Back in December 2010, I read an article by Susan Giurleo, Ph.D., about why mental health providers needed to be engaged in social media, including Twitter. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first. I thought Twitter was a frivolous social toy. But I promised myself to spend a month giving it an honest try. And I’m so glad that I did, because Twitter has connected me with folks who inspire posts, point me toward great writing and research, and sometimes, lend their voices here.
Today’s guest post is from another Twitter connection: author and activist Rosie Molinary. Rosie is one of the people whose voices inspire me, and I am so excited that she offered to speak with you here. Her first book, Hijas Americanas explores the unique challenges faced by Latina women in body image and self-esteem. Rosie is a powerful voice for Latina youth. She is the founder of Circle de Luz, which “radically empowers young Latinas by supporting and inspiring them in the pursuit of their possibilities through extensive mentoring, programming, and scholarship funds for further education.”
Rosie’s new book Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance, is an invitation to invest a year in your relationship with yourself. With short daily readings, Rosie presents a variety of reflections, actions, and exercises designed to re-invent our self-awareness and self-acceptance. She was gracious enough to answer some questions for my readers about her thought processes.
What pieces of wisdom do you find yourself sharing most often?
Two things: no one cares as much as you do and it’s not about you.
First, no one cares as much as you do: I might think that my outfit is not right, my hair’s not right, etc., but very rarely – wherever I am going- is anyone going to be as consumed with how I look as I am. You know what they are going to notice? How I make them feel. And while I may not have control over a bad hair day or whether or not I can afford a new outfit, I always have control over how I make someone else feel. And you know what? What always touches me after I leave an event, experience, meeting, play date is the conversations I’ve had, the connections that were made, the hope that was offered.
That said, what about the person who does comment on your physicality? This is where the second piece of advice comes in. When someone criticizes our physicality that comment is a mirror into what is going on with that person. The person who criticizes your weight has a weight back story. The person who says something about your hair is consumed with hair in her own life. It is never about you. That said, we teach people how to treat us and that starts by setting boundaries. So think about the comments you sometimes hear from people in your life and what you’d like to say back. It doesn’t have to be rude- it can be as simple as “I am okay with my body” when someone comments about your weight or “this isn’t a productive conversation for us to have” And practice what you’ve come up with so that you are prepared to use it when the time comes to establish that boundary.
What question do you wish people would ask you, but gets missed?
Why do I think this work matters so much? A lot of times people think body image work is really selfish and small-minded and is about the self-esteem movement going entirely too far, but it’s not. It’s absolutely not. How the woman down the street feels about herself can actually impact many of us in significant ways. Just think: what if that woman is a school teacher and she feels defeated. If she can’t call out her best self, it’s hard for her to champion someone else’s best self. That someone else might be your child or grandchild. Suddenly, you want what’s best for her, right? Suddenly, you want her to no longer be paralyzed, right?
We each have a purpose that is uniquely ours. If we are consumed by our bodies, then we are taking valuable time away from the work we are meant to be doing and the gifts we are meant to be giving to this world, from our mission. If, however, we are in the mirror, assessing, obsessing, critiquing, despairing, we are not doing the work of our lives. What are you not doing while looking in the mirror, lamenting your fate? When we get sidetracked, we are taking away from the time we can invest in our purpose and passion.
In Beautiful You, what I wanted to do was to take so much of the theory we know to be true about how to fall in love with yourself, generate self-acceptance, and offer yourself care and give women actionable steps that get them there so that they can get out of their own ways and do the work they were meant to do in this world.
Each step is doable in a day, isn’t too overwhelming, and really motivates the reader to build on her process. The assignments really vary from journaling type of assignments where you look at beliefs you have about yourself, joys you have experienced or challenges to actionable steps like working on maintaining eye contact with others, watching what you say or think about yourself, or writing a loved one a letter to let them know how you feel.
What concrete step would you encourage readers to take to better affirm themselves and those around them?
Start right now by making a list of things that your body has given you, joys it has granted you. Your body- this body that you are moving in right now- has given you so much. Acknowledge those things.
For the next week, think of three great things your body offered you in your day. The sensation of a hug from your child, a kiss from your partner, the exhilaration of a post run high, the satisfaction of moving through a space and getting it cleaned or organize, the sight of a startling sunset. By doing this, you realize how much more meaning your body has outside of being something to look at, how much more it offers.
Also, become really disciplined about what you say-even in your mind-about your body. Would you say those things to a child? Then don’t say them to yourself. When you find yourself criticizing, notice it and consider what led you to go there, and then reframe your words. When your friends criticize themselves, correct them and reframe those conversations.
Finally, become immersed in something that makes you feel your entire worth. Do something that allows you to give your gifts to the world in a way that elicits your passion. By seeing what you have to tangibly offer, you build the best kind of esteem.
What is your favorite way to celebrate yourself?
My two favorite indulgences—which feel like celebrations-are getting a massage and reading. Those two things do so much to fill up my well. And, actually, both things really are so good for well-being in general that they are featured as exercises in Beautiful You.
What has been the most powerful influence in your life so far?
Being in community. From a young age, perhaps from both being an Army brat and in an immigrant family that left our home country and, thus, lost the proximity of family, I understood that building and engaging in community was really significant to personal and societal well-being. To this day, being engaged with others, meaningfully engaged, has continued to be really important to me and a defining trait of how I want to be in the world. But to be in community effectively, to be able to emotionally connect to others, I have to be at my most authentic which requires me to be at my most emotionally healthy-which is not to say that I am insulated from pain or disappointment or suffering. I am certainly not. I just try not to pile on to my suffering by refusing to engage and grow.
And wanting to help people understand that they have something to offer the world means that I need to be able to help them access what it is they have to offer, what’s in the way of their offering it, and how they can authentically live out their passion.
What was the driving force behind creating Circle de Luz? How did you find the resources to turn those movements into action instead of ideas?
My first career was as a high school teacher, and I am particularly sensitive to the difference that an education can make in the life of a girl, especially an immigrant girl who comes from a country whose norms for girls are not the same as they are here in the United States.
After writing Hijas Americanas, I felt an incredible sense of responsibility for the reality that Latina girls faced as they approached their futures (http://circledeluz.org/about/). I started thinking about what the best practices were to address these issues from the experiences I had as an educator and community service director for a liberal arts college. I also knew that other women would have ideas and feel invested in this endeavor, and so I invited women to focus groups to conceptualize a program that could radically empower young Latinas to pursue their possibilities. We came up with a six year program that blends extensive mentoring with holistic programming and offers the girls a scholarship for further education when they graduate from high school. The most important resources in this endeavor are the women who make Circle de Luz a reality. We are completely volunteer-run and every board member has a distinct job that she does to keep the organization running smoothly. It’s an amazing testament to mission and dedication.
That said, we’re always evaluating and adjusting. We’re not so sold on our first ideas that we’re incapable of enhancing what we do. As a group, we’re really creative and receptive, and we are so committed to these girls. I’m humbled by the women who make Circle de Luz happen and the girls in our program who are such an inspiration.
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