Not Good Enough - Self-Worth in College

This is Part 4 of a 9 Part Series "I Am Not Defined By My Weight" inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face".

I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY WEIGHT – Part IV College

If you have kept up the series, you are amazing! If you haven’t, but would like to start at the beginning, feel free to check it out here.

Recap

What inspired the series “I Am Not Defined By My Weight” was Rachel Hollis’ book “Girl, wash your face”. The premise of the book was to uncover a bunch of hurtful lies Rachel believed and one truth that set her free. The part that inspired me was not about fad diets or loving every single flaw, but instead, about putting work into finding out why self-love was an issue in the first place (p. 183).  

This meant I had to go way back, 20-something years, to hopefully find out the truth behind the struggle. In the first post, I discussed the Puerto Rican culture I grew up in and how that created an obsession with physical weight and appearance. Then, I covered those dreaded high school years and highlighted 6 things I wish I would have known. I had such little respect for myself that I was willing to be the other woman in a relationship. This lasted through my senior year of high school and well into my sophomore year in college.

The College Years

“Some things cannot be taught; they must be experienced. You never learn the most valuable lessons in life until you go through your own journey.”
― Roy T. Bennett

College is when things really got interesting.  Remember, Paul was the guy who had another girlfriend and initially lied about it. When I finally knew the truth, I continued the relationship because I figured it was better to be the girl he cheated with than the girl he cheated on.  At the time, I saw nothing wrong with our actions.  My immature brain and heart believed that he really wanted to be with me but didn’t want to hurt the other girl. I thought that if I waited long enough, he would realize I was the better choice.

I needed to win.

I needed to be the girl he chose, especially since I had compromised who I was, to be who he wanted.

Hindsight is 20:20

In hindsight, I regret being that girl. I can't imagine the pain I helped create. I was so naïve and lost, nothing could help me see the truth. I had some friends who would try to talk to me, but it was always in a judging manner. It felt as if they stood on the moral high ground judging my actions and thinking I was stupid for believing Paul could be a good person. 

It took way too long for me to realize I was worth more than being the "side piece". The straw that broke the camels back was when Paul broke up with his high-school sweetheart and started dating someone else. His excuse – long distance wouldn't work and my favorite—he didn't want to follow me in the military.

The light bulb finally clicked and I was over it. Done. Finito.

After Paul, I really started to define my self-worth by how many guys were interested in me.  If someone hit on me, my self-esteem skyrocketed.

If a guy bought me a drink or took me out on a date, I felt like hot sh*t. 

I "talked" to a couple of different guys throughout my college years. All very different yet always the same outcome. These guys did not want commitment. They wanted to reap all of the benefits of a relationship without any of the work and commitment.

I tried to trick myself into believing that I didn't want a commitment either. I didn't want to be tied down. I wanted to enjoy college. These were the mantras I held on to in order to keep myself together. I struggled with my identity so much, that it ruined friendships and left lasting scars that I am still dealing with to this day.

Encouragement

  • Do not tie your self-worth to things of this world - When your worth is tied to the things of this world, then it is easily defeated. That leaves you unstable and dependent on things outside of your control. You cannot control how others see or feel for you but you can control how you see yourself and feel about yourself. When your worth is tied to your good morals and beliefs, you will be resilient despite the trials you will experience.
  • Do not settle - Do not compromise your beliefs for the sake of a relationship. I was so hungry for a relationship, I settled for “talking” to guys even though my heart yearned for traditional boyfriend/girlfriend dating. There is nothing wrong with getting to know someone before committing to them, but there is a fine line between getting to know someone and getting all the benefits without any of the commitment. You are worth the commitment.
  • Be a good friend- If you have a friend who has fallen into the same trap I described above, love on her. You might not be able to talk her into seeing her true value, but you can be the example she needs. Sometimes, a girl just needs a friend who is honest, loving, but turns her in the right direction.
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Believer Not A Follower

Eventually, I decided to swear off all guys. College was just a hot mess of trying to figure out who would become my husband.  It took multiple heartbreaks and hitting rock bottom for me to realize that maybe God just wanted me to be alone and figure out how to love myself first. 

During this time, I believed that if my heart was in the right place and if I was a good person, then I was a good Christian as well. I believed in God but was not a follower. I didn’t even know there was a difference!* 

I remember thinking that the next person I would date would be my husband. I also decided that I would start being honest with myself. I wanted a real relationship. I wanted the official title of “girlfriend” and the next guy would have to be okay with that.

