of all your greens for the day can afford you the luxury I am talking about.
There’s still a tiny voice that likes to pop up and try to shake me: “But what if they think….?” or “They’re probably staring at you because…..” and I work really hard to silence that voice. But it’s gotten easier and easier after all this time, and now that eye roll and “SHUT UP!” come a lot faster than they used to!
Sashay through the narrow aisles of those airplanes. Put your arm on the armrest. Order the biggest steak on the menu. Send it back if it’s not cooked the way you asked. Wear the cute bikini. Post the photo with the back roll. Sing out loud when you feel the need. Tell them how to say your name correctly.
Stop shrinking. You’re different, sure! You’re bigger, maybe. You’re taller, perhaps. You don’t “fit in,” by the usual standards, it’s true.
But the space you occupy is YOURS. It’s a space full of beauty, potential, creativity, intelligence, and boundless opportunities to leave the world a better place….hell, to leave any place a better place than you found it!
You’re allowed to take up space. You’re allowed to exist happily, no matter what size your pants are, how you look, how you sound when you speak….it doesn’t matter! You don’t have to shrink to fit. You’re here, so you already fit into the world. Now, you just have to make the most of it!
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