“Confident” “Poderosa” “Bad B*tch” ”Boss” “Jefa” are all words put on us as Latinx womxn on a daily basis from a very young age. I remember being a teenager and feeling like I had to be all of these words without really understanding what they meant. The media and the world tell us we are supposed a certain way but no one really tells us how we get to be these confident and powerful jefas. For me growing up these words seemed like characters I was supposed to put on and act like, not someone I was. These characters in mainstream media are portrayed as having it all together and presented perfectly all while strutting a perfect red lip and gold hoops. These words and characters put an expectation on me of never being able to have insecurities and always showing my best self to the world. For many years I learned how to put on these characters but never really felt like it truly reflected who I was.
It wasn’t until I started to go to therapy, do research, get into recovery, and begin bodywork (massage therapy that helps release stored trauma and emotions in our muscles) that I learned a new word, “Self-Esteem.” Self-esteem is defined as “the degree to which the qualities and characteristics contained in one’s self-concept are perceived to be positive.”
So after all these years of trying to put on this character of having it all figured out, I realized that in order to be this secure, confident, and a jefa – I had to begin to work on seeing myself as a womxn with esteem-able qualities and characteristics. All along I thought self-esteem was something you were born with and not something that could be worked on and built upon.
When reading up and learning about the word I noticed how often people used the terms “high” or “low” to describe the measurement of self-esteem. As someone who has struggled with “low” self-esteem for a long time, I realized how harmful those words were to my self-esteem because of how often my self-esteem would fluctuate. It wasn’t until I started to view my self-esteem from the perspective of “secure” and “fragile” did I start to have a real shift on how to positively relate to my self-esteem. These are terms that I started to frame my self-esteem around and are not formally used but reframing them into this perspective helped me judge myself less and feel more confident in my journey to building my self-esteem.
The terms low and high tend to have good and bad connotations in general. When I started to see my self-esteem being in a secure and fragile state, it gave me a better way of learning how to care for my self-esteem. Because what does “high” or “low” even mean? When I think of the word secure it’s clear to me, that secure means safe, stable, and free of harm. As far as “low” that word always triggered me to feel like a failure or like it was bad that I was in a “low’ self-esteem place. When I am in a place where my self-perception is skewed and false, I learned to begin to see it as “fragile”. The word “fragile” for me reminds me of a delicate glass figure or an important item that needs some extra care and attention in order to be protected. So with this new framework of secure and fragile self-esteem, I started to judge myself less and started to develop tools that help keep my self-esteem secure and help repair and care for it when it’s in a fragile state. With this in mind, I’ve used three practices to care for my self-esteem: establishing a morning routine, secure relationships, and affirmations.
My morning routine is the most essential tool for keeping my self-esteem in a secure place. It’s important to note that my morning routine is what works for me and everyone’s morning routine can look very different but the crucial point is to have one! Mine has shifted throughout the years but in the last three years, a few elements have stayed the same with a fluctuation here and there.
I am a snoozer so I have to put an alarm that is about an hour before I actually want to wake up because the bed feels so comfy and safe, that I don’t ever want to leave. Once I am awake the first thing I do is practice Vipassana meditation – sometimes it’s 10 mins, sometimes it’s an hour — it depends on how long I have been snoozing. Meditation helps clear my mind of all of the junk and voices that are swirling around there by helping me see reality as it is. As someone who struggles with fragile self-esteem at times, I have trouble seeing reality for what it is and start to go down a shame spiral of how I wish things were different. Meditation helps me see myself fully and be in an acceptance of who I am in that moment.
Once I am done meditating, I do morning pages. I write for three pages whatever is on my mind without judgment which helps the perfectionist in me. Being able to just write out what is going on in my life or maybe a song or script idea without thinking about what I am going to do with it gets my creative juices flowing and takes the pressure of having it be “perfect”.
Last but not least is prayer and meditation readings. Prayer has been a huge shift for me, whatever our higher power may be or simply talking to our higher selves allows us to connect to our intention for the day. When I pray I try to ask for the good of all and how I can be of service to others.
