My teen years were not easy. I was different - a bit eccentric, a bit nerdy and a bit awkward. This was ammo for neighborhood bullies. The more confident I was, the more they found to criticize - "skinny, flat chest, ugly." I was teased, bullied and threatened on a regular basis. I was always thinking and observing everything around me. I had a big heart and big dreams, and I quickly learned how to protect it. I loved art. I loved playing with fashion. And, even though my demeanor became very self-protective, the way I felt was not going to change.
I was fortunate to have women in my life who I could talk to. My mom, grandmother, my aunts. I also had a neighbor who was like a big sister to me. She continuously encouraged me to keep being creative and focus on my education - That everything I'm going through will pass. Being able to talk about how I felt helped tremendously. I had my moments. I cried. I wished it was easier. But I also knew I couldn't control my environment and I certainly knew I was not going to go out of my way to fit in. I liked being me. Not every girl has a circle of women to talk to, and many allow bullies and society's ideas of beauty to influence the way they see themselves. Dove has an extraordinary initiative called "Let's Talk" that touches me to the core. They also collaborated with 100 Latina Bloggers asking them to share what they would say to a girl about beauty. Check out the hashtag #DoveInspired on Twitter. If I could talk to a young woman about beauty, I would certainly share my journey and help them find ways to quiet the noise around them. It's not easy, believe me I know. I certainly did not expect that years later, those same "bullies" would find me and apologize. Now imagine, if I had let them influence me back then?