sunflower bouquet

Who Are You?

“Who are you?” is one of the quintessential questions that an interviewer will ask you during an interview. This question also makes me think of the hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland & the song My Shot from Hamilton. Unless you take the time to really think about who you are, it’s also one of the most difficult questions to answer. I personally don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that every single thing that has occurred in my life & every person who has come & gone, happened for a specific reason. All of the past occurrences & people who have been in & out of my life helped me to become the woman I am today. And for that, I will always be grateful.

My Family

My parents met at my cousin’s 1st Birthday Party. At that time, my Dad was still married to his 1st wife, & my Mom was engaged to someone else. My Dad ended up getting a divorce because his in-laws didn’t want them to have children. My Mom ultimately called off her engagement because she somehow knew in her heart that there was something better waiting. About two years later, they reconnected & started dating. My Mom broke up with my Dad because she thought that he was entertaining other women behind her back. They separated for a little over three months before they got back together & eventually got engaged.

In grade school, I had to interview a family member about their best friend as a class project. I chose to interview my Dad. While I didn’t appreciate the love-filled answers that he gave me at the time, that interview shows me how beautiful true love is. In short, my Dad’s best friend is my Mom. She’s his best friend because they talk about anything & everything without getting bored of each other. His best memories with her aren’t even huge, impactful moments, but simply being around her every day. They don’t even have to say anything. But with a quick look or making silly faces at each other, he knows that he has everything that he needs in her alone.

My parents’ love story teaches that life is unexpected. If you have tunnel vision trying to pursue one clear path, fate & the universe may conspire against your current circumstances to give you something better than you could have ever imagined. Even after what you think is the love of your life, love can & will find you again. If you choose to keep your heart open & take a leap of faith. Their love makes me believe in soulmates & emphasizes the importance of marrying your best friend.

My siblings are my closest friends. They’re also my complete opposites. lol My sister is three years older than me, & my brother is three years younger than me. Being a middle child & their sister has taught me so much about how to communicate & mediate my actions when dealing with individuals who act & think differently than I do. While I’m a newly awakened empath, I know in my heart that my Dad & both of my siblings are empaths too.

My brother is bipolar. While I’ve lived the majority of my life not affected by my own emotions or the emotions of others, my brother gave me an inside look into the mind of someone who bottles everything he feels inside. My brother takes on the emotions & problems of others like a sponge.

As a Cancer sun, he’s innately empathic, emotional, & sensitive. While he can be the most enthusiastic & positive person you’ll ever meet, he also holds a lot of darkness inside & secretly hates himself.

I distinctly remember one day while I was away from home in college, & we were catching up through text. He was asking me how I was & how school was going, which was pretty typical for us. After saying goodbye to each other for the night, no less than 5 minutes later, my sister called me crying. She tells me that my brother is in the hospital under a 5150 (California law code for the temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment of individuals who present a danger to themselves or others due to signs of mental illness). I am the last person my brother communicated with as if everything was fine before he had to hand over his phone & be admitted. After his hold for evaluation, he was officially diagnosed as bipolar.

My sister was bullied in grade school from the first grade through 8th grade. We went to a predominantly white, private, Catholic school. As one of the only brown girls in her class, boys in her class started to make fun of her on a daily basis. It got to the point that she was constantly depressed & at one point, even suicidal.

She’s also a Cancer sun, so she’s just as empathic, emotional, & sensitive as my brother. She prefers to bottle up all of her emotions up until she snaps, & it usually comes out as anger & frustration. Looking back, my sister was mean to me & bossed me around throughout her grade school years. But I completely understand why. It wasn’t until I moving away for college that we became closer. In the four years that I was living away from home, she would call me on the phone. She begged, cried, & offered to buy my train ticket to come home to visit.

I truly believe that my siblings made my empathic, spiritual awakening exponentially easier. In the times that I feel overwhelmed by my own emotions, their experiences struggling with mental health help me become even more determined to always transmute & channel my emotions into something positive. They help me embrace my new gifts with an open heart & mind, knowing that I already spend my entire life trying to be strong & stoic. Embracing my new empathic & intuitive abilities is possible because I always have them both to help me whenever I’d struggle.

