“ You need to start exercising so you won’t get fat.” I was 10 years old.
“ Why do you have hair on your arms and legs?” I was 10 years old.
“ You shouldn’t be eating that. You know it will make you fat.” I was 11 years old.
At 36, I can recall these moments vividly. Their words caused a level of hurt I could not express at the time because I did not understand why it made me feel less than. Before that day, I had the utmost respect for these adult males advising me about diet and exercise. It was humiliating to be told these things in front of other adults and not having any of them stand up for me. Or tell them they had no right to say this to a young girl in the midst of puberty. The message I received was they must all agree with them. Don’t be fat, but why? Being fat was a bad thing. It was unattractive. It was undesirable. It was unlovable. This was the beginning and things only got more prevalent. Without knowing it at the time, my body became my enemy.
When my breasts grew in at age 11, I was not ready for that type of male attention. Positive or negative attention was equally uncomfortable. I learned being appealing to boys was important. I must be attractive to boys or else. So I tried to be appealing, prettier and thinner. I was also advised to protect myself. So I was careful but why? I learned to fear this shell once invisible to me. Two years prior, this shell allowed me to run, play sports, climb trees, dance, pretend I was a ballerina, collect potato bugs and worms. I didn’t have to worry about showing or not showing my body. I did everything without much thought. I did what I loved. Most importantly, I was my truest and authentic self. At age 9, I could do anything! I was the best at everything I did and I knew it. I lived a blissful life before the external messages started to overtake my innate ability to follow my joy.
You see at some point I became angry, resentful, and argumentative. I always felt I had to fight to speak up and when I did I was being disrespectful, spoiled or (god forbid) too sensitive. I even wished I were a boy instead because then I’d be able to do anything without feeling judged. If I showed one ounce of passion (aka untamed raw emotion) I was a crazy girl who needed to calm down. I learned to joke that this was caused by my hot-blooded Latin roots. I grew up in Canada. I am 100% Canadian with Chilean influences.
So baby girl, what I have to tell you is to always be proud of yourself. As you go forward at age 9, you must forgive yourself for not being able stay true to yourself at all times. Do not harbour any resentment and forgive those who hurt you because resentment will prevent you from living a full life. Let it go sooner than later. Loving and accepting yourself (mind and body) will be your greatest personal battle. Your body is not your enemy and you will learn to appreciate it, eventually. You are so much more than your exterior. You will have to be your greatest cheerleader, protector and ally. You will also enjoy your time alone because as a sensitive soul, you will need it. Being inquisitive, passionate, funny, and sensitive makes you who you are. You will not be a girly girl even though you will try and will get annoyed because you cannot do heels very well. That’s okay though. Sneakers will be your thing. When you think you want to give up, you find a light pulling you forward because you know deep down you are worthy of the blessings this life is giving you.
Music and dancing will be your salvation. Do it more. And more often.
So many hugs,