The Destination of Self-Discovery

Connection and IsolationAwesome Moments

Insecurities — everyone has them, even if they’re about something unique to their character.

The hardest part about hating something about yourself is facing it and overcoming it, especially when it is about your cultural identity and trying to live up to society's standards. Little did I know that a two-month family vacation would become a destination of self-discovery.

Ever since I was little, being Latina has been important to me, but I never knew where I stood on the spectrum. I felt like I was too American for the Latinos and too Latina for the Americans. Also, being half Mexican and half Dominican didn't help with that at all. Since I was both Mexican and Dominican, I felt like I had to choose between the two cultures. Other factors that made this insecurity stronger were my lack of Spanish skills and my feeling like I disappointed my family because I didn't know a lot about my two cultures.

This insecurity started in 2015, when I was eight years old and I went to the Dominican Republic on a family vacation without my parents. It was very hard for me to speak to people because I barely knew the native language, and when I would try to speak to people, including my extended family, they would just laugh at me and call me a “gringa.” It really hurt my feelings and I started doubting myself. I thought I wasn’t “Latina enough,” and I promised myself that I would never speak Spanish again because I didn’t want to humiliate myself. This promise made me suffer big-time because I couldn’t speak to my family. I shut a part of myself off on that day and stayed quiet. People now had power over me because I was too busy worrying about what they might say. I pursued this silence out of fear. Feeling judged hurt me and made me vulnerable.

I’ll be honest, at first it was hard to accept the fact that my family would laugh at any incorrect thing I said, but on one specific night of my vacation, my point of view changed forever. That night, I was bawling my eyes out and really needed to speak to my parents, so I FaceTimed them about what was happening. After I was done ranting, my parents gave me two important pieces of advice that gave me the courage to not take everything my family said or did so personally. The two things they said were: “Bullying is not a reflection of the victim’s character, but rather a sign of the bully’s lack of character” and “Prove them wrong.” Their advice correlated perfectly to what was happening in my personal life because it made me realize that none of my family members spoke two languages. They probably tried to learn English but got made fun of and, just like me at that moment, gave up. The only difference between my family and me was that I would never give up. I also learned to shrug off anything negative my family would say or do by thinking of what my parents said that night.

I started to see each humiliating moment as a teachable moment. I decided I would ask more questions about how things are said in Spanish to help my language skills. Over time, my family understood that they were hurting me by laughing at me. Whenever they would laugh at me, I would look them straight in the eyes and tell them that I needed them to help me, not criticize me. That’s when they started to correct me, without laughing, when I said things wrong. This gave me some confidence that I could expand my skills, and I took an oath to make more of an effort toward learning the language. With perseverance, I ended up learning Spanish a few years later, proving my entire family wrong.

This trip to the Dominican Republic was extremely important in my life because I learned many valuable lessons. Telling my family how I felt changed our relationship tremendously. We grew closer and had many more incredible moments together. I also learned that being Latina isn’t about speaking the language or being born in a Latin American country, it's about being proud of your culture and embracing it. Yes, I’m Latina! One day I want to go to my two countries to show people that I am “Latina enough” and that I am proud of my two cultures. I also learned that I can't sacrifice my happiness for other people. I now know that people are going to judge, but that each individual lives their journey and must find the inner strength to find their path. For me, coming to terms with my insecurity took courage, and I hope that others will find the strength to do the same.

Daniela Esparza is 14 years old and lives in Puerto Rico. She enjoys working out, surfing, hanging out with friends, and writing.

Like what you're reading?

Sign up for the KidSpirit newsletter!

Let's make sure you'll get the best content for you:

Thanks for Signing Up!

You'll receive the next issue of our newsletter in your inbox