What I didn’t realize was that I still struggled with how to love myself. I thought that making this commitment of honesty was enough, but it wasn’t. In order to have a healthy relationship, I would have to learn how to love myself. During these years, I did not love myself. I grew up learning I was chubby and that idea was reinforced throughout middle school and highschool. Then, when I started dating, guys also reinforced the notion that I was not enough. I attributed the lack of commitment and insensitive comments to my weight. I was too big to deserve better.

In some ways, ROTC also exacerbated the self-loath and made it really difficult to understand what a healthy relationship looked like.  Not only did I believe I was unattractive and fat, I was reminded of it day in and day out for ROTC.

In the next post, I focus on my time in ROTC and how physical fitness/weight-loss affected my relationships and self-worth. It was during my senior year of college when I realized that I had tied my worth to my weight and it almost cost me my marriage.

* If you don’t know there is a difference between being a believer and a follower of Christ, don’t feel bad. I promise that I will dive more into that topic in the near future.*

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Why I Serve

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Back in 2008, I sat in a large auditorium on Ohio State campus scheduling my first set of university classes. I knew I was going to be a Psychology major and pursue Pre-Med but what I didn’t know was that a desire to learn more about my father would eventually lead me to Active Duty.

In the course catalog, I saw the university had an “Intro To Air Science” class, which taught you about the history of the Air Force.

Introduces the United States Air Force and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Topics include mission and organization of the Air Force, officership and professionalism, military customs and courtesies, Air Force officer opportunities and benefits, and communication skills.

I remember the guidance counselor signed me up for this Intro To Air Science (AS 100) class and didn’t mention anything else since she had no idea what the class was actually about.

This was the perfect class for me to learn more about my father’s journey in the Air Force. My father had enlisted in the Air Force years before I was born. He served our country for a few years and got to travel the world. He eventually left active duty and settled in Cleveland where he met my mother. They married and then had three kids. I was the eldest and only girl, so like any daddy’s girl, my dad was my hero.  Growing up I would hear some stories, or see some pictures or currency from the places he had traveled too. I thought this was the coolest thing ever. Besides my father, no one in my family had served our country.

A few days before classes started, I received an email about New Cadet Orientation for my AS 100 class. I was to report the day before classes began for some sort of orientation.

Scared out of my mind and not knowing what to expect I showed up and was shocked to find out what I had signed up for.  They gave us a brief introduction to the program. PT (Physical Training was 0500) Tuesdays and Thursdays, Leadership Lab (LLAB) was every Thursday for approximately 2 hours, Air Science class, uniforms, marching….

Did I just enlist in the Air Force? What the heck did I get myself into?!

They marshaled us through a couple of rooms where I had to get undressed in front of other women to try on uniforms. This felt like the real deal. By this point it was too late to turn back. I had already signed up, so I would try it out for the next 10 weeks. I could have dis-enrolled if I wanted to, but I was not a quitter. I would finish the quarter.

One quarter turned into two, which turned into a year and then four years. Before I knew it, I was taking the oath and commissioning into the United States Air Force. What started off as a journey to get to know more about my father turned into something more. It turned into a desire to finish what I started. A desire to lead the best and brightest in whatever capacity the Air Force needed.But it wasn’t always hearts and rainbows.

To be honest, I absolutely hated my first year. I struggled to lose weight. I struggled to pass my PT test. I struggled every single day and would cry myself to sleep most nights. I really don’t know why I didn’t quit.

Maybe I was afraid to disappoint my dad? Or maybe I was afraid to lose all of my friends? ROTC was my life and without it I was afraid I was nothing. The camaraderie was what kept me going. Some people thought I would quit, but that fueled my passion to show the world I was capable of finishing.

June 10th 2012 I graduated from The Ohio State University and commissioned into the best Air Force in the world.

Self-Esteem & Weight Issues In The Teen Years: 6 Things I Wish I Would Have Known

This is Part 3 of a 9 Part Series inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face". 

I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY WEIGHT - Part III High School

If you read my Intro to the series, then you already know that my hope for these posts are to encourage women, young and wise, to know they are not alone in their past struggles and hurts. 

These stories might not seem like a big deal when you read them, but to me, they had a huge impact on the mother, wife, and woman I have become and I know that through writing, I can find healing.


RECAP

My childhood was shaped by the Puerto Rican culture I was raised in. From an early age, an obsession with weight and appearance developed, making it harder for me to see that my weight did not define me. Rachel Hollis captured that feeling perfectly in her book “Girl, wash your face book”.

