Proud2Bme | Learning to Love Myself: Unaltered, Untouched

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Learning to Love Myself: Unaltered, Untouched

By Natalie Castaneda--My whole life I was considered the “skinny” and “perfect” one in my family. I grew up in an environment that made me believe that being skinny would be that one attribute that would define me for the rest of my life.

I always had a fear in the back of my mind; what would happen if people didn’t think I was skinny anymore? Would I gain the same recognition and acceptance from the people around me?

It was not until the beginning of this year that I realized how much I let society define me as a person and what beauty meant. For so many years, I would hate myself for not looking more like the ideal images I saw on TV and that made me resent the way I saw my own reflection. I felt like I needed to disguise myself in order to be accepted in society.

The personal experience that broke me the most was when my mother told me about a phone call she had with my sister who was studying abroad in Sweden. She was explaining to me how much my sister felt uncomfortable in her own skin because she wasn’t confident enough to approach people and she said, “It’s easier for Natalie to open up to people. It’s just different for me. I’m not like her.”

I broke down because I always looked at my sister as the strongest, most influential and beautiful woman I knew, and it hurt me to see that she never thought of herself in that light. It hurt for me to hear her say that she saw me as this outgoing person who has all of this confidence, when in reality I was struggling just like her.

I desired so badly to become this clone designed for women by the media and my environment that I became my own worst critic. It was actually really hard for me to make friends and meet new people because I would always have this constant battle with my body image. Since I was young I was always known as the “skinny” one and I just didn’t want to be defined as that anymore; it wasn’t my identity.

In my experience with body image, there would be days when I just wouldn’t eat for fear of gaining weight and I engaged in disordered behavior because I thought it was normal. From the time that I was 15 until now, I was uncomfortable with my body. I would always go to modeling auditions and be broken down in front of photographers criticizing my body and constantly asking me to fix my posture as if it was going to make my stomach disappear.

Making me wear red lipstick and asking me to stop smiling and open my mouth instead, as if I was trying to seduce the camera.  It came to the point where I even began to tell photographers to crop my stomach or Photoshop me so I wouldn’t have to deal with the constant negative commentary about my body. That made me resent the way I looked so I had this idea in my head that if I just wouldn’t eat or think about food and try being more seductive, then maybe I’ll have a chance to be a model photographers would admire.

Modeling was something I had a passion for; it made me feel like I was beautiful and worth something. It made me feel like I was beautiful because none of the pictures looked like me. Every photo that was taken of me was Photoshopped. My face looked thinner, perfect and flawless. My stomach disappeared, my body was curvier, and my face exuded sexuality. I liked it because everyone praised it. It made me feel like I was caught up in this net of photographs that were imposters of my own image mocking my reality and the way I truly looked. I believed that this false perception of me was the only one people accepted.

Little by little, the way I saw myself transformed into an image that was far from who I really was. It made me realize how wrong I was to think of myself in such a negative light.  I learned that physical appearance says very little about your character or value as a person. We all have something about our appearance that we wish we could change if we lived in a perfect world, but in reality what we might want to change is what makes us unique.

 It is important to know that whatever battle you are fighting, someone out there in the world has fought that same battle and you aren’t standing alone. There are millions of opportunities for one to speak out and get the help they need. I didn’t realize I had a problem until I learned about Proud2Bme in my course at Cal State Northridge and participated in NEDAwareness Week to spread body positivity on campus. Now, whenever I go to a modeling audition and they ask me to fix my posture, I’ll sit in a position where they can take a nice full body picture of my rolls of confidence and see them try to Photoshop that!  I am Proud2Bme.

About this blogger: Natalie Castaneda is a second year undergraduate student at California State University, Northridge. She is 19 years old and comes from a Colombian family. She started modeling at a young age and began writing poetry a year later. 

Also by CSUN students:

What's Real?: My Body Image Activism Journey

My Mom Had Anorexia: What I Learned From Her and What I Learned Since

Holidays in a Latino Culture: Greetings From a "Gordito"

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

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