From Self-Hate to #WalangHiya

They told me,
“Stay quiet”
…But this only built up anger in me for 21 years.
This only taught me to stay complacent in a society that demands conformity.

They told me,
“Speak up”
…But once I speak my mind, I’m seen as disrespectful and problematic.

They told me,
“You’re fat”
…But this caused an 8 year old girl to start obsessing over numbers–on a scale, pants sizes, consumed calories.

They told me,
“Tame your hair, it’s too thick”
…But hearing this as a young girl made hair straighteners and Keratin chemicals a necessity for beauty.

They told me,
“You’re a dark Filipina”
…But saying this to a 5 year old girl only made her hate the skin she lives in, every single day.

They told me,
“But you’re a girl”
…So what? Living under this double standard conditioned me into thinking I’m powerless in this patriarchal society.

I tell myself now,

“You’re a strong, smart, and courageous young woman. It’s time to decolonize your mind from all the Eurocentric beauty standards. You’re a product of the Philippine diaspora. Your brown skin is a constant reminder of the resilient bloodline you came from. Let your hair breathe and treat your body with love. Speak from your heart, your words are powerful.”

Growing up I was constantly told to be aware of how I presented myself as a girl and to always give a good impression to others. My physical appearance was constantly pointed out by family members, classmates, and even strangers. I became very self-conscious of how I looked and how I spoke in public. In the classroom, I rarely speak up due to being teased around my mispronunciation around English words that I learned from hearing my immigrant parents say. I developed a tendency to talk down on myself when I spoke  in front of people, looked at myself in the mirror, or believed I failed at anything. At age five, I wore longsleeves and feared being out under the California sun too long. At age 8, I woke up early in the mornings to straighten my natural waves and calm the frizz with damaging chemicals. I put myself on strict diets to look like the skinny girls on TV and get compliments from my relatives.

It wasn’t until my 20th year that I began my journey to living with #WalangHiya. It’s a constant self-battle to stop seeing myself as the problem. I realize now the self-hate I had in prior years was due to the pressures of being a young woman of color in an American society…a society that praises “whiteness” whether it be in physical appearance, articulation, or level of prestige. The first two years into my 20s has been refreshing to slowly accept myself. I am me because of my resilient and hard-working ancestors. I choose to live in this world unapologetically and proud; to preserve the culture of my ancestors in a country that continues to strip others of their rich history.

This post is part of the Reclaiming #WalangHiya Project; see the landing page for more narratives.

Clarissa Jovellanos (she/her/hers) is a Filipinx-American womxn.  Born and raised in Northern California, she is completing her Bachelor’s of Social Work Degree in Seattle, WA. She is dedicated to preserving her Philippine culture, empowering  youth of color,  and building solidarity with other communities who are working against the oppression of living in the American society. Her motivation comes from the stories that her grandparents and parents carried when they migrated overseas and continued their struggle in the U.S. She began her commitment to organizing when she was oriented into Anakbayan-Seattle a year ago. Her first year helped her analyze her feelings of internalized oppression and begin to gather the lost pieces of Philippine history. Instagram | Anakbayan-USA

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