By: Elisabet Medina
When I was a kid, I believed I was ugly. I was chubby, my nickname to this day is cachito which literally means big cheeks. I had a gap between my two front teeth that was big enough to fit a pencil through. I was dark, I remember being a kid and thinking that I could wash away my brownness. Whenever, I was asked to draw pictures of myself I always drew myself with white skin.
Fast forward through middle and high school, none of the guys I liked ever and I mean ever liked me back. And I can still remember a cheerleader telling me that my a** ran behind me in gym. In college, I basically said f*** it. I chopped off all my hair and read a lot of feminist literature that taught me about the male gaze. I realized that my whole concept of beauty was rooted in Eurocentric standards. When I traveled outside of the U.S. for the first time in my life I got to experience other cultures that saw me as
Over the years, my weight also fluctuated up and down the same 40 pounds over and over again. 2014, I went on a drastic diet where I exercised everyday and did not eat after 4pm. I lost 30 pounds and was at
my lowest weight as an adult. I dated, which interestingly enough landed in relationships with men, who liked to tell me that I should eat a salad, while they ate a burger. It was like an externalization of the voice inside of my head that never called a truce with my body.
And now here I am. To be exact, the place where I am is called beautiful. I have made peace with my thick thighs, the gut that clings to me, the caramel color of my skin and even the stretch marks that are tiny landmarks of my journey. I love dancing, boxing and yoga in that order. I love good food, like
avocados and bacon. I wish I could say that I will never again be at war with my body but I am not 100% sure of that. All I can say is that I am more grateful than ever before for my health and this body that is
so essentially me. And that when I look in the mirror, I love the person staring back at me. I think she was always waiting for me to love her as she is, not for who she could change to be.
By: Elisabet Medina
When you are young, the world is different. Words are heavier, the words have ripple effects in your life. I can still remember the high school teachers and youth pastors who talked me down from the proverbial and literal edge of teenage angst. Countless adults told me that I could change the world, that I could make a difference, that my life had significance.
I still remember the blunt conversation a teacher had with me, that I was a smart kid but that my grades were mediocre and if I ever wanted to get anywhere I had to work twice as hard because I was a young Latina. It is almost as if the belief that teachers had in me during middle and high school had willed me on through to college. I remember it was a college counselor that told me to apply for a scholarship to grad school. No one in my family had done this before. I felt lucky just to have made it through undergrad, I never thought that I would have a masters.
As a social worker, I have always had interns; young people that I am willing to take under my wing. I want them to see that someone that looks like them can be a leader. Representation matters, and for young people to see women of color as managers, principals, board presidents; opens up infinite doors of possibility.
Mentorship is everything. Even today, I make it a point to be mentored by someone. Whether our conversation is about career and dealing with microaggressions in the workplace or me spilling my guts about an idea that won’t let me go. We always need someone who has been there, right at the spot where we are standing and can guide our spirits to where they need to go.
Likewise, as we ascend and grow in our field, ask who am I taking with me? How am I empowering and pouring into the lives of young people around me? Whether it’s a church youth group, mentoring of a foster youth, a niece, or an intern: beneath that bravado there’s a soul longing to be seen and believed in.
Young people need to hear that they are loved, that they matter, and most importantly that they are not alone. I have seen young women be exploited, suffer violence and even take their own life under the powerful belief that they are worthless. The opposite is the truth, young people are more valuable than words can express and whatever tragedy they have experienced is not the end but only the beginning of their story. Take time today for a young person, be the mentor you wish you had when you were younger. You won’t soon forget it and neither will they.