Throughout my life I’ve always had an issue with the appearance of different parts of my body. In elementary school it was my teeth, in middle school it was my feet, in high school my stomach, in college my nose and now a days it’s everything from my skin color to my thighs. I’ve always had a slender frame, but that was never good enough. I felt that I needed to look like the models in the magazines or the actresses on TV… anything other than me.
I was my own worst enemy and being in a negative environment just made things worse. I felt incapable, worthless and even self-loathing. I always worried about what other people thought of me or how I was perceived. Constantly trying to impress everyone else meant I had to become the person they expected me to be, in how I looked, acted and even what I believed in. I became a mother while still a teenager and that was the most difficult time in my life. I was surrounded by people who made me ashamed of my choices, which society reinforced. I was trapped in a vicious cycle, but I finally reached my breaking point and knew something has to change.
I realized that if I didn’t start loving myself, the true Erika, the woman I was created to be, I would always be a prisoner in my own world. I started with my inner self first. Working from the outside wouldn’t work as I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, always trying to “fix” myself to gain acceptance from the world. I pushed myself with self-help books, meditation and inspirational movies. But I eventually realized that these were substitutes for what was truly missing; I still had to discover who I really was and who I wanted to be in this world. It was through this journey that I learned to be my own best friend and to be thankful for my blessings. By being true to myself and embracing everything I had to offer, I finally understood what it meant to love myself.
There will always be challenges to overcome as I enter new phases of my life. Approaching my thirties, I’m getting closer to finally meeting ‘me’ and it feels great. I know the journey is not over; the journey to loving yourself unconditionally, to acknowledging your value and fulfilling your dreams is never over. But I always hold on to what a close friend once told me: there is only one you in this whole world, and the best you should want to be, is yourself.
By Erika Castillo