Having a morning routine gives me a sense of accomplishment right off the bat. Me siento orgullosa! I feel connected to myself, know that my intentions are pure, and I am ready to show up to whatever the world is about to offer me that day. Make a list of one to three things that you can start to do every morning for yourself. Be gentle with yourself, it has taken me years to do these practices on a daily basis. Keep waking up each morning and try again, the fact of even trying will help you feel like you’re working towards a goal. I sometimes fall asleep meditating but hey I try, It’s about reflecting in the morning, not perfecting.
As much as my morning routine sets me up for success, I never know who or what I am going to encounter in my day-to-day life that may trigger my self-esteem to become fragile. I can’t control everyone I interact with, but I can control the people I keep close to me. Being someone who can tend to get into a fragile place with my self-esteem, it’s become vital for me to surround myself with people who are understanding of that and help me repair and love me when I am in a fragile place.
I am extremely blessed to have a large support system. I have more than a handful of people in my life I can call when my self-esteem is fragile. I am very clear about who these people are. I know exactly who I can call crying at 1 PM on a workday because I feel like my team is all mad at me for making a mistake. Having good friends and family is important as they don’t judge us. They see us for where we are and help us get back to a secure place. This myth that to be a secure person is to lift yourself up all the time is exactly that, a myth. People who have secure self-esteem know that asking for help is healthy.
In an ideal world, I could always pick myself up when I am in a state of needing reassurance. The truth is, we are human and are meant to be of service and support to one another. So make a list of 1-5 people who you know are safe to call/text when you are in a fragile state that can help remind you of the secure self-esteem you have within you. Having that list is helpful to look to, especially when we are activated because we tend to forget that these people are safe and will not judge or shame us.
Affirmations are a great way to remind ourselves of the great qualities we hold, especially in moments when we can’t remember the bigger picture. When first starting affirmations they may seem a bit awkward or like they aren’t really working but the more we practice them the more comfortable we become with saying them and the more we begin to see the results.
I like to look at the areas of my self-esteem that are fragile and write down affirmations from there. For example: If recently I have been struggling with being single then I will think of affirmations that remind me that I am not alone like: I am loved. I am supported. I have healthy boundaries. I am protected. The key to affirmations is really personalizing them and relating to the areas that we need affirming. I take it a step further and look for examples of how I am loved, supported, protected, etc. This helps really cement that these are not just words I am saying but my reality and lived experiences.
Growing up having childhood Complex PTSD, PTSD, addictions, and generational trauma has been a struggle to secure my self-esteem but the work it took to find and develop these tools has done wonders for my life. Using these tools has helped me live a life where I feel, more often than not, secure in my self-esteem. The first step to any journey is admitting that is something to be changed or worked on, that first step for me was learning how to give myself grace. The shift of perspective from “high” and “low” self-esteem to “secure” and “fragile” self-esteem was a big step for me because it took me out of the space of judging myself and into a framework of loving myself.
If you are struggling with your self-esteem, please first be gentle with yourself. Most of us actually fluctuate in our self-esteem more than we lead others to perceive that we do. We live in a culture where we are not taught to share when our self-esteem is fragile but more to flaunt when it’s seemingly “high”. Hence these toxic archetypes we see portrayed of Latinx womxn in the media. A journey to secure self-esteem takes time, it’s a lifelong journey. Securing our self-esteem takes daily practice and intention. If you are looking to secure your self-esteem take into consideration some of the tools above, seek out therapy, and research recovery programs(most of them are free, it’s just about finding the literature that speaks to you most. Not all recovery is about addiction), and most importantly do research to see what works best for you. There are also great books you can begin reading that help guide us to more secure self-esteem. Here are a few that helped me along my journey: Big Magic, #HealthyAdult, The Gifts of Imperfection, The Artist Way, Attached.
Remember this is your journey, no one else’s. I learned the more I embraced my personal unique way of recovering and healing, the more I became the confident, bad b*tch, podersa, jefa I was always born to be.
One of the biggest tools I have learned is that the answers are already within me, I just need to ask my higher power to lead me to them.