Ever since I can remember I would always question the way that I looked.  I think for me the biggest change had to be when I first came to live in the US.  Being the only Hispanic kid in my grade for a very long time, I realized then I was different.  Not that my parents didn’t make it any easier sending empanadas to school for my, “almuerzo.”  I would get, “ay mija why didn’t you eat your empanada today?”    Or the, “I know that you are learning English in school, but here in the house you can only speak Spanish.”

At times I would look at my peers and wonder how I could convince my mom that peanut butter and jelly was not something that was just a small snack.  And that I really shouldn’t be eating fried brains for dinner.   As time went on, the awkwardness became something of the norm for me.  I was the tallest in my class including the boys and was the first one to officially wear a bra.  It was devastated!  On top of all those physical differences, I was and still am one of the clumsiest people you'll ever meet.  Ouch is pretty much a daily word in my world, so much so that my kids hardly even ask anymore if I’m alright anymore. 

The list can go on and on with insecure moments from my youth and for the most part of my adult life. You know that you are always the clown when strangers even say, "you are very entertaining."  When all I wanted to do was fade into the crowd and just hang.  But as I got older and wiser(isn't that the way it always goes?) I have embraced my clowness.  Although still guarded to whom I completely show it off to.  And those who are closest to me know how silly I really am.  Why do I keep it from the world?  I don't know? The only reason why I can think of is that at times I remember what it felt like to be laughed at, but instead of taking that laughter as something positive I viewed it as a negative.  I always worried that I wasn’t doing it right.  That I was disappointing someone. That if I was just a bit more organized, or a bit more fit, or if my nose was just a bit smaller that everything would be perfect.  But what is perfection? If not the illusion in which we are feed constantly through the media, through our thoughts, through our own perceptions. 

I came to understand through all of the self-doubting and through some hard lessons that I’ve had to go through, I am beautiful just the way I am! 

So how did I come to understand that I am beautiful?  I understood that I was just me.  I learned to love the “flaws”  that makes me who I am.  I understood that loving all of the little aspects of myself lets me see, not only myself as the woman I am, but also to see everyone as they are. Loving myself has made me love others in such a deeper and more connected way.

Dani McDonald