• Faith Vazquez

Loving Yourself is Contagious

This morning I was hit with the train of purpose. This train had passengers like my mom, my sisters, my aunt, my grandma, my best friends, ladies I see in the store, the girl I passed by in the rest stop bathroom, and even a different version of myself.

Why were all these ladies packed into this train that hit me? Because they need more love. Love for themselves.

I signed up to be a brand ambassador for two different brands today. Something I never even considered or desired to do. But I signed up for these companies for a reason. Their brands were specifically tailored for women of all shapes and sizes. When I was asked what my motives and desires for signing up were, that's when it hit me. The train of purpose.

One of my answers was: "I have struggled with body image issues my whole life, even while being an athlete. I studied dietetics and nutrition for a few semesters while in college and know a lot about proper nutrition and exercise and STILL dealt with body image issues and disordered eating habits. I want to be a brand ambassador for *brand* because I want to publicly love myself so fiercely and freely that it gives other women permission to be confident as well. A lot of influences on eating disorders and body image issues are societal pressures, I want those walls to be broken and women to lift each other up and be so proud and confident that society's rules have no standing! I'd love to do my part in any way to help that future come to fruition."

Here's what I realized while writing that answer: When you love yourself, you give others permission to do the same. Positivity, love, gratitude. These are all things that we have read or heard are contagious. I think the same goes for self-love.

Think about it. We talk a lot about the societal pressures placed on women when it comes to their bodies and slowly, brands are waking up to this issue as well. But have we talked about our own part in feeding this beast called society? Every time we look in the mirror and tell ourselves we don't like what we see, every time we opt to wear more layers to cover up our skin because we don't want to be seen, every meal we skip, every "I'm too fat for that", keeps the beast alive. It's no doubt that there are things beyond the control of the consumer but as consumers, we also have a lot of control. Brands are offering more options for different body types because of the authenticity and bravery of people. Bravery in being themselves.

I know personally, before I want to buy an article of clothing, especially online, I tend to look up a big, often my skin tone, girl to see if I can pull it off. I just did that with the first side string bikini I've ever purchased. I pour over the details of a random woman's body, looking for permission to wear an outfit. That's not healthy! It's not kind or fair to me, or the model I'm dissecting, and what good is it doing? None. Ziltch. Nada. We have to find the permission from ourselves. Because here's the reality, I put those bikini bottoms on and I felt AMAZING. I felt so cute and there was no one around me who could tell me I wasn't. But then one of my friends suggested posting a picture of me in them and I'm not going to lie, my confidence armor cracked a little bit.

What's the difference between the selfies in my room and the pictures on Instagram? The audience. We shy away from being seen. Our first instinct is to shrink ourselves, to take up less space.

Well, I take up space. A lot of it. We all take up space, it's how we know that we're alive. It's a blessing to take up space. So, I encourage everyone to take up the space that was meant for you. There is no such thing as taking too much of it!

I'm not a man and can not speak to men's body issues but from what I've seen, men are more often authentically themselves because society gives men more permission and space to do so. Does this mean men are immune to self image issues? Absolutely not. But it seems, in general, the focus is on women when it comes to the "perfect" body and what women should or shouldn't do to achieve this nirvana of bodies.

When you go to the beach, the majority of men, no matter the shape or size, have their shirt off. And when you're at the beach, looking around (because everyone people watches, don't deny it!), it's normal to see any shape of man walking around with no shirt on. Yet, as women, we scrutinize every detail of how a t-shirt hugs our body before we decide to buy it. We're afraid. Afraid to be seen, afraid to jiggle, afraid to breathe.

This is why women like Queen Latifah, Rihanna, Lizzo, Winnie Harlow, Instagram sensation Tess Holiday, and one of my favorite models Tabria Majors, are all so important. They give other women permission to freely be themselves. When you dare to wear whatever you want, because it makes you feel good, without asking permission from anyone, then you've created more space for another woman to feel safe to do the same. We naturally want this feeling of love and confidence for our friends and family. We desire to see the people we love happy and healthy. So, why don't we want this for ourselves? Because we aren't loving ourselves.

If we carry ourselves confidently, without regard to what other's will think, we pass the baton of empowerment to another woman. You could be inspiring someone without even knowing it, just by being yourself. So, hold your head up high and love every inch and pound of skin on your body, we're counting on you!

You aren't too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, or too anything for any article of clothing, water park, beach, post, environment, or person! Don't let invisible forces affect how you see your concrete self. You're real, you're here, you exist. And I'm so glad you take up space.


© 2020 by faith n vazquez