bell hooks once stated in Communion: Female Search for Love, “All girls continue to be taught when they are young, if not by their parents then by the culture around them, that they must earn the right to be loved — that “femaleness” is not good enough. This is a female’s first lesson in the school of patriarchal thinking and values. She must earn love. She is not entitled. She must be good enough to be loved. And good is always defined by someone else, someone on the outside”.
As a female in the United States, our patriarchal, white-male societal structure bombards us with images and messages that make us feel inadequate, and often times, try to make us feel guilty for occupying public space. Thinner and smaller females are easier to push aside and diminish until the importance of females becomes irrelevant. These standards are littered throughout the various forms of media ingested by females of all ages, which often leads to toxic behavior and patterns of thinking…but you already knew that.
In my personal experience growing up, I didn’t really begin to internalize ideas about the meaning of being female until sometime around the third grade. All of my friends began getting their periods and I was confused about all of my own changes. I remember the other girls talking about what was appealing to boys based on the magazines they stole from their older sisters and not completely understanding what they meant until I had my first crush in the sixth grade. The game had changed and I didn’t get the memo on what I was “supposed” to do. My parents worked a lot, therefore weren’t around much, and my mom’s idea of teaching me about how “it” works was to give me a book about it. The book had a lot of good information about sex and what was happening to me, but didn’t really explain the self-esteem issues I was about to endure, some of my own issues and some of the issues I learned at home.
A “gift” my mother gave me was her own insecurities about herself, which in hindsight, became visible in all of the relationships she had, including the one with my father and the others after my father. This translated pretty clearly into my own relationships later on and began to take on a striking likeness to the saying, “like mother, like daughter”. My mother instilled insecurity in me for fear of me developing insecurities like her own, much of which centered on weight and body image. In middle school, I started being bullied for my appearance and didn’t have the tools to defend myself since I had been taught to hate myself already. My body didn’t resemble those of the predominantly white bodies that surrounded my own body of color, and they made me feel guilty for it.
I became really good at beating myself up with the help of others. This sentiment carried into my first relationship. I was eighteen years old, he was two years older than me, and everything started out fairly innocent. I kept forcing an idealized version of a relationship on him, and he definitely started to take it out on me. The most vivid memory I have of this occurring was when we were fooling around and I was straddling him, he told me that I was too heavy for him and that he didn’t like it when I was on top. This would happen on multiple occasions where he’d say I was hurting his hips or tell me that I gained weight. I internalized this, already having stake in the idea that your weight determined your worth, taking it through to every attempt at getting any attention from the opposite sex, and into the second relationship I’ve ever had. After that second relationship ended, I’ve spent the last four and a half years trying to reconcile why it wasn’t working out with guys and what I was doing wrong with myself.
I decided the best way to go about learning to accept and love myself as I am was to physically distance myself from Albuquerque. In this past year, I spent a lot of time analyzing the basis of which insecurity of body image comes from, reading works from amazing authors like bell hooks and Audre Lorde, and listening to the females around me discuss their own plight. Through Tumblr, I was able to find like-minded females who had the same gripes and who spoke of body positivity and who spoke of “radical” self-love and it inspired me to start loving myself.
Back in Albuquerque, I am excited to start anew with a fresh new love for myself and a new love for the place that I call home. My love for myself will no longer be determined by an outside source, and I will no longer be told that I cannot love myself as I am, for I am good enough. We are all good enough.
Read more about Natasha here