finding my sexy

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Suffering through the wreckage that was my break-up, I am slowly starting to see the light peak out through the dark clouds.

I just finished my burlesque workshop classes, and it has been, without a doubt, the best decision I’ve made for myself in the past two months. It’s difficult for your self-esteem to not go through the crapper after a bad break-up, especially one with a partner who was oftentimes emotionally abusive. But in addition to processing what happened, I’ve been trying so hard to focus on myself and re-building what was trampled upon… a new and improved self, someone who embodies empowerment and self-love more than she ever has in her life. At the end of this, those are my goals: empowerment and self-love.

I took an Uber for my last class, decked out in my burlesque gear. I wore a sweatshirt so my revealing top would not be open for all of Hollywood Boulevard to see, but my skirt and stocking were still in plain sight. My experience was different the second I got into my Uber. The driver attempted to ask me out after a full minute of picking me up. Then he proceeded to ask borderline offensive questions, which I gently yet assertively confronted. I was glad the ride was quick, and I was able to shake him off at the end.

Then as I walked the streets of Hollywood, a cat-caller attempted to hit on me. When I didn’t answer, he proceeded to touch my back. Normally, I would’ve tried to avoid any kind of conflict, but feeling my new self come out, I told him off. Of course he became defensive and angry, but I didn’t care. I was proud of myself for asserting my boundaries.

Once I got to class and got a good look at myself in the wall-to-wall mirrors, sans sweatshirt, I stood in awe. I look so sexy. I couldn’t take my eyes away. What was once a faraway goal, was now standing right in front of me, in black leather and red garters. For the first time in my life, I truly felt sexy. Self-love was at my door too. As I danced with my classmates, swaying my hips and shaking my chest, I thought, any man would be lucky to have me. I am beautiful inside AND out.

Afterward, I went out for drinks with some of my classmates. We chatted, and laughed, and talked about what brought us to the class. I was honest and told them about my story–the break-up, and the need to remind myself that I was still sexy, with or without a guy. One of the ladies told me that she felt teary after hearing my story, and two others proceeded to tell me their past break-up experiences, giving me valuable advice.

Two pieces of advice and encouragement stuck out to me the most:

First: “After one of my break-ups, I was feeling really sad and staying home all the time. But one of my girlfriends gave me good advice, which I still hold onto. She told me that I can be wallowing and sad only for so long, and that even if I felt sad, I should still put myself out there and go out dating. Just for fun. One of the guys I went on a date with, I was straight up with him and told him that I just got out of a relationship, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted a relationship yet. He thanked me for being so honest with him. We didn’t match at the end, but we became good friends. It’s okay to have times alone to feel sad, but you have to go out and allow yourself to have fun too. And trust me, you’ll definitely find someone better. I eventually ended up meeting my husband.

Second: “When I think back on the guys I dated who ended up running away from me, at the end of it, I was so thankful that they did. I was lucky that they ran. They weren’t any good. Trust me, you’ll get there eventually where you’ll see that too.

With those burlesque classes, not only did I get to discover a part of myself that I’ve long needed in my life, I was also able to encounter positive, encouraging people. I’m grateful for the universe bringing me kindness and love in so many different ways.

Although I am still recovering from the hurt and pain my ex gave me, at the same time, I am also in the process of arriving to a place where I am actually loving myself in who I am and what I have to offer. Eventually, I’ll be someone who won’t put up with hurtful behavior again, because I’ll know I deserve better than that. I’m already getting there. I know I deserve to be treated with love and respect… and I’m starting to put my foot down  with anyone who treats me otherwise.

When everything is said and done, I hope I can give to others what those ladies gave to me. My friends have all commented on how much progress I’ve made in two months… and truthfully, I’m only beginning to see it. But at least I can say now, with tears in my eyes as I type this… that I am wonderful, beautiful, and sexy. Just like how someone can claim that the sky is purple, it doesn’t change the fact that it is blue. I am always wonderful, beautiful, and sexy, regardless of what people say or how they treat me.

Self-Empowerment

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Any woman will tell you, it’s almost expected to take a hit to your self-esteem when you break up with someone. Even for the most evolved human being, it is hard not to hurt when any kind of attachment is severed, especially if you were not the one to do the cutting. Particularly in those cases, it is difficult not to think, was it something about me? Am I not good enough?

That same old tape plays, over and over again. All the negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself. It’s been the same since childhood, it comes up without you having to push play. Like some sick joke, it plays during the worst moments of your life, and during your best. When the kids taunted me as a girl and called my ugly. When I make a mistake at work. When I trip on the sidewalk. When someone asks me out. When someone pays me a compliment. The tape goes on, and this break-up is no exception.

