As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Alicia Sanchez a fashion designer, entrepreneur, podcast host, and published writer. She has been featured on the Dr. Oz Show, Black Shopping Channel, endless publications and various fashion weeks with her fashion brand before she began writing. Dear God Are We There Yet? A movement to spark conversation about topics in our lives that may make our voice shake or make our souls smile. Talking like it’s 1995; real and in living color.
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
After being in the Fashion Industry for over ten years, I began to unfold the missing elements in my life. I knew I loved to help people and not just people in the industry but anyone that came my way. I realized there was so much more conversation than business and entrepreneurship. There were finances, family, health, depression, abuse, limiting beliefs. So I asked “Dear God, how could I empower more people? A little voice rang back and said “writing”. I laughed out loud literally because English is my second language and grammar was never my thing. Afterward, in a daze, I said in Spanish “ Y Que la Vaina” which means what the heck! My journey is here, and it continues.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
I am steadily working on Volume 2 of Dear God are we there yet? Which will be more than stories but more like ingesting it with each and one of our senses. Self-Understanding is an ongoing journey. We change every single day. The person we are today will not be the person we will be tomorrow. I think allowing ourselves patience in a world where instant gratification is glorified and expected is the hope factor. I used to think we needed to have balance, but no matter what happens in our life something will always dominate more than the other. Having a better sense of well being in relationships starts with being patient with our relationship with ourselves. It always starts at the home core of our souls.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self-acceptance?
At the age of 28, my body had turned on the menopause switch, complete with hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, mood swings, aches and pains in my bones, low libido, and the list goes on. One sunny March day in Florida, I was laying on my bed, typing away, when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my stomach. Quite frankly, I thought it was gas from Tuesday night’s tacos, but I just couldn’t bare it. I went to the emergency room, and because I had a medical history with reproductive issues, I was told I needed further tests. After waiting for several hours, they gave me Advil for the pain and referred me to my gynecologist.
The following week, I showed up for my gynecologist appointment, and a nurse took me aside to conduct more blood work. My heart knew that something wasn’t right, judging by the look on the nurse’s face. My palms were sweaty as I tried not to panic. The doctor came into the room, and poked and prodded at my body.
I’ll never forget the moment when I received my results.
The sonogram looked like a rendition of Picasso made by a kindergartener. I could hardly pronounce the word endometriosis. I thought, eh, just give me a patch, pill, or prayer and I’ll go on my way because that for sure would do the cure. To my surprise, it was more severe than that. I had tumors of all sizes taking over my ovaries. The doctor opted to do a partial hysterectomy, but said a full hysterectomy might be necessary — we wouldn’t know the severity of my endometriosis until I was open on the surgical bed.
I woke up from surgery in a haze in an empty recovery room. I felt like I’d gotten hit by a car. My abdomen was stitched up, leaving me in pain, stiff, and unable to move. After a few hours, nurses came in and gave me morphine for the pain, but the morphine didn’t seem to work. I was still in severe pain, and my bandage started leaking heavily. Doctors came in to examine me. They said it appeared I had a severe blood clot, and I needed to be rushed back into surgery. The doctors said I literally had one option: a full hysterectomy. I couldn’t hear anything the doctors were saying, and that’s where it all went downhill. The rest of my time in the hospital was a blur, full of pain, confusion, shock, and disbelief. I was completely exhausted.
A year passed by, and as I reflected on my hysterectomy, I kicked myself. I kept wondering why I didn’t seek more opinions. I was still in shock.
My body changed before my eyes. The scar lingered, but worse was the constant pain, the emotional rollercoaster, and the hormonal imbalance. I had a constant burning sensation under the skin on my right side, just below the incision site. I had extreme back pain that tortured me day and night. I had chronic constipation thanks to the opiates. All this pain and discomfort made me incredibly irritable. I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I no longer recognized my body. It felt like hell.
It was like a VHS tape, fast-forwarding all my dreams of having a big Dominican family. Of my babies running around with platanos in their hands, dancing the merengue. Of seeing the reflection of my DNA smiling at me. I was so emotionally drained, I just gave up. The feeling of depression enveloped me.
I suddenly realized I had to forget about relationships and a sex life, because who would really understand my situation? Who could empathize with my new journey? Who could stand beside me as I heal naturally without hormone injections? Forget about dating.At that moment, I signed, sealed, and delivered to myself that being alone with my dog, until death do us part, would be just fine. Life had left me with no other choice.
Today, six years have passed since my surgery, and now I find strength in my scars.