My aunts, uncles, & cousins also play a huge role in who I am. Both of my parents are one of six children. They immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area from the Philippines. I grew up going to family parties every week. I created so many happy memories with my family playing games & going on vacations. As an adult, I still travel with my cousins on occasion. My family is fun, hilarious, & supportive of all of my entrepreneurial ventures. They were my first YouTube channel followers, my first blog readers, & my first Tarot card reading customers. I know in my heart that they’ll always be there to love & support me throughout my lifetime.

My Friends

While I keep my social circles very small, I have the best friends that I could ever ask for. Two of my best friends, I’ve known since Kindergarten; that’s 29 years of friendship. We are three points of a balanced & strong triangle. We’ve stood by each other & remained very close despite going to different high schools & colleges.

Brittany is an Aries sun. She is brilliant, driven, & outgoing. She consistently inspires me with her adventurous spirit, work ethic, & passion for the people & things she loves. She’s a true Fire Sign. Jessica is a Virgo sun. She is fiercely loyal, hard-working, & reliable. She encourages me to let loose & have fun. She’s constantly introducing me to new avenues of thinking & the greatest humans you’ll ever meet. She’s an Earth sign, with a Scorpio Moon, allowing her to embrace her emotional side too.

My best friend from college, Liz is also a Virgo sun. She’s incredibly grounded, level-headed, & practical. She’s always giving me advice whether it be for my career or my love life. She shares my love for delicious food & dessert. She reminds me of my worth & is always there to hype me up or surprise me when I’m feeling down. Even after twelve years of not living in the same town, she’s always there for me. We make the effort to fly across the country to see each other as often as financially possible.

My remaining handful of friends that I won’t get into specifics about are just as amazing, kind, & understanding. Even after days, weeks, or months without speaking to one another, we’re always able to come back together just as strong, as if no time has passed. I love all of my friends with all of my heart. It takes so much for me to open up to new people & make new friends, so the people that I choose to keep in my inner circle mean everything to me.

My Past Romantic Partners

My past romantic partners always act as a mirror into my soul & how I perceive who I am at a time in my life. The more tumultuous the relationship, the more I hated myself & needed outside validation. The more I change who I am to conform to who I think they want me to be, the more I see that I didn’t have my own identity without them. I changed my eating habits, my hobbies, & the way I dressed, did my makeup & hair to ensure I would always be “accepted” & “loved” by their standards instead of my own.

While I’ve retained some things that they brought into my life, I now choose to put myself first, only keeping what I truly love & want to continuously do going forward. I love to travel. Writing is my primary creative outlet. I love boxing, dancing, & hiking as my preferred workouts. My Nintendo Switch saved me from boredom during COVD-19 stay-at-home orders. I love homecooked meals, baking banana bread, & using Kraft Real Mayo on my sandwiches.

My past partners taught me to always see my own worth because no one else will ever be me. I choose who to be intimate with, because my body is sacred & not just anyone deserves to worship at my temple.

My Enemies & Haters

I know that I am not for everyone. There have been plenty of times in my life that others have gone out of their way to make their disdain towards me known. Instead of cowering in a corner, hiding who I am, or blocking out the world in an attempt to protect myself, I transmute their hate & unkindness & allow it to add fuel to my inner fire. Despite the opinions of others, I still deserve to have an abundant life. Hate will never deter me from accomplishing my goals or living a happy & successful life.

As the main character in the story of our own lives, we need to remember to always embrace every new chapter, every side character, & even our enemies to reach our full potential. So… who am I? I am a combination of every person in my life, every experience & life lesson shared with me.

I’m like my Dad because I’m creative, resourceful, & entrepreneurial, with hopes of being my own boss one day. I look like a younger version of my Mom. I also hope to be just as nurturing of a wife & mother as she is. I’m learning to be as caring & helpful as my siblings. I am just as amazing, fun, intelligent, kind, & supportive as my family & friends. I am everything & everyone in my life that I love. That’s who I am.

XO Denise

Learning to Love Myself

Growing up, my dad taught me that the key to finding the right person was in the way that I carry myself. He taught me to always use my brain, exude confidence, be honest, & be authentic. Because if you’re constantly wearing a mask & pretending to be someone you’re not, you’ll just end up attracting the wrong people, who don’t even know the real you. Through accepting who you are, being yourself, caring for yourself, & loving yourself every day, you’ll attract & keep yourself surrounded by the right people, who will truly love you & continue to love you just as much as you do. This is about Iearning to love myself.

