When I was a child, I believed that I was beautiful – both inside and out. I wanted to compete in a popular pageant for young girls called “Little Miss Philippines” on a noon time variety show called “Eat Bulaga.” For some reason, I knew in my heart that I would crush it but I wondered why no one really advocated for me to join. That’s when it started… Between 5 and 7 years old, I began to question if I was seen by others as beautiful.
Fast forward to high school. Again, I found myself yearning to be nominated for a chance at the school beauty pageant. I waited for four years to be asked if I was interested but nothing happened. This was when it dawned on me – I just physically did not fit traditional standards of beauty.
It was also in high school that my self-image began its journey into distortion. For the first time in my life, I was told that I could be skinnier. So, at some point, I skipped lunch for a year to lose weight. Somehow, I started associating beauty with skinny (unfortunately, media and Philippine culture do too much to reinforce this). I was miserable and yes, I did stop believing I was beautiful.
Then, through college and through my first jobs, people kept telling me: I was gaining weight, I was getting fat. Even if my boyfriend (now husband) and best friends kept telling me I looked great, guess who I listened to? Guess what I saw every time I saw my reflection or looked at a recent photo of myself? I saw myself as overweight and unattractive.
The funny thing is… whenever I look back at those older photos now, I get so confused – why were people calling me fat? Why was I so convinced that I was fat? More importantly, why did it matter so much? As an example of what I mean when I say distorted self-image, take a look at the pic collage below. From the 4th photo onward, I’ve looked at each photo in the past and thought I looked fat due to either some feedback from the time or my own corrupted view of myself and yet, when I see these pictures now, I think: my BMI may not have been perfect but how come when I looked at these in the past, all I saw was weight I had to lose?
After giving birth, breastfeeding helped keep the weight off for a few months. Then, my milk supply ran out and soon, I became the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life. Except this time, losing weight is physically and logistically not as easy.
I’ve been avoiding posting pictures of myself. If I do post something, I carefully choose what makes the cut, fearful that I’ll be judged. I have deleted comments about my weight before.
I’m trying really hard to lose weight again. And this time, I want to do it not to avoid getting hurt by what others think or say. I want to do it for health reasons and without regard for how skinny society wants me to be. Whether or not I succeed, I want to feel beautiful again. Deep inside, I know she’s still there – the little girl who loved and believed in herself enough to think she can win “Little Miss Philippines.” I have to find her. Because no one else can advocate for me better… than me.