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". 


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.


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.


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!

OSU Newcomers.jpg

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