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My boyfriend knew something was wrong with me the entire afternoon. I did not realize how I was physically displaying my frustration and anger. On an average day I would be spilling thoughts on all I was taking in, yet on this day I was checked out. In my own head space, I was thinking of the imperfections I see in myself daily. On our drive home I kept my head toward the window and felt my eyes getting hot with tears that I worked so hard to keep in.

What should have been a fun-filled shopping trip turned into a stressful, unsuccessful search for something I felt comfortable and confident in. Going in and out of at least six different stores and coming out empty handed every time lead me to ask the question: “What is wrong with me?” I have never been “skinny.” Growing up in a Puerto Rican household, I was always encouraged to finish every large-portioned meal put in front of me (and these meals were not the healthiest). I developed faster and had more curves than most of the other girls I went to school with.

This gave me the illusion from the beginning that I was “bigger” than the average girl. My mother was thin growing up, but in her later years she started to put on weight. She was constantly talking about how she wanted to be skinnier and wished she didn’t look the way she did. Meanwhile, in 8th grade, I was the same size as her. Though I don’t think she intentionally meant to, she cultivated this hate of my body that I have to work to combat consistently.

I forget about my body size a lot of times but then something will snap me back into that spiral of shame. Shame that I’m not thinner, that I don’t take the best care of myself that I can, and that if I was a size 2 I’d have more to offer. This shopping trip was one of those moments. At this point in my life I am the biggest I have ever been and this can be due to many things. The lack of will I have to get up to exercise, the lack of time I have to cook proper meals instead of eating out, and the lack of confidence to workout in a gym filled with college students.

This cause is not helped when coupled with the inconsistency of sizing in the fashion industry. What could be a 4 in one store may be an 8 in another. It’s also hard to keep up with trends. When walking into a store these days it’s hard to find a shirt that covers past your belly button, or shorts that cover all of what you may have on the back side. Even if I could fit in these I don’t think I would want to, so where does that leave me to go for something I can feel comfortable and confident in?

Many of my clothes I find thrifting in the men’s section. I do this because I like the way I look and feel in these clothes. But when I burst into tears after we had made it back home that day, I began to question if I did this for myself or because I had no other option. I had a small identity crisis asking if the style I have formed that gets praised so often was truly me or if it was a defense mechanism I have made against today’s beauty standards that I will never live up to.

Luckily, I have an amazing partner who has an incredible capacity to show empathy and understanding. “You know I love your body,” he said, and I said thanks. He knew that wasn’t the answer I was looking for. He then said, “I don’t think it would be possible for you to be a size 2 if you starved yourself.” Although this may sound harsh, as there are others who participate in awful acts to obtain their desired size, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I knew that he was trying to help me realize that my body type and genetics are not constructed in a way that would allow me to be that thin without causing myself sickness or harm.

Some people are incapable of being thin. Of course anyone can get a sculpted body if they dedicate time and have the self-discipline and desire to do so (I do not possess these traits.) But for the rest of us, that ideal body is not worth the trouble and is not realistic. I would much rather be writing, singing, watching films or hanging out with the people I love than obsessing about prepping meals and spending hours in the gym. To me, there are more important things.

With this being said, I am aware not much will likely change with my body. I don’t believe much will change in our fashion industry anytime soon, either. So until then, I have to accept my body the way it is and realize that I have more to offer than what houses my soul. I will keep finding ways to manipulate the clothing I find to work for me in expressing myself and the beauty I have inside.

Hello! My name is Alexia Santiago. I am senior Psychology major at The University of Akron. I am originally from Boardman, OH. I sing and write poetry but what I enjoy most is helping others. I live by three words; Gratitude. Empowerment. Kindness. Our thoughts become reality, I try to keep mine positive. I am excited to share my thoughts with you all!
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