My Darkest Secret

My darkest secret is my body dysmorphia. I have an unhealthy obsession with food & not wanting to get fat. Over time, the way I perceive my body became a clear mental health disorder. To put it simply, no matter how “healthy” I am according to my BMI, when I look at myself in the mirror, my body & what I consider to be my “flaws” always look exactly the same to me. While I may seem confident with my curves, the truth is that I hate my round face, arms, butt, stomach, & thighs.

When getting ready to go out into the world, I change my outfit several times, because of how my body looks to me when I’m wearing certain outfits. There’s nothing worse in my mind than picturing how perfect an outfit would be in my head for a certain occasion then having to change 10+ times because I hate the way my body looks in my 1st option & every single option that I choose afterward. Growing up I thought I was just messy… but in reality, my hate & frustration with the way I look causes me to scatter my clothes all over my room every day. That’s also why I became obsessed with shopping for the same styles of clothing in different colors & patterns, because they make me look “skinny” or highlight the parts of my body that I like better & are more comfortable showing off.

Learning to Accept My Flaws

While I know that I’m generally attractive, I still obsessively put myself under a microscope when it comes to how I look in the mirror & in photos. When I post a selfie, I take at least 10 different shots in various angles & lighting with different smiles. When posting something with my body, I suck in my stomach, arch my back, elongate my spine, & emphasize my jawline from the crown of my head for the optimum shot.

Last year, I finally learned to start loving myself more. With COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, I had little reason to do my hair & makeup every day. I no longer had to pick out the “perfect” outfit for work, date nights, or parties. There was no need to get my eye lashes or nails done. I couldn’t get my eyebrows threaded. I couldn’t get a facial or a massage. Forced to be my natural self every day, I love the way I look with my wild, curly hair, glasses, & a fresh, freckled-faced now.

The Positive Effects of 2019 & COVID-19

For the first time in a long time, I feel beautiful without having to try so hard. I could be me, & I didn’t have to wear a mask for the world anymore. Even though I’m ironically forced to wear a mask over my nose & mouth for the health & safety of the rest of the world, I finally feel more confident & happy in my own skin. Because the people who I love & matter to me the most still appreciate & love me too. With people telling me how much they love my curls & freckles daily, I can still be seen as beautiful & perfect without all the extra effort.

2019 taught me that I didn’t have to wear makeup, do my hair, dress up, & take selfies regularly to be loved. I work out regularly & eat better because I know that my body deserves to love & care. It’s nearly impossible to go out to eat every day, so I renewed my love of cooking at home. I couldn’t fly & collect more stamps on my passport, so I learned to appreciate road trips & explored up & down the West Coast instead. And with little to no social interaction outside my immediate social pods, I proactively choose to be more friendly & kind to every person I interact with each day.

Retreating into the Darkness

I’ll admit that I did struggle once the Bay Area started to reopen again. While people in other California counties were rushing to book their eyelash, nail, & waxing appointments again, I was honestly more excited to finally be able to re-book all of my cancelled travel plans for the year. Scrolling through social media ultimately triggered my insecurities & my obsession with staring at everything wrong with my body in the mirror & in my photos.

This was a very dark place, but it’s important to reevaluate what I need to be happy & feel comfortable in my body. I was already working out for at least 30 minutes every single day, drinking lots of water, & eating lots of fresh fruit & veggies. In the end, I decided that I needed to limit my time scrolling through social media, because social media algorithms force unrealistic standards of beauty in my face that trigger my body dysmorphia. I want to continue to embrace my natural beauty & love my body for all of things it allows me to do. I don’t need eyelash extensions, a full face of makeup, & perfectly manicured nails to feel beautiful anymore. Despite society’s unrealistic standards of beauty when it comes to the ideal body type, I know in my heart that my body is strong & perfect.

Lesson Learned

All that matters to me going forward is that I continue to love myself, take care of my body, & be authentically me. Despite what I still see in the mirror, I choose to love myself more than the hate I feel for my reflection. Others tell me that I have an innate ability to inspire others to love themselves just by being myself, so that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I hope that sharing how I learned to love myself has helped you as well. Because I want everyone to learn that no one in the world is more deserving of your love & affection than yourself.

XO Denise