But there is a clear difference this time around. I’ve had years of self-awareness of my tape, but oftentimes struggled to press stop. It was too overpowering, it sounded too true to my ears. However, after a long time in this battle, I have now finally found myself at a point in my life where a still voice is breaking through the noise, saying, I’m done. I’m so over beating myself up. I’m so over letting people treat me like shit. It ends today. It’s done. This is it. No more. We all have our own journey and timing, and now, I feel truly ready to throw the tape out. It is no longer serving me. It is killing me. And with that, the truth sinks down to my very bones: I am good enough. I am worthy. I am a human being, prone to make mistakes, but I also have so much to offer. I take responsibility for my actions. And most of all, I always strive to do better. There is nothing more the universe could ever ask of me. No one will ever get me to believe otherwise again. Absolutely no one.

At the beginning of this process, my favorite word in the English language came to mind: empowerment. It is a value I’ve come to hold, and in this season, I am challenged to live up to it. And that also speaks to one of my other values. Integrity. It means living and always remaining true to your values and what is good, even in the face of temptation. My tape tempts me. My ex’s words reverberate through my broken heart. The pain sometimes clutches too tightly. But I will not waver. I will stand strong, knowing what is right and true, and never let go of that.

And this is how I empower myself. I remind myself of all my good qualities… I am intelligent, good-hearted, compassionate, empathetic, resilient, beautiful. I refuse to put up with any kind of abuse or ill-behavior. I speak out against injustices. I give kindness to those I meet, yet never allow anyone to take advantage of what I have to offer. I value every single fiber of me, physical, mental, spiritual, or otherwise. I give thanks to the good the world offers me, and use the lemons I am given to build strength and character. I will not allow for any person or circumstance to define me; I will define myself. In everything.

This is my path toward self-empowerment.

on feminism

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I get intensely annoyed when people assume that feminism is just a political movement, or something only for social justice activists. On top of all of the other negative stereotypes of feminists (“man-hater,” “a bunch of dykes,” the list goes on). Feminism is not about hating men; it is about the simple belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. That’s it. If you support that, then guess what? You’re a feminist.

I wasn’t always a feminist. I was shrouded in my ignorance of the inequalities and injustices and wasn’t sure “what the big deal was about.” Ignorance is sweet because we don’t have to attend to the immense pain many people hold in society. We can pretend everything is good and perfect and float away in bliss. But ignorance is also very damaging, because it is through our ignorance we unknowingly hurt and oppress others. When we invalidate someone’s pain or experiences, we invalidate their humanity.

My eyes opened when I was 24. I was sexually assaulted, and in my attempts to make sense of what happened to me, my close friend pointed the direction toward truth. “This is the reality of many, many women. But it’s not your fault.” I cannot emphasize enough how much I needed to hear that. Because I, just like many women, began to blame myself for what happened, that I should’ve been more careful, that I should’ve known better, as if I could be a fucking seer and see into the future. But after my conversations with my friend, I realized that I was beating myself up in that way because I had come to internalize all of the negative and oppressive beliefs we spout in society. Blaming women in every single way that we can think of for the violence that was pushed onto them. What was she wearing? How was she acting? Was she drinking? It’s as if I punched you in the face, and I and everyone around you blamed you for not ducking, or for not knowing better. It’s your fault for wearing that stupid t-shirt that made me angry, that’s why I punched you. Illogical, yes?

Yet people often fall to illogical arguments and beliefs in an attempt to resist change and resolve their cognitive dissonance.

People will also fight like hell to avoid taking responsibility and owning their shit. I see this all the time as a therapist. Thing is, we all have shit. There’s nothing wrong with having shit. But I would argue that it becomes “wrong” when you stop owning it and start pushing it on everyone else. I could go on about defense mechanisms and the psychoanalytic aspect of this, but that’s for a different post. My point in this post is, feminism is more than “a bunch of angry women.” Rather, it’s the acknowledgment of the deep pain in our society resulting from the denial of not only equal rights and opportunities, but of one’s humanity. Not only with gender, but with race, sexual orientation, and religion.

Even still, people have every right to feel angry. Because our current reality is, we live in fear every day. We have to be alert, yet we are criticized for it and told we’re over-reacting. But when we do experience violence, “well you should’ve been more careful.” Reality is, we live in constant Catch-22s. We are constantly treated by people, whether consciously or subconsciously, as less than and without respect. Our less pay for the same work is only a manifestation of this. You would have to be a robot to not be angry. To feel. You have every right to feel.

If you can’t see the issues here, or you never experienced them… well, your view is immaterial. Because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not true. No one needs your narcissistic perspective on this. This is reality for millions of people. Just because you never had to experience injustice does not mean injustice doesn’t exist. Not everyone is like you, or lives with the privileges you have. There’s a lot of shit in this world that people have to carry, and you’ve been fortunate to not have some of it. But don’t you fucking dare come in and say all the weight breaking my back doesn’t exist. At that point, I will respectfully tell you to fuck off.

On a personal level, my being a feminist is my physically, emotionally and spiritually owning my humanity. It’s my act in taking back the individuality that society has, and continues to, steal away from me. This is my striving toward empowerment. There’s more to me than my body or pretty skin and face. I have a spirit. I have a soul. I am human. No matter how much others may try to deny that, this is fact. This is truth.

I am human. And I have every right to feel, to be, to love, to exist. Feminism isn’t just a movement. It’s our empowerment, our dream, our reality, our lives.