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Body Image – Voices

“Not only did I feel weird not being able to wear what I felt expresses me, but also, I was made to feel weird about my body.”
San Jose, CA
For most of my life, I went under the assumption that because I was of a certain ethnicity that I was supposed to be ‘larger’.

Being a Polynesian person, the assumption is that you are pretty big, if you’re a smaller person it’s uncommon. The Samoan men in my family didn’t seem concerned, but the women did. They would say ‘Don’t get too carried away because you’ll get unhealthy’ whereas the men just figured being bigger would make me a better athlete and more powerful.

On my Mexican side, I had a very opinionated grandma who made me feel terrible about my weight. I remember being at her house one time and crying because of the comments she would make.

I never wanted to eat in front of her because she would always stare at me and judge me. That’s when I learned that I had to develop thick skin. For my grandmother, there was no set precedent for how to talk about these things, instead of just blatantly saying what she thought.

Body image was also weird for me because I didn’t dress the way I wanted to growing up. No one had conversations about gender and gender variant, it didn’t have a place in my community.

In my culture, my grandmother was never going to accept that I wanted to wear dresses. Not only did I feel weird not being able to wear what I felt expresses me, but also, I was made to feel weird about my body. So, I definitely struggled with body issues.

I never liked to swim with my shirt off. I didn’t like going shopping with people.

It was an awkward time for me. I kind of just wore what a lot of people got for me and I just went with it.

I started to become comfortable with my body and being a ‘big person’ from my grandmother.

One day, we were at the pool and I was trying to avoid taking my shirt off and she just said ‘We all know you’re fat, you’re not fooling anyone. It’s not a costume, we know you aren’t a thin person’.

And I realized that my grandmother was absolutely right. Though I was still uncomfortable, I just took off the shirt and started swimming.

Although, I know my grandmother wasn’t trying to be ‘body positive’ at the time, I know she was making a point that there is no point in covering up your body because everyone knows it’s there. You shouldn’t be ashamed of your body.

I took her advice and I ran with it. From then on, I just did my own thing. Today, I wear whatever I want and whatever makes me comfortable.

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