Self-expression hasn't always been easy thing to do for NaturallyCurly Content Editor Devri. Here, she shares the moment that made her realize embracing her cultures was not an option. 

My favorite part of myself?

Practicing vulnerability in sharing my life experiences while encouraging others to do the same. At the same time, I have learned to remain self-aware and unapologetically speak my personal truth. I am proud of all of my colors; I am sure to wear them with a major sense of pride in everything I do, every single day.

However, it hasn't always been this way. Like many young disadvantaged and underprivileged girls, especially of color and other intersections, I was bullied for my interests and looks for much of my grade school days. 

If I am being honest here, facing questions of self-doubt in my choice of self-expression is an ongoing challenge.

Although I cannot say that I have ever had issues with a lack in self-confidence, I have felt pressure to minimize it for the sake of blending in with my surroundings. The perfectionist in me has had a never-ending craving of being accepted. Watching family members, friends, and colleagues display blatant self-hatred has always made me question whether or not my overshooting rendered feeling guilty at the end of each day. I constantly teetered with the idea of putting my glow on display for the world to see versus practicing modesty in my self-expression.

Being mindful of others oftentimes felt like a heavy burden because I wasn't fully allowing myself to be, well, myself.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I decided to lift that burden from myself and remain my own definition of authentic with no regard to the projected image that someone else portrayed me to be for their own comfort. Once I started focusing on my desires and needs, it all made sense.

My childhood struggles are the reason I now intentionally embrace each life challenge.

I feel so connected to my inner self that I choose to listen to my instinct when it is telling me to walk away from a person or situation that no longer serves its best interest. Vibes speak volumes. An ill-fitting garment will beg you to take it off the rack, mosey on over to the dressing room and spend some quality time with it, then have the nerve to convince you to make a long-term commitment by paying the price to take it home. The same goes for some environments and relationships. Toxicity is in abundance--I make a continuous effort to dodge it, even if that makes me appear to be a [fill in the blank] to my peers in the process.

 

Toxicity is in abundance. I make a continuous effort to dodge it--vibes speak volumes.
Devri Velazquez

My first taste of nonconformity made me the leader of a personal rebellion.

And I kind of liked it.

I went to a public high school with a predominately Black and Mexican population. One day I decided to wear a belt that boasted the Mexican flag on it. I had two reasons: my father, who is Mexican, praised my decision to purchase it, and I liked it. But once I got to school, I could not understand why some kids were not happy with the belt. Mind you, since my mother is Black and my core group of friends were also Black, this was the first time I decided to publicly display pride in the other side of my ethnic background, which might excuse the look of confusion some people gave me. I also had no clue until years later what cultural appropriation was, and offending anyone was definitely the opposite of my intentions that day. I remember being called derogatory names which made me feel alienated and like a disgrace.

I asked myself, "Was my decision in poor taste?" I went home that evening and pondered if wearing the belt was a horrible mistake. Then I realized how silly I sounded, basing my need for approval by people who hadn't gotten the chance to know me well enough to even know that my last name was Velazquez.

As I am sure many mixed-race people experience throughout life, this was a turning point in realizing the importance of self-identity.

From that point forward I started unapologetically choosing to accept and embrace every colorful part of my identity despite what the 'cool' crowd expected of me. What could have simply been a fashion faux pas gave me a taste of what it was like to express my pride outwardly. I can relate this situation to the current climate of the beauty industry, which has shifted to focus on more inclusion which is heartwarming--when it is done right. Still, I feel like much of the big name brands and their ad campaigns still seem to come across as exploitative of some races, cultures, and belief systems which reinforce the need for authentic, accurate representation.

 

How do you cultivate inner confidence through your 'imperfections'?

We'd love to know. Tell us on Facebook and share your experience below.

Follow me on Instagram @DevriVelazquez

Photos by @Monique_Rdz

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