#MyBodyIsEnough-Laura's Story

Happy May, friends! Today's story comes from Laura who shares what it is like to grow up and not look like the people around you. I so loved hearing her story from a different cultural context and can't think her enough for being so willing to share vulnerably! 

What is true beauty for every woman? Is it the woman who physically stands before the mirror, or is it her soul that reflects her struggles, triumphs, dreams, and experiences that have shaped her into the valuable woman she is today? It is quite easy to forget all those personal triumphs and inner self love when we live in a world that has conditioned us to believe that beauty has a particular standard or number. It is very hard to scroll through social media without seeing the newest diets and what you can look like if you tried. You may start to feel less of a person because you don’t look a certain way or have that magic number on the scale or jean size.

What happens next? We diet and exercise to try and achieve the acceptable body image to a point where we can become obsessed with the scale, trying to reaching that goal weight. We develop a very damaging and unhealthy obsession with that number on the scale. We allow that NUMBER to dictate our mood for the rest of the day and most of all, we allow it to define our self-worth and who we are as a person. When we feel lost in whom we are, we can also look to the scale for acceptance.

I can honestly say that I AM one of those women who have allowed the scale and clothing size to define my beauty and self-worth from a very young age. These inner struggles were deep rooted from emotional pain that have taken me many years to understand and heal from.

My insecurities of not knowing which ways to define beauty started when I was a young girl at the age of nine. Perhaps, if I was told I was beautiful more often by my parents for who I was, then maybe I would have developed a stronger sense of self and self-worth. I have come a long way since then, learning to appreciate myself more, knowing that my heart and sense of humor make me someone who is worthy in my own eyes!

I am going to be 100% honest that I am human, and I still struggle some days with insecurities and pains from my childhood. I’ve had many ups and downs with my weight throughout my life, trying to attain the ideal weight put forth by society, and especially my culture. I have tried different diets and eating minimal, all in the hopes that I would look great, be accepted, not be bullied, and get the handsome guy to live happily ever after with. I came to find out that I was very wrong and instead, I gained “false” attention that brought me empty happiness and even lower self-esteem in the long run. It took me a long time to realize that those reasons for doing it were always for others, and not for me.

Where did all this begin? It all started when I was about 9 years old having lunch with my mother and her coworker in Chinatown. I was enjoying my plate of food when her coworker called me FAT GIRL. I remembered I just stopped eating and I cried uncontrollably because I felt so embarrassed. To make matters worse, my mother laughed with her instead of comforting me.

I am a Chinese American girl who grew up in New York City and I was always reminded of what an acceptable Asian girl was supposed to look like: small frame and thin. I never fit that criteria because I was in a household that loved to eat, and it was also a sign of respect. If my parents made me food, I must finish or I would get scolded for wasting food and not being appreciative. I felt I had to please my parents by eating ALL the food they paid for and had cooked. As a result, I was always taller and heavier than the average Chinese girl in New York City. For example, at 10 years old, I stood 5’1” and 121lbs. I was constantly compared to my Chinese cousins and my mother’s coworkers’ daughters. Her coworkers would ask “What do you feed her? I wish my daughter can be fatten up like her!” or “Don’t worry, you won’t sink in the pool. If she is so fat and wont sink, you won’t either!” I can never forget those hurtful comments made and they stuck with me for years.

Growing up, I watched my own mother and sister go on many diets and weigh themselves constantly. They were the two women I looked up to as a little girl. Because I saw them obsess over the numbers on the scale, I felt I needed too as well. In our household, food was the way to have family gatherings and to settle arguments instead of talking. My dad apologized to me by making me food instead of talking to me about what was the issue at stake. From this, I realized how much of an unhealthy relationship with food and scales I had at an early age.

This constant torment and comparisons carried on until I was in high school. Although the comments never stopped from the people of my Chinese culture, luckily, I didn’t get as much torment from my school friends. However, like many teenage girls were, I was filled with insecurities about my body and image. I saw many of my girlfriends have boyfriends and I did not, which at the time confirmed that it was due to my heavier weight and being not pretty enough.

Because I didn’t feel beautiful on the outside, I decided to bury myself in my studies and focus on art so that I could have something else to offer, and feel good about. All throughout high school, I focused all of my energy on getting good grades, art, music, sports, and hanging out with my best friend who felt very similar to how I felt. By the way, she is now a cardiovascular doctor! I can honestly say that I didn’t look at the scale a lot back then because my energy was devoted to other things that made me feel good, and proud.

I’ve always been very independent and not afraid to be different, probably because I was the youngest and wanted to be a strong woman who could break barriers as an Asian female. I went to college for two years but my heart felt empty there. I wanted to travel the world and decided to enlist in the US Navy, which turned out to be one of the greatest accomplishments in my life serving my country for ten years. Although this was one of the brightest times of my life, it was also one of my darkest. My self-esteem started to drop due the type of people I surrounded myself with, along with family separation, losing my father, money, and other stressors that came from work. I was at a weight where two more pounds would have gotten me unfit for duty. Understandably, I had to lose weight and keep a close eye on the scale because it was for my profession. I didn’t want to be kicked out for being over my max weight! I was able to lose a lot of the weight but this was when I developed once again the obsession with the scale. I watched every pound because I was afraid to reach the limit again. It also didn’t help when I had certain people in my circle tell me that I looked like I gained weight. I didn’t want those nasty comments my way, so I always weighed myself and kicked myself even if I gained 1 pound. I wanted to be accepted by them and fit into a circle of people who looked like they were young, fit, and having fun!

I came to the realization that whenever I am lost or putting my energies in the wrong places, the scale is where I turn to for reassurance. When I am feeling, positive and having things to look forward to, I don’t care for that scale as much. I decided to say goodbye to the people that bring me negativity or point out my physical flaws. I surrounded myself with people who are positive, have a drive for life, and just happy to be alive! That great energy is contagious and focusing on things to work on such as writing this blog or pursuing a new hobby can take me further away from letting the scale reassure me.

I can’t say that I am 100% cured inside, but I am making improvements and giving myself more credit and self-love for all the things I’ve experienced and learned from. I know I am a good person despite my mistakes and decisions. I like to watch others succeed because it gives me happiness as well as hope. In no way am I discouraging other women from dieting or being healthier in order to lose weight or for health reasons. I hope it’s for you and not to please others. Do it because it will give you long term happiness within yourself because nobody else will give you that long term peace and love more than you. I have failed, triumphed, cried, laughed, loved, lost, and learned a lot of life experiences in the past 33 years. I served my country for 10 years, traveled the world, received my Master’s Degree, and am trying to pursue another!

I know I have a lot to be proud of and this is what makes me a worthy person in this world, even if there are people that still try to tell me otherwise. Now, I still get on the scale from time to time but I am learning to not allow that number to tell me that I am not worthy today or forever! I am learning to eat healthier foods for me because I want to wake up with great energy and better moods so that I can take on the world each day. I want to keep doing great things for as long as I can and hopefully help others who struggle inside to know they aren’t alone. I want to be an inspiration and empower others as much as I can!
— Laura

Laura, thank you so much for sharing your heart and part of your story today! The new print of the month in available NOW! If you want to share your own story of learning to love your body email me! (rachel@racheltenny.com) #mybodyisenough xoxo Rachel