Speak up: We are beautiful and should know it

Chinyere Aniagoh - Ecuador

February 26, 2013

I just wanted to share with you something I’ve been fighting against all my teen life and considerable more since I have gotten to Ecuador, and I honestly don’t believe there is a person in the world who hasn’t suffered from this problem at one point in time. This fight is against low esteem and body image.

First I would like to give you a little history into my personal struggles with this problem and I hope all of you can relate in one way or another, then I would like to share some observations I have made surrounding this issue during my time so far in Ecuador. And I will close with some small activities and tips to help you whenever you may feel like your self image or esteem isn’t at 100% and maybe you can share them with the members of your various communities.

I feel like the root of my personal issues with self esteem is that I never truly felt completely comfortable with who I was. With some many thing in my life I never felt that I was good enough whether it be academically although I made very good graded, socially although I had good friends, artistically or athletically although I was captain of my dance team and made varsity soccer freshmen year. It’s like I always knew that I was beautiful, intelligent, outgoing and all those other great adjectives we should believe about ourselves but I never thought I was beautiful enough, intelligent enough, outgoing enough.

Now I’m not saying that I’ve ever sat around miserable like a lifetime movie but I feel like if I wasn’t consumed with this issue of not being good enough an instead have been satisfied with who I was I would have been able to fully enjoy my high school experience. By mid senior year thanks to the help of the my mother and aunt I was able to appreciate who and what I was completely. I had to understand, appreciate and learn to love my history and the family that I came from. I had to learn that what I was was rich. Only then was I comfortable and proud of all the other aspects of my life because I was comfortable with me. Although still very confident in myself. since I have gotten to Ecuador and have gained a significant amount of weight, and my hair looks a mess pretty much all the time and my skin looks like I’m going through puberty again, my self esteem has been like a roller coaster ride also listening to my actually very beautiful and not fat at all host sister, talk about how fat and ugly she is everyday doesn’t make me feel better about myself because I personal draw energy from my surroundings. I also have a lot of thinking time here and Ecuador to sit and wallow with myself about it but thankfully I have Atsina and we can jokingly talk about how we look like Pillsbury dough girls and Abby who always gives me a positive perspective. My host sister unfortunately doesn’t have anyone to help her through those moments. She once told me is was her friends who are the ones calling her fat and ugly at school. I have also observed some of the other girls in my English classes who just have the attitude as if they are not good enough. For example, I will quietly hear them say the answer to a problem but they don’t have the confidence to say it loudly as if they believe they couldn’t possibly have the intelligence to know the right answer.

Therefore, I made it my business to tell my sister the positive things about her self as often as possible. And just to see the instant confidence boost in her and the way her face begins to lights up gives me chills. and explaining to the children in my English class just how intelligent they are, its a tragedy how many children aren’t told that they are intelligent or beautiful and because just those words can change there confidence level thus changing there lives.

Moving on, there are 3 main contributors that can alter the way a person views themselves. Absorbing negative messages. For example reggae-ton music videos that I unconsciously see all the time, just watching how women get degraded saddens me tremendously and at that moment I am a shame for all women. Unattainable Expectations. Not feeling completely comfortable where you are. This whole experience can challenge our comfort levels we are in a different country speaking another language with an entirely different culture. So its normal to feel down on yourself sometimes. The important part is to not stay in that zone and believe me I understand it can be hard and you can get stuck sometimes.

Thus leading me right in to some tips you can us and share to get yourself out of that zone.

1. One thing my mother use to make me do was a positive affirmation sheet which is a list of things you want to believe about yourself.

2. Accomplishment board a list of all the things your proud of about yourself; things you have accomplished

3. And lastly I just wanted let all of you guys know that I think you all are beautiful in so many ways and that your gifts to this world so don’t let yourself be your worst enemy.

Chinyere Aniagoh