I learned to love my new self and my beautifully flawed body. I found a fantastic wife who accepts me and the medical terminology that I came with. I’ve shaped my mindset to be happy and free of regret. I didn’t think I had a choice when I was 28, but I have an opportunity now…to spread my story and spark conversations so that other women can better navigate their own health issues, equipped with knowledge of their options and conviction to demand the best care. I find strength in having these conversations to inspire others.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
We live in an era where images, personalities, and perceptions are masked through a virtual lens. Filters and marketing exaggerations are funneling on our screens. Human behavior associates with cause and effect. No matter how confident you are and self-assured there will always be a trigger where you second guess who you are and what you are. Just ten years ago you would never see women of color on advertising as much as now; you would never see afro latinas, children of mixed races or modest fashion embraced. Times have changed, and we are now starting to flourish back to the acceptance of our bodies, our cultures, and our roots. We have so many influences on how we should be and why we can’t be. It plays with the emotional connection and flares up our doubts. Times are changing, and I feel confident those numbers will increase. When I was a child I rarely saw Barbies the color of my skin, so you’re darn right I questioned my beauty. The consequences are still lingering from these effects and will remain until more woman and men stand up to encourage others that we are all uniquely beautiful just the way we are.
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
If you cannot “love yourself” you could never truly love another person or even an animal. There is a thick layer in enjoying all of yourself especially your flaws, your mannerisms, faults, and the list goes on. This is an inside job, not a: “how do I look in the mirror or how much do I weigh type of love”. This is the type of love that no one can tear you down. Critics where people are judging you or trying to defeat you, discourage you or use your weaknesses against you. This is the type of love that is reflected through your eyes. This is the type of love that will bring goodness around you and an overlapping sensation of reciprocity. This is the type of love that will hug you with warmness when you cry, fail or fall. Loving yourself is like having the key to another realm within your soul. Love conquers all, and it stars with you.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
I remember being in a really bad relationship where I was convincing myself that things could change and that it wasn’t that bad, I was living outside the US had no close friends or family nearby, and I was blaming things on myself and honestly thought I couldn’t do better than this and it was me who had to change. While talking to one my best friends about reflections of self-love, I began to realize that I instead preferred to be alone than with the wrong one with all the verbal abuse. I didn’t need to compete in having a relationship, so I didn’t look pathetic, or so I thought at that clouded time. People stay in relationships because they don’t want to be alone, they don’t want to start over, they think things will change, and quite frankly they’re afraid of the aftermath. I always applaud women that have been physically and emotionally abused who have fled their relationships and started all over with nothing or fleeting with their children. It’s so hard but its harder to live a life you don’t love just because you don’t know what if.
When we talk about self-love and understanding, we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
Dear God, What are all the reasons why I can instead of why I can’t? Asking ourselves the questions of validity or just another excuse? We turn our excuses into valid points and begin to generate fictional facts nevertheless what happens, self-sabotage, negative feelings, bad choices, and our minds are now controlled by others opinions. People begin to validate things that are not indeed true. When I started my fashion business, I kept telling myself so many lies I couldn’t keep up with the lies because it was nothing but excuses. I always managed to convince myself and was hurting myself. When others would tell me that’s an excuse I would get defensive, upset and distant. I would go home and ponder my reality and then tell myself “Girl, you need to get it together because you know you’ve got this.” I challenge the readers to ask yourself Dear Self Tell me all the reasons why I“ can” instead of why I cant?
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
It’s funny you ask this because the fear of alone comes from something deeper in my opinion. We see celebrities or social influencers with depression, and you ask yourself they have all this money and a gazillion followers why do they feel alone or afraid of being alone?, Self-validation, self-assurance, self-awareness these can be many factors. We are so scared to be alone with our thoughts perhaps. We are afraid to listen to that voice of reason. Fear of what controls us mentally, and the idea of silence or doing something profound without permission, acceptance or once again validation seems foreign. Ever go out to eat and look around you everyone’s on their phones. While social media has so much good and the positive influence it also has a negative trait that creates fear especially the fear of being alone with our true self behind the screen.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
When you plant seeds and water them, and you make sure that the right amount of sun is given you see growth. Even when it rains or it’s cold out you think hey these look dead and then spring comes around, they once again bloom. That is selfly understating that affects your ability to connect and deepen relationships. Your roots are grounded, secure and developed that life happens and you will fall or fail but your roots will keep you strong, and your roots under the earth will spread and might impact others. My wife has given me this analogy because she’s a nature buff and when she explains something to me and uses nature I instantly get it. Roots will always keep you grounded.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
Individuals should never stop the self-growth process; Never stop learning about ourselves, we can never know everything or reason for cause and effect. Society should portray real-life situations and matters. We should stop sugar coating and filtering what is considered beautiful. We should publish books about real stories that don’t always end with a good outcome. Brands should create products and services for humanity and stop the exclusion because it’s not a so-called “ profits stream”. There is a melting pot of answers in this question, but if we work on ourselves, we will be a better addition to our community, our families, our lovers, and overall Earth.
