I am sure that some of you will find these sentences familiar, you may have heard them in your own lives or you may have seen them on a very cringe movie with very traditional and conservative parents. This was the reality I used to live in.
I grew up constantly being told what to do and feeling extremely conscious of how I acted.
This leads me to focus too much on my self-image and, as a result, question my self-worth.
I never felt like I fit in these social circles and I constantly felt the pressure to be ‘the perfect and polite daughter’ I was expected to be, and by doing that, I ended up creating a fictional role that I played when I had to.
I never felt comfortable playing that role, and let me tell you a little secret… I hate acting.
As time passed by, I found it more and more difficult to be that version of myself.
I lived through some traumatising situations that shaped me and my vision of the world, and completely shook me and turned my world upside down.
Through those horrible experiences, I found myself through meditation, spirituality, photography, and writing.
Introspection helped me gain a sense of who I wanted to be, and both photography and writing were a vessel that helped me deal with my emotions and share how I was feeling, as I felt that my voice was never loud enough.
I slowly started to decide who I wanted to be and how I wanted to present myself to the world, but as I started to do so, I realised that my opinions of the world were very different from those around me.
I constantly felt judged, and I was constantly being asked why I couldn’t be normal like everyone else.
This became the start of my awakening.
What does it even mean to be normal?
We are constantly classifying things, actions, or people as normal, but what does that even entail?
This question triggered something in me and made me jump to all sorts of conclusions. I spent day after day questioning myself, am I normal? How can I be normal? Am I ever going to fit in anywhere?
All of these questions made me feel like I was a lost cause, I would never fit in, and I would never be happy.
Of course, I was wrong.
When I was applying for university, everyone was surprised about how I wanted my academic life to look like.
I decided that I wanted to pursue photography on a more professional level.
I wanted to study in English, and I wanted to do it outside of my home country.
Although my country doesn’t offer bachelors in my chosen career, I also felt the need to move as far away from those restrictions as I possibly could. I was sick and tired of feeling trapped, I needed to move far away to find myself.
I will never forget how my grandmother reacted when she asked me how my first months of university were going when I visited for Christmas.
“Out of all of my grandchildren, you are the last one I would have expected to leave Spain and go so far away, I am really happy that you are happy. You are glowing, but it surprises me to see how well you seem to fit in and how you have adapted so fast.”
I will never forget this comment my grandmother made.
And she was right. I am a very shy and introverted person, but I am also very open-minded, and the biggest difference that I noticed from the people back home is how open-minded and judge-free everyone was.
I never felt judged, or trapped, or like I needed to be somebody else. People loved the purest version of me, and I told myself, “This is who I want to be.”
Everything seemed to be in alignment.
I was extremely happy studying what I loved, I was getting good grades, I had amazing friends, I am currently dating an amazing person who loves me deeply and encourages me to be the best version of myself.
So what could have possibly gone wrong? Let me tell you.
A bikini profile picture set off a series of events that killed the person that I used to be and made me fully accept and fight for who I am.
I have never had issues with my body, and I don’t think that there is a problem with people having profile pictures in a bikini.
Of course, as a photographer myself, I do acknowledge that certain postures, angles, or even intentions behind a photo that creates reactions within the viewers. I was fully aware of that when I set my bikini photo as my profile picture. I wasn’t doing anything sensual, nor was I intending to provoke.
If you ask me, I would say that I look pretty innocent in that picture. It was a very natural shot in which a friend had made me laugh whilst I was looking away.
But my parents did not approve.
They asked me to change it, and when my mother saw that I was evading her comments, she sent me a really aggressive voice message in which she said something along the lines of:
“Alejandra, I don’t understand your fascination with showing your whole world how you look in a bikini, you don’t have to flaunt your amazing figure. Put something normal! A photo of yourself covered, with clothes on, or even of your face!”
This comment came to me by surprise, but at the same time, I was sick and tired of dealing with the same bullshit of how my image comes across to the rest of the world, so instead of fighting, I decided to just nod, put my head down, and change my profile picture.
I spent nearly an hour scrolling through my gallery next to my best friend choosing options for my new profile picture until I finally found it. My eyes lit up and I had a grin from face to face. I handed my phone over to Mei and showed her the photo.
Image of author
“This image meets all of their requirements, I am fully clothed, I am not showing my body, and I can’t possibly be more covered, I even have a face mask on,” I told her.
Of course, I knew that the fact that my boyfriend was in the picture could be a possible issue, but we weren’t kissing or provoking in any way, so they would probably be okay with it… or so I thought.
My mother saw it the following day and she approved, but my dad… He went furious. He told me to change it. I asked him why.
He said that he didn’t like the photo and that he only wanted me in my profile picture, and we got into a pretty heated argument, in which I ended up having an anxiety attack and started to cry uncontrollably.
This was until the voice inside myself told me:
“Ale, you will never be able to make everyone happy with your decisions and you can’t expect to please everyone, so do yourself a favour and do whatever makes you happy.
Fight for who you truly are and don’t spend your time worrying about being someone that you are not, or you will lose yourself again, and you will go crazy in the process, realise that if you decide to live a different life than the rest of the people around you, you will have to toughen up and be able to respond and stand up for yourself without letting anyone bring you down, no matter how much they mean to you.
Just be happy and be your most authentic self.”
And that is exactly what I have been doing ever since.
I have realised that I can’t expect to have everyone on my side, but I also know and sense that trying to be someone who I wasn’t was screwing me up, both emotionally and physically.
This is how I was reborn.
I have come to terms with myself and I am the happiest that I have been in my whole life.