Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the science of self-esteem

I mean, we've all been there.

We spend an hour getting ready. Three days not eating after 8pm. We stand in front of the Evil Mirror and try to squash every little imperfection we see so when we finally make it to that party or that event or that show, we can feel "good" whatever the hell that means. 

We put layers on our face so we can hide the way we hate our skin. We straighten and flatten and gloss everything over so we can feel HOT.

but like am iiiii??????

 Then we roll up to the party or whatever like we are FIERCE.

We have an expectation vs. reality moment.

We know that that person we've been hoping to run into will be there. So we have it planned out - we're going to go for a drink at the same time. We'll say something witty - ("I'll have a rum and coke......a COLA, my GAWD, I'm not a monster!!!")
The person will laugh and notice us....finally.

  Yes, it's me. That girl you've been noticing here and there all month. And yes we're finally in the same room. And yes, I'm funny and cute and charming. And yes, I would love to get coffee sometime and talk about our favorite books and why we wish literary characters could be real people.


  We get so nervous. We check ourselves in Evil Mirror ten times to make sure we still look the way we think we're supposed to. We don't eat anything and we talk to our friends but our eyes keep moving around the room. 

And then that person walks in with their friends and they look on point.

Hi I'm Nathan Fillion and I'm so handsome it's StUpId~*~~* 

And then this is it! This is the moment! You're going to woo them with your brain and this new dress you slipped on and you imagine Hall & Oates starts playing and I don't know maybe there's wind or some shit but ugh that would definitely be a cliche --

And then, and then!

The person passes you. The music is loud, the person offers you a little grin and they talk to someone else the whole night. Maybe your friend circles never intersect, maybe they hit it off with a girl who's way skinnier than you or not it doesn't matter but you notice everything, maybe you never get the courage, maybe everything just absolutely sucks.

You mentally check out for the rest of the party, you drive home blaring Awolnation and you think, "At least I have Netflix. At least I have The Office on queue and everything will be okay because I'm just season 3 Pam Beasley, right? RIGHT?" 

 Then the dark thoughts start to come in. 

"WHY am I such an idiot?"

"Why am I ugly?"

"Why am I not COOOOOL?!?!?"

And then we realize we are freaks and go home and go to sleep and text our friends and they tell us to listen to Beyonce and we'll feel better and then we move on.

I feel like this is a pretty normal scenario but also it's like, definitely not okay. I'm not saying this is the case for everyone, but I mean it definitely happens to me. And I don't want to have my self-esteem all over the place based off of other people. 

This is a thing I'm learning. This is a hard thing I'm learning that is REALLY REALLY HARD TO UNDERSTAND. 

My self-worth is not based on other people.

But it's true.

Our self-worth is not based on other people.

I think eventually I just have to let it go. I have to let it go how I want other people to perceive me and I have to know what is true inside of me. I have to know there are good things about me and there are bad things about me and that's the same for everyone. 

Sometimes living in Los Angeles is a little hard (A LOT HARD) because everything is based off of status and how you look and who you're friends with and labels and all that basic shit. But at the end of the day you have to take a step back and know that your self-worth isn't gauged by any of that.   

I want my self-worth to be gauged by something bigger than material and shallow things and I realize this will be a life-long struggle but the point is to try. To know the core of who I am isn't based off of how I look or if I have a lot of money.

I mean these are really elementary ideas that I am not responsible for thinking of but they're things I seriously have to remind myself. 

Self-esteem is this weird thing we're taught when we're little. We're taught to have good self-esteem and it's such a weird concept. We're told when we're little that we're beautiful and perfect and great at everything but I mean, seriously, those are bold-faced lies. And then we grow up and normal life happens and somewhere along the line we're like DAMN. This is hard and I don't feel good about myself, like, hardly ever.

I'm not writing a post about trying to make ourselves feel better, I am just writing about what it's like to sometimes hate the person you are and sometimes love the person you are. And I think it's all just a part of being HUMAN.

Which is cool. Being human is cool, right? Obviously it'd be cooler to be half-human half-someone with super powers, but I mean I'll take being human. And I guess I'll talk all the stuff that comes with it.

