Today in the quiet space of my 5 a.m. writing routine, I was struck by a sudden surge of courage. A radiant energy revealed what I had looked for during the first five years of my thirties, which were a magical chaos of deep learning and accelerated growth. The revelation was clear: Here is the courage that you looked for, now, accept it. So I surrendered to my wisdom and intuition, recognized my ability to create and claimed my innate talents.
When I turned thirty, I felt an urgency to understand myself. I was finally ready to invest time in learning about life and stick with it for as long as necessary. I knew it was going to be hard. I prepared myself with books, podcasts, videos, TED Talks, blogs, you name it. In them, I found admirable women, inspiring stories, and motivational books. I discovered personalities like Nun Coen, a Zen Buddhist practitioner, and Debbie Millman, a designer, teacher, and host of the excellent podcast Design Matters. Both of them are confident women, but what connected me to them was their curiosity. The "why's" they were always asking, and the time they invested in reflecting upon the answers. I realized I am just like them, infinitely curious, always wanting to know more. I kept listening because I also wanted their type of confidence to overcome my low self-esteem.
I longed to be part of an artist/designer/writer/mother group; any group would do. “But, I am an introvert", I would tell myself - although I discovered that I was just very insecure. In any case, I was building a digital community with Nun Coen's videos and Debbie's podcasts. Everyday I listened to them with more intention. I read the books they recommended and investigated the people they talked about. One of those people was Dani Shapiro and her latest memoir, "Inheritance." Her book, her story, and her sensitivity was all I wanted to read. I devoured her memoirs and learned through her writing about a genre in which I saw myself as a writer.
Curating the content I read became my grounding practice. So when I noticed that my Instagram account was utterly disconnected from the Gina that I was starting to become, I took action. I dedicated myself to curate that content too. The time I devote to Instagram is quite considerable, so purging the content and monitoring my digital consumption was vital.
Now I collect accounts of women I admire and friends who have something valuable to offer. One of those friends is Marlene Franco. She provides consulting services that help entrepreneurs start their own businesses and encourages women to thrive by supporting each other. I identify with her, we are both thirty-something Latin American women, mother of two, loving wives, and passionate designers. During one of her Instagram stories, Marlene recommended a book called "Brave, not perfect. Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder" by Reshma Saujani. I bought the book right away and finished it within a couple of days.
The practice of following recommendations from people I trust in my digital circle was one of the small actions that got me closer to the Gina I am currently creating. From the "Brave not perfect" book, I learned that we all want to be brave, but because we have learned to want to be perfect, being brave becomes a challenge. While reading, I couldn't stop thinking about the opportunities I had missed, where being brave was all I needed to feel great. It was painful for me to realize that I had been paralyzed by my fear of failure and imperfection.
With the book still fresh on my mind, I looked for a podcast that resembled the idea of braveness so I could deepen what I had learned. I found the perfect one on the podcast "Rise" by Rachel Hollis, another girl I admire. The episode was called "How to face your fears with Michelle Poler." The interview was about Michelle's struggles living a fearful life. She shared her adventures on facing 100 fears in 100 days. She challenged herself to face the fears, record it, and post the videos on her YouTube Channel. What stuck with me from her story was that she had published thirty-nine videos on her channel, and it wasn't until the 40th video that her project went viral. Before this moment, I used to post one poem on a random blog and feel devastated after hours went by and the poem was still unread. Oh, how lost I felt. Luckily, Michelle's reality offered a new perspective to my word. I added her blog, podcast, and Instagram account to the group of women who unknowingly support my journey every day with their inspirational stories.
Is this a women power story? Coming from me, it will always be a story of women's power and empowerment, that's a given. But no, it is not just that. I want all the knowledge I can get from any person who is willing to share it with me, so I am open to all. Like the life-changing book "The Seat of the Soul" by Gary Zukav. His raw conversations with Oprah about the search for the soul and the need for Authentic Power. And the book "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. Those men offered serenity to my life and got me closer to my soul. I was learning about the soul, but I was also interested in the mind, and I kept going back and forth between those two subjects in my quest for understanding.
