the power of saying “no.”

I recently listened to the new episode of the Dear Sugars podcast on the power of “no,” and I couldn’t help but feel inspired. They interviewed Oprah Winfrey on this episode and asked her what her experience has been in saying “no.” Oprah talked as if she had taken the feelings right out of my own soul.

She talked about this inherent feeling that, I believe, as women, we all have. This need to say yes to everyone and everything in order to please everybody, otherwise we think that they won’t love us.  WE EQUATE PLEASING AND SAYING YES WITH HOW WORTHY WE ARE OF LOVE.  If I say no to my father, the inside of my whole being is screaming at me and is thinking that he “won’t love me anymore” or it is eating itself up inside because it is full of guilt. But guess what, me saying “no” to working a shift at the restaurant doesn’t close the restaurant down. The show continues, and people keep working, and people continue to be served. Without me. And look at that, the world does not crumble.

The world does not crumble when a woman says “no.” Even though we are forced and taught to believe that we have to say yes to everything otherwise, no one will survive. WE, as women, have to fulfill so many roles that are just expected of us, like when did we even start believing this? At what point in our lives did this switch go off in our heads that made us think that we had to spread ourselves so thin to please everyone around us. WHEN!?

When we are so busy trying to make everyone else happy, there is no more space for ourselves. And our hearts. And OUR desires. There is no space for us left. How can we continue occupying a body that is only valued when others are happy? Why can’t we stop. And begin to set boundaries. And allow OURSELVES to breathe. And to value ourselves even when we say no to helping,  and take a fucking nap instead.

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Feminine

The thing about being a young woman, or an older woman, a mature woman, or, a young girl

Is that everyone thinks they have a say in what you do, how you dress, what you can and cannot say, what your body looks like, how you choose to spend your time

Like, “why are you so angry?”, “why don’t you smile?”, “what’s wrong?”, “why are you so serious?”, “where are you going?”, “where do you work?”, “how much do you make?”, “what are you doing with your life?”, “do you have a boyfriend?”, “WHAT! You don’t want to have children?!”

Most days, I don’t even know if that’s my true answer anymore. I just do it to get a rise out of people. Because out of all the wonderful things I have achieved, not achieving “children” and “a family” is somehow the most important.

Then, there is the “seriousness” of my face. I was maybe 13, or even younger, when an older woman told me I should smile more as I cleaned up after others at my parents’ restaurant.  I looked up at her confused. Man, maybe something was wrong with me. Maybe I should smile more.

You see, it’s not just older men, mature men, young men, or, little boys that tell you to smile more

It’s everyone.

Because everyone feels so entitled to your body all the time, like, “you are so skinny!”, “don’t you eat?”, “comes bien poquito!”, “how do you eat so much and not gain any weight?”, “I’ve never seen you as fat!”

Yes. These are actual comments people make. People. Everyone.

Because for 25 years I have seen the eyes of strangers scan me from head to toe, sometimes pausing to stare at some places longer, taking more time at others, staring a little too long

fuck you, for thinking that my body or my face is yours to judge.

I have been so intertwined in the confusion of what it means to be little girl, a young girl, and now a young woman.

It’s like, at one point I felt confused because I liked the attention from men, I craved their glances and their admiration, and then I felt shame or self-doubt when I somehow didn’t “meet their beauty standards.”

Why? Because I NEVER WILL. I will never be your cookie-cutter version of standard beauty because my nose and hands are my dad’s and his are his grandmother’s, so I have my great grandmother’s nose, and for some people, that’s not beautiful.

And I have my mother’s butt and people felt like they can freely comment on it all my life, and because for a long time as a teenage girl, I thought this was the only “positive” quality I had.

Because my face is round, and asymmetrical, and I have a slight lazy-eye, and my hair is poof-y, and I’m not that tall, and I constantly, constantly, CONSTANTLY find flaws in my whole PHYSICAL BEING every time I look in a mirror or at a picture of myself.

And then I hate myself. Because I come to believe that I cannot be beautiful.

And yet, I still care. I care because sometimes I like to pick out a nice outfit that I feel pretty in, that hugs my body in all the ways I want it to be hugged

Or because I put on eyeliner and lipstick and I do my hair.

And just when I think it’s over…. it’s not.

Like, “Why do you look so cute today?”, “who are you going to go see?”, “Who did you get ready for?”, “ugh! You’re so pretty!”, “Did you get a boyfriend?”

As if whatever I do can’t ever just be for me.