* * * 


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

the issue with stuff

I don't know how to start off this post because talking about something like racial stereotypes and profiling and cultural ignorance stresses me out. Part of me feels like I'm not smart enough to talk about it, but I'm going to because it's something that's heavy on me and what else is the internet for other than pouring out your inner dialogue?

I wanted to write this because Chanelle posted on facebook a Buzzfeed article about microagressions. 
It's sick that these things still exist and we see it everyday - whether it's someone saying to another person, "But you don't act black" or "For an Asian person you're a good driver" or "But you look white" -- y'all, this is not okay. Right? RIGHT?

I was talking to Chanelle about this after we both read the article. It made me think.

I will never have to go through what my father went through because I don't "look Puerto Rican." It's this strange dichotomy of having something in your blood and yet being so far removed from it. My father didn't teach my sisters and I Spanish because, why would he? He was tortured when he was young and beat up and jumped because he was a Puerto Rican man. Why would he want to teach his daughters to speak Spanish if it was something he had to repress?

I grew up in a household that simultaneously celebrated our Hispanic culture but also was very much removed from it. I am a Puerto Rican woman. Yet when people say things like, "But you don't look Puerto Rican." Like what the fuck does that even MEAN? I am so removed from a culture that is mine but isn't at the same time.

There's this weird pressure. Like a few weeks ago I was asked to perform on an all-Latina improv team. I was so excited because duh that's awesome. And when I went up on stage with them I thought, "Oh SHIT. Everyone here probably thinks I'm faking it. That I'm not actually Hispanic."

HOLD UP. 1. Stop it. 2. STOP IT SELF.

Why do we think like this? You'd think hey, it's 2013. People are over thinking so small. LOLOLLLLL. 

It's real and it exists. And I'm just writing this from my own perspective. I went through this phase in like middle school where I didn't want anyone to know I was Puerto Rican. A boy in my sixth grade class asked me, "What are you? Are you mixed?" and I don't know why it scared me but it did. I forced my mom to iron my hair with a real straight up iron for clothes. I tried to stuff it really deep down.

And then I went through a phase in high school where I was like, "Shit. I'm Puerto Rican. This is COOL." And I tried to like, tap into it more but it felt so far away and then I got scared and thought, "I can't be accepted into Hispanic culture because I'm too white."

It's just bizarre, right? Why do we have to mold ourselves into any kind of label? Why, as a 12 year old, was I embarrassed that someone thought I was Hispanic? Already at 12 years old my mind was shifted to think, "I must blend in. I must blend in. I must blend in." I would think, "I'm half Puerto Rican so that means I'm ok! I'm only half!!!!" 

Dumb. Dumb dumb dumb. I'm just as proud of my Italian side as I am of anything.

And then when you call someone out for saying something like, "That guy talks so white!" you're the asshole. You're the asshole who takes everything TOO seriously and is TOO offended. Okay. Yeah. 

I don't care if I'm the asshole blogging about race. Whatever.

Monday, December 2, 2013

heart of darkness

It starts out as a little dark spot somewhere on me. I can feel it but it's so small I ignore it and I go about my day - I text friends, do my work, go to lunch, go home, watch Netflix. It's there the entire time and I feel it but it's easy to ignore. I can still run, I can still drink coffee, I can still say hi to people and have conversations and the little darkness hovers but it's avoidable and I stuff it deep down to a place where no one else can see.

Over time the darkness begins to prod me a little and it's not as easy to ignore. I wake up one day and it's now spread and it's maybe covering my shoulder, or all ten of my fingers and I blanch a little when I notice it's spread. I panic, covering it up with a sweater or gloves or letting my hair fall over it. I can't ignore it anymore but I'm still hiding it from everyone. No one else can see it so I think I'm okay. I can do this. I can act normal. No one can see the darkness.

Days pass and slowly the more I ignore the darkness the more it spreads. It spreads so much that it covers all of me and now I can't go out. I can't talk to people, I can't be myself because I am engulfed and there's no hiding it, no denying it. It's there and real and it's part of me now, it's who I am and it's the first thing anyone can see when they look at me.