Through that search, I found a book called "Your Mind Is Your Home: How to end anxiety, stop overthinking, and have more control over your thoughts" by Kamran Bedi. In it, Kamran highlights the idea that our mind is our eternal companion, and explains how the relationship with it influences our life. The book provides tools to control your thoughts and be able to make space for a better relationship with your mind. I wanted those tools, I needed that space. My relationship with my mind was toxic, to say the least. I complained to myself about myself daily. I obsessed with overanalyzing myself and criticizing my actions and thoughts. Verbal abuse was part of my repertoire. From stupid to ignorant, nothing was outside the limits of my mind. I needed to stop it. Fortunately, the quest to understand myself made me aware of the harm my mind was causing, so applying the tools was easy. I learned that in the space between my mind and I, lies everything that exists, and I must glide in and out of it in harmony, with respect and compassion.
I was evolving. My "why's" were quickly answered; I was blissful. Until the time came to apply what I was learning. To do that, I needed to believe in myself. This need marked a critical phase in my journey. Right then, I entered the battlefield of an eternal dilemma: "I trust myself, but I don't believe in myself". I was having a hard time discerning intuition from trauma.
A few years ago, I decided that I preferred to write in English, even though it is my second language. To feel confident writing in English, I set out on a mission to improve my grammar. To do that, I subscribed to a game called Elevate and an app called Grammarly. I started playing, and in a few weeks, I reached the expert level among thousands of players of my age and academic level. The weekly statistics I received by email suggested that I was proficient in vocabulary, use of words, and volume of writing. But I couldn't believe the statistics. I saw them and convinced myself that they weren't valid. My mind gave me reasons to think so: I was being compared with people who probably didn't dominate the English language well, or, This is just a marketing stunt. Instead of rejoicing with the positive comments, I questioned the validity of the statistics. But, because now I am more aware of myself, I was able to spot an old trauma and its toxic effect. I felt the extensions of old wounds I had chosen to forget so I could move on with my own life. That feels like it helps, but forgetting is only enough to move on. It's not enough to move forward. To move forward, I needed awareness and acceptance. To move forward, I needed to spot my trauma (awareness) and name it (acceptance). It was painful, but I went through it. I recognized that I had been consumed by feelings of unworthiness and of not being enough.
Back in elementary school, I was such a bad student, so disconnected from school that my mother was advised to have me undertake a neuropsychological evaluation. I remember the cables glued to my head as if it was yesterday, but I was only ten years old. The result was Mental Gaps in math and language arts. I was diagnosed to have the knowledge of a seven years old student when I was in 5th grade. Since that day, I started my visits to the philologist and the after school support programs. All sorts of teachers came back from school to my house to help me do my homework. But I was behind my group, it felt impossible to catch up.
I grew up hearing almost every day that I was a lousy student. The negativity around my capacity and learning ability was constant. You can imagine how that affected my emotional, mental, and social development at the peak of my developmental years. I carried the weight of my parents' fear on my shoulders. I felt like a hamster rolling on a wheel of negativity. It was then when I learned how to talk to myself in the silence of my inner world. And guess what? The voice and the conversations were harsh. I learned to criticize myself and over-analyze every little thing I did. It was just natural. I was copying what I was seeing. It didn't feel bad when I talked harshly to myself. I had no idea I was doing something wrong. My body, soul, and heart knew it, but my mind was unaware. I became rebellious, apathetic, careless. From time to time, when my body couldn't handle my mind anymore, I released my frustrations through an outburst of emotions that hurt anybody close to me.
The funny thing is, and I say funny because I already got over it, that in the evaluations there where more positive outcomes than bad ones. At ten years old, I presented an academic level of fourteen year old in the fields of narrative comprehension, story-making, and vocabulary. I discovered that recently, when my mom handed me the evaluation report. Nobody mentioned my natural abilities, which excelled my age. For too many years, I lived with the results of an evaluation that was negatively interpreted. When I was in college, I couldn't feel happy for the A's on my projects because I had gotten some B's and C's. I couldn't celebrate my achievements because mixed in them, there were signs of weakness. My mind would sabotage me again: I ain't that smart anyway, it was probably a kind teacher who gave me a good grade, the class was too easy. That is how trauma steals your mind and distorts your reality. Thankfully I have moved forward, and I can see it as a thing of the past; it is not true anymore, and it never really was.
I am learning to love myself. It started by accepting my talents and celebrating them. I am learning to appreciate myself and acknowledge my achievements. Today I believe in my capacity to do anything I set myself to do. I am finally free of that trauma. There are others, but I don't fear them anymore. Now that I own my mind, and my soul is my guide, traumas have diminished, they aren't monsters anymore. I can tackle them one by one.
The work is not done, it is never done. Life is in the process of learning and evolving. More Gina's are coming up, but for now, I will enjoy the Gina I am right now, which makes me happy and proud.
In case you are of the curious kind