Every woman has her own set of flaws that she struggles with on a day to day basis. Some women may feel uncomfortable discussing their insecurities while others embrace them. It's often tough for women to accept their own flaws and address their insecurities in a society that seems to glorify "flawless" and "perfect" women. Certain body types, images, and lifestyles are promoted rather than what's real. Tanaya Cardenales, based in Harlem, NYC, created Built by Flaws. BBF is a nonprofit organization created for women of color, to provide a safe environment for women to share, accept, and love their flaws and understand that there are others experiencing similar journeys.
What is Built by Flaws and how did the idea come about?
It’s a group for young women of color to learn how to practice self love, self care, and build confidence within themselves. The reason I came up with the name, Built by Flaws, is because you’re unique and you’re built in a different way. You’re born different from anyone else. Everyone can define the term “flaws” in a different way because my flaw is body image but my friend’s flaw could be trust issues or something else like her hair. Some people don’t see that there are certain qualities that I consider to be flaws as a flaw. I started Built by Flaws because I was part of the Black Student Union at my college and basically every Tuesday we would meet and there was a “Hot Topic” segment. When I started attending, it was around the time of all the police brutality that was currently going on so it was always focusing on the issues such as Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, but then we never spoke about the black women that were being harmed as well. I was like, you know what, I like these topics but it’s weird that we’re speaking about these men but everyone in this Black Student Union are Black or Latina women. Why is that we’re focusing on these other issues but not really focusing on our own? Then I went to one of my old bosses and told her that I really wanted to start a blog but I didn’t know how to go about it. She basically told me to brainstorm and she would give me advice on what I should and shouldn’t do. I took my personal experience of struggling all of my life with my body image and realized that it was something dear to my heart so I started from there. That’s where “Built by Flaws” came from. I try to make it personal so that I can be passionate about it. You can support women but everyone has their own niche of supporting women. Some people like music or fashion but I like to focus on having confidence within yourself.
Why was it important for you to mainly focus on women of color?
It was important to focus on women of color because I’m Puerto Rican and Black. We have “Black Girl Magic” and all of these black girl organizations but you don’t hear too much about Latina organizations. There are more organizations that cater to white women and even with feminism, it doesn’t really support or speak up for women of color. I didn’t want to just focus on one side because I am mixed, so that’s where women of color came in. What about the Indian, Middle Eastern, or African women that don’t identify as Black.
What are some of your own personal flaws and how do you handle them?
I have two. One is my body image. In 9th grade is when it really started. I think it was a mixture of advertisements, family, and my boyfriend at the time. In advertisements, always seeing a certain body image or noticing that you have to look a certain way. My God brothers, would always make comments on how I looked, then my boyfriend at the time also made comments like, “you’re a little chunky.” In 9th grade, I would literally starve myself. I would eat breakfast, then for lunch I would eat a candy bar and drink water. For dinner, I wouldn’t eat at all. I was dropping pounds but it was so unhealthy. Everybody around me was seeing the change but I still saw myself as the girl that was just trying to lose weight. It was really difficult and then overtime I said, “screw this, I’m not doing this anymore.” Closer to my senior year, getting ready for prom and stuff, I started working out and eating healthier. College helped me figure out, “okay, this is what I want for my life. I want to be healthy. It’s not that I want to lose weight, I want to be healthy and live longer.” That’s how I started to somewhat accept my body image and my shape. It’s saying you want to be healthy, it’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel inside.
Was there ever a time, or are there still times, where you feel that your flaws are getting the best of you?
Yes. I used to have a really close friend that dropped some pounds. I would look at her like, “oh my God, how did she do this?” Also, social media plays a big part, that’s where my confidence declines. It’s hard because I’m always on social media to build up my audience but it’s also bad because I see things that I don’t need to see. That’s where I struggle most of the time.
How does all of the success and growth of Built by Flaws make you feel?
It makes me feel happy. This year was a bit of a struggle because I was losing interest in it. I was just like, “okay, I have to write this blog post today.” However, the success is really interesting because you have to create it yourself and your own definition of what “successful” is. At first, I realized I was matching my success to other people, like how much traffic I was getting to my blog or how many followers I had on Instagram. I learned that I now calculate my success based on who reaches out to me. When they say, “you’re making a change for me” or “I’m happy you’re doing this.” So, whenever I get those comments or those messages, I realize that this is what my success is. Making small goals for myself measures my growth.
What are the next plans that you have for Built by Flaws?
The next thing would be actually working on becoming a nonprofit so that when I have events, I can receive things from certain companies. For example, Target will not give you anything without the 501(c)(3) number. But I came a long way of getting donations and money from people. But having and saving the money to do that and building my website, buying one rather than using a free one. Going to classes to better myself using my materials that I get from my mentor to build myself up. I just hope that it will be something that a lot of people gravitate toward. Everyone tries to give me advice like, “you should meet in person, you should do Youtube videos” and all of that. I don’t want to do that. If I wanted to do it, I would’ve done it. I like to be behind the scenes. Even having events is a push for me because I will organize to the T. But, as soon as we have to execute, I’m just like, “this person can do it.” Haha. Just building the confidence and perfecting my public speaking is a big thing for me. Personal growth is important for me to grow “Built by Flaws.”
What is one piece of advice that you would give any young woman struggling with accepting her flaws?
Talking about it. Definitely talking about it. I found myself speaking about my body image and accepting it helped me build confidence and realize who I am. Expressing to my mom, finally. Explaining to her why I was going through the phase that I was going through in high school. She didn’t get it at all but she finally understands and the fact that I was going through this and she’s been through it as well allowed me to be able to confide in someone. Anyone that’s struggling with accepting their flaws should try talking to someone about it because that person might express the same thing to you.
Head over to the Built by Flaws blog here.
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Follow Tanaya's personal account here.