My weight was no longer just a part of me like hair or teeth; now it was something that defined me. It was a testament to all the ways I was wrong” (pg. 178).

When you struggle with self-esteem at such a young age, you can only imagine how much more difficult it becomes in the pre-teen and teenage years.

I Am Who You Say I Am

In middle school and high school, I had a best friend who was the epitome of “beautiful”. Small waist, big chest/butt, clothes and makeup always on point. So, of course, the guys always went after her and I became the nerdy sidekick trying not to obsess about how unattracive I was. I have a vivid memory of walking through the metro parks with her and I remember hearing some guys shout out of a vehicle passing by:

Hey beautiful!

I turned to look at them, not really thinking they were talking to me, just caught off guard by the catcalls and the same boy shouted at me:

Not you, the other one. You need to lose some weight

My best friend turned to me and asked me what they said. Too embarrassed to admit to her what I heard, I lied and I told her I couldn't understand them. 

After that, we continued walking as if nothing happened. To her, nothing did happen and I truly believed she didn't hear them, yet my world shattered once again. Here were these strangers confirming my beliefs that I was overweight and not beautiful.

In high school, I focused on school. I didn't date, not because I didn't want to but because I believed no one would want to really be interested in a fat girl. Eventually, people in school thought I was a lesbian because I wouldn't date any of the guys in school.

It's weird how high school students come up with some of their theories. I wasn't interested in girls and I wasn't not interested in guys. I was just "too fat" to think anyone would really want to be with me.

At such a tender age, I associated thin with beautiful. Thin women would find boyfriends and husbands. Thin women would be successful. Thin women would be the best mothers. This idea warped my thinking and eventually shattered any self-worth I had left. By senior year of high school, my worth was tied to how many guys were interested in me. This, in turn, led to stupid actions that I hate to even admit.

 
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My First “Real” Relationship

I officially dated one guy during my senior year of high school. This relationship will demonstrate how low my self-worth was in this season.

For privacy reasons, we will call this boy Paul. Paul and I officially dated for a month-ish during our senior year. We went to different high schools but had met through a mutual friend and really enjoyed spending time together.

Towards the end of the school year, that one big event was quickly approaching…You know what event I am talking about....  Prom.  Most people probably love looking at their prom photos and reminiscing about the “good ‘ole days”?

Well, not me. I deleted every photo I have of that time frame – a bit dramatic, I know.

See, Paul had recently broken up with his ex-girlfriend when we started dating. When the subject of prom came up he confided in me that he had already promised to take his ex to prom. She had bought a dress, so he would feel horrible backing out on his commitment. To 17 year old me, that made a lot of sense. I admired him for his commitment and naïvely believed him. At one point, our mutual friend who introduced us, told me that Paul wasn’t telling the truth; he never actually broke up with his ex.

I thought he was just jealous. I went to prom with my chemistry lab partner and Paul went to prom with his ex-girlfriend. Come to find out Paul had never broken up with her and had lied to me the entire time.  GASP! At this point, you would cut ties and go about your merry way, right?

Well, fool me twice.

Yes, I was pissed with him, but somehow he managed to weasel his way back into my life. Worthless Cynthia thought it was better to maintain that emotional attachment even though he had another girl friend. He just felt really bad for her and didn’t think she was stable enough to handle a break up. At least now he was finally honest with me. I was the one who won in this situation (insert sarcasm).

Things I Wish I Would Have Known

> Just because he was honest with you, doesn’t make it right. Cheating is always wrong.

> No matter how hard you try, you will NEVER find fulfillment in another human. They will always let you down. Instead, look to the heavenly father. When you give your heart tos God, He will fulfill your every need.

> Weight is a descriptor, it does not define you.

> The goal should be strong, not skinny.

> Going to prom with a significant other is not a necessity. I allowed the fact that I “had” to go with a friend ruin any chance of fun I could have had.

> Comparison is a trap. Just because someone else is pretty doesn’t mean you can’t be pretty. Just because someone is skinnier than you, doesn’t mean they are healthier.


Next up – College, yay!

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Next, we enter the college years. Despite the difficulties I experienced, I learned so much. I am not talking about the lessons I learned during the school day, but the life lessons I learned trying to navigate what being a woman meant. This was the time I was free to explore the world around me.

I’m talking sex, drugs…the whole nine-yards.

HA! Just kidding – my story isn’t that juicy.  But I will cover identity, relationships, ROTC, and spirituality. Four years might not seem like a long time, but there was a lot of growing to be done.

6 things I wish I would have known about weight issues in my teen years