What are five strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
- Press Play: I remember as a child my mother would say stop talking to yourself you sound like a crazy person and I wondered if I were mad so I silenced them and began listening to those thoughts in my head, and as they grew louder the negative feelings would be so enticing that I started to believe them. So now I record myself on a voice recorder which soon people can download on an app I am working on in correlation with my new book. Anywho I talk about anything and everything that pops into my head. I play it out loud days later and quickly get a reality check of why does my voice crack over certain subjects, why am I saying this if it isn’t true? I would have an instant reaction to what I am thinking and genuinely begin to shed those layers of thoughts that don’t need to reside in my consciousness.
- My Mirror moments: I am afro latina and I sure wish I knew what that was as a kid. People would never believe me when I said I was of Hispanic race. I was very much involved in my culture and I disliked my hair because it wasn’t straight, I am darker skin than most my external family, my teeth weren’t the straightest and when it came to English I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed or so I thought. I’ll never forget one summer I cut a quote from a magazine and placed on my mirror next to my Jennifer Lopez obsession shrine. I read it every day and looked in the mirror and mimicked an English accent or an accent I can come up with and said: “ look at those beautiful possum eyes”. Those kinky curly locks on your heard are stronger than rope. I just started mimicking all the negative things and turned them into positive. Years later I still look in the mirror and admire my inner beauty and my inner strength. Some that see me do it might say I am full of myself or arrogant and I just ignore them because they don’t know my story. This is how I reminded myself from a child that I am enough just the way I am.
- Sharing the love- Loving yourself doesn’t always mean it’s about you, it’s about being able to share it with others when least expected. It’s not waiting until it’s their birthday or a holiday to say I love you. My eldest brother introduced me into the habit as a young child to write to people. He was so for it that he used to mail letters to my parents and me and we lived in the same home. I gradually adopted that behavior and very frequently I’ll write to friends and family to say hello, wish them well or tell them I am proud of them. Yes, I can quickly pick up the phone but why not take the time to jot some words down and welcome a surprise to someone unexpectedly. That is sharing the love.
- Time is my currency- Self-care rituals for me is doing something creative. When I am creative I am in another world I see the joy in my hands and my heart that pour into my sewing or pottery. At that moment it’s not about perfection, but it’s about slowing down paying attention to the details in my original element and appreciating the love I bring to my space.
- Connecting with a good cry- Gosh this sounds silly, but for years I thought crying made me weak and vulnerable. After so many tragedies in my life, I began to embrace to let myself cry, let my self connect with emotions harboring. All cries don’t have to be sad, and it can be joyous and free.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
I absolutely love the podcast Beautiful Anonymousby Chris Gethard 1 phone call. 1 hour. No names. No holds barred. That’s the premise behind BeautifulStories from AnonymousPeople that call in to talk about anything. The conversations are so real because people call in Anonymousso they let all their guards down, and sometimes you wish you knew what happened next. I love that he doesn’t judge anyone who calls, while smply listening and having a conversation even if he doesn’t agree; he probes for understanding more. It’s uplifting hearing so many stories. Now one of my favorite books is from a psychotherapist, Dr. Brian Weiss called Many Lives Many Masters, I hate to say what the basis is but it’s about his astonishment and skeptic mannerisms when one of his patients began recalling past-life traumas that seemed to hold the key to her recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks. It makes you ask questions about the universe, life and what we “think” we know.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
Helping people help people one question at a time. When we ask a question we encourage conversation, It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong or right, if you have facts or full of opinions the point is we are conversing. This is the losing art form of genuinely helping people. This is what I have been trying to do with Dear God are we there yet? We can disagree on every spectrum and have our truths but everyone has a story, everyone has a passion, everyone has a road trip of life they are riding along just as we are. Forget race, political views, judgments but more like agreeing to disagree with poise and respect because you never know whose life you might inspire even if you’re cut from different cloths.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
“God doesn’t place you where you need to go. He puts you where you need to grow.”
-Sara Jakes Roberts
Every time I ask myself why is something not going my way or the way I thought it should be. I know that it’s not the right time, I am not ready, or I need to grow to and keeping driving on my road trip of life. As long as I am pushing through I know that everything has it’s timing.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!