I tuck away under my covers, pull them over my head and for a fleeting shallow moment I believe the lie that I'm okay. That even though it's all over me, this veil, that I'm fine, I'm fine. Not a big deal. Tomorrow I'll wake up and it'll be gone. 

I lay awake at night, heart beating and racing and palms sweating and I see the sliver of moon peeking through my window. A little light cutting through the dark room.

I am so ashamed says a little voice in my head. I am lost and I don't know where to go.

The moon grows brighter and I continue to hide.

* * *

The moment you realize you don't think you know what you believe anymore, it's a scary one. You feel like you messed up. So you shut down. You sit in church and stare at the pastor and you try to listen to what he's saying but it's really hard.

You kinda feel like you're in Charlie Brown land when the adults talk and all you hear is WAHH WAHH WAH WAH WAHH. 

So you zone out and smile and sing the worship songs and mingle after the service and go home and stop thinking about it.

You go to community group but you feel isolated.  Because everything feels trite. Because sayings like "guarding your heart" and "Lord just help me be thankful for this season" don't make sense to you and there are sugary smiles and the same discussions and you sit there and you feel like a freak. You have this darkness all over you and you don't think anyone can see it. When they ask for prayer requests you press your lips together because hell no, you're not letting anyone know you feel depressed or confused or how you inwardly roll your eyes.

You become cynical. The anger, the hurt, the confusion, it grips your heart really really tightly. You stop hanging out with your friends who share the same faith because you're scared that if you say a cuss word or you drink too much or you talk about something they don't agree with that you think they'll judge you. That they'll tell you you don't know God loves you and their heart weeps for you.

So you avoid them. And the anger grows and grows until you raise a giant middle finger at the whole thing and you feel good.

And that lasts for like, a second. And then you're sitting at home and you still have that hole in your chest. You thought separating yourself and isolating yourself would make you feel better. Actually, it just made you feel alone. And you find yourself at a potluck for church and you find yourself tentatively opening up to one of your "judgemental Christian friends" and they look at you and understand and you're so taken aback that they aren't immediately laying hands on you and you're confused. They weren't supposed to understand. They were supposed to make you feel awful and justified in your anger!

You carry this confusion with you. You sit in church again and you try to listen but it's still hard but you start to feel like maybe you are part of the problem.

Maybe no one seems to care because you haven't let anyone care. Because you've been pushing them away for so long.

You flip through old journals, you look at old blog posts and you see how much you trusted God. You look at that girl and you miss her but she's just a naive idiot, right?

You fill your days with things and stuff and distractions so you can try to stuff it all down, all of these insecurities and questions, but they keep lingering about. And you feel a little "tap tap" on your shoulder and you know it's God but you ignore Him.

You ignore Him to the point where you can't feel Him and then you're scared.

It's like when you tease someone with a break up because you think they won't actually go anywhere. "Maybe we should just break up!" you shout and instead of falling to their knees, begging you to stay, they shrug and say "Okay" and then you are left lonelier than before.

But even though you can't feel Him, you know, so deep down, God is there. He's there but you don't want Him but He's not leaving. 

You find yourself kneeling at church and you feel this emotional barrier come crashing down and you realize you've been unfair. You've projected your own self-hate and anger onto others who were around you. 

You realize you are angry at the Christian community because you're angry at yourself. 

I realized I have been angry at the Christian community because I've been angry at myself. 

* * * 

"I can do this," I tell myself.. "Remember, you used to do this all the time. Get it together girl."

I fold my hands in my lap, closing my eyes, breathing deeply and steadily. I haven't prayed in a long time. It feels a little foreign but it also feels like maybe this is what I've been created to do. 

"Ummmm," I begin. 

"I'm really really really really....." the last really falls off and I drop my hands and I stand up from kneeling.

"I am an idiot," I say quietly. "And I'm sorry. And I'll always, always love you."

Talking to God like this feels normal and natural and I know, so deeply, that there is no doubt that God is real. I think it's beautiful He created us to be the most complex creatures and I am so thankful He gave me a brain to question and hurt and think. 

And I'm so glad He never goes away.

* * *