My favorite part of myself?
My smile. I smile uncontrollably and I think I look my best when I’m smiling. In the past I’ve worried that people would think I’m fake or not genuine because I’m always smiling, but I’ve learned to let those thoughts go, along with anyone who feels that way.
My personal style is evolving.
Right now, I’m most drawn to menswear, so that means button-down shirts and slacks with loafers or sneakers. I always like the men’s side of the store better than the women’s. I used to love tiny jewelry, the smaller and more understated the better, but now I’m having a moment with wearing big statement earrings with minimal clothing. So I would have to say my personal style is always evolving.
Childhood insecurities...I had them. Of course, didn’t we all?
I remember 5th grade was my turning point from being a confident, outgoing young girl to feeling insecurity and self-doubt. My family had just moved to the US from Oman, a country in the Middle East that at the time had no malls, no pop music radio stations, and no cable. I remember being teased for my clothes and told I looked like a clown. I couldn’t figure out where everyone was getting the same clothing and why everyone knew the same songs; it felt like I had moved from another planet. Eventually I discovered the mall and the radio, stopped wearing my old clothes and started listening to Spice Girls and memorizing the words so I could join in with the other girls.
My mom allowed me to get one Billabong sweatshirt, which I wore almost every day.
It was my security blanket for fitting in with the other kids. I was also teased and called “Miss Perfect” for being too studious, I had asked for extra writing assignments because I loved writing, but after the teasing I stopped putting so much effort into my schoolwork in an attempt to be cool. That lasted through high school. I wish I hadn’t reacted to being teased by changing or abandoning parts of myself just to fit in, but as I’ve grown older I’ve stopped shopping at malls, listening to pop radio, and embraced my 'perfectionist,' studious personality.
There have been small but impactful moments along the way that put me in my place when it comes to these superficial insecurities. I danced ballet in high school so I would go straight to ballet class after school for classes and rehearsals on weeknights and all weekend. Ballet is challenging when it comes to body image and self-esteem because you spend day and night in a mirrored room in skintight clothing, which is as good as being naked. You spend hours staring at your body and other girls’ bodies, all lined up in a row doing uniform movements while being poked at and prodded by instructors yelling “suck that in” and “tuck that under.” It’s not an environment that’s conducive to embracing your body’s unique features.
Ballet is challenging when it comes to body image and self-esteem because you spend day and night in a mirrored room in skintight clothing, which is as good as being naked... It’s not an environment that’s conducive to embracing your body’s unique features.
In recent years I’ve been practicing yoga and while it has its similarities–the mirrored room, the tight clothing, the rows of people creating beautiful shapes with their bodies, I’ve found the tenets of yoga to be in total opposition to everything I learned in ballet. “These postures are merely a suggestion, do what feels good for your body, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, just how it feels to you.” In yoga we practice giving gratitude to our feet for carrying us around all day, to our hands for all that they do, etc. It’s hard to hate your crow’s feet or any part of your body when you think about all of the opportunities it affords you. I’ve learned that for me gratitude is the best weapon to fight resentment or discontent with my body.
I think [the beauty industry is] marginally better than it was 10 or 15 years ago, but flip through any magazine or watch any TV show and the ads and editorials still make most of us feel 'other.' Growing up I used to love magazines for the style and design inspiration, but I always felt worse about my body and the way I looked after reading them. In my early 20s I chose to stop reading magazines and watching cable TV entirely, and I noticed I immediately felt significantly better about my body image. That was just my personal experience at the time, but now that I’m more informed I know there are countless academic studies that prove the negative effects that magazines and TV ads have on women’s body image.
I’ve learned that for me gratitude is the best weapon to fight resentment or discontent with my body.
Self-love is something I actively work on every day.
I love myself more now than I ever have before, but it’s taken a lot of thought work to get here. I still have a very critical inner voice that never really goes away, but for me it’s about being able to counter those negative, impulsive thoughts that originate from the left frontal lobe of the brain with more positive reasoning of the right frontal lobe. Like when I come out of a meeting thinking “you didn’t do that very well,” I try to reason with myself, “Did you prepare as much as you could? Did you give it your best effort? What went well, and what could you do differently next time?”
That negative voice of mine will probably never go away, but I’m working on building up the positive one.
This was one of my New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve been blogging about the progress I’m having changing my brain on my personal blog, Fuji Files. For me it’s about being very tuned in to my personal strengths and values. I value my curiosity, my love of learning, my appreciation of beauty, my kindness and my prudence. Having a strong grasp on these helps keep me out of the comparison trap on social media or when I’m feeling intimidated by all of the amazing women I meet and get to work with. Of course I’ll still have those thoughts, “she’s so good at that, why can’t I do that?” but instead of spiraling into a dark place with that, I just try to acknowledge that--“yes, she’s great at that, and I’m great at other things.”
I love myself more now than I ever have before, but it’s taken a lot of thought work to get here.
Being confident and comfortable with yourself creates the space and energy for you to start building others up.
When I feel insecure about myself, I’ve noticed that I become too self-involved to notice what those around me may be going through. When I think of all of the hours, months, years I spent worrying that my boobs were too small, my skin was too acne-prone and my hair was too big, I think “what a waste of time!” There’s nothing I could have done to change my body, that energy could have been spent being more productive. That’s why I think it’s worth the time investment to learn to love yourself, I think it makes you better equipped to contribute to your friends, family and the community around you.
How do you cultivate inner confidence through your 'imperfections'?
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Follow Cristina on Instagram @fujifiles
Photos by @monique_rdz
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