6 Essential Self-Care Tips for Latinas to Cultivate Personal Connection

6 Essential Self-Care Tips for Latinas to Cultivate Personal Connection

Self-Care in the Latino Culture

You’ll be surprised to hear that in 2023 self-care remains a taboo subject in the Latino culture. We’re so used to pushing through life that we don’t have or create time to take care of ourselves and our well-being.

Our culture is around la familia for many of us. As Latinas, we are used to sacrificing our needs for others. When we don’t, we are called selfish even when – in reality – the person who is asking us to sacrifice our needs is being selfish themselves. There’s a natural fear of being labeled selfish by our family for wanting to take care of ourselves because of this.

Many of us don’t realize that when your life evolves around others all the time, it’s easy to lose your sense of self! Our natural evolution as humans is to develop a strong sense of self. This strong sense of self helps us feel confident, secure in ourselves, and safe navigating the uncertainty in the world no matter what challenges life throws at us.

If we had the “perfect” parents, this would happen during childhood. Our parents would teach us how to care for ourselves by how they take care of us and show up for us. They would teach us how to make sense of our feelings, how to make sense of the world, how to value ourselves, how to set boundaries, and how to voice our needs, just to name a few behaviors. Yet, in the Latino culture, our childhoods are often centered around survival and our parents’ needs, so we learn to ignore ours from a young age. This prevents us from creating a true sense of self and learning to care for ourselves.

The reality is that there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. It’s part of being human. When you take care of yourself, you can better show up for yourself and others. When you set time for self-care, you’ll also begin to discover who you are and find the path to healing. Below are six easy ways you can begin a self-care journey. These are the same practices I did – and still do – in my healing journey.

1. Meditation

Meditation is learning how to be more mindful, self-aware, calm, and at peace with yourself. There are different types of meditation. In some practices, you learn how to “empty” your mind from all the inner chatter and be more present in the moment. You’re not focused on the past or the future but on the now.

Other meditation styles are guided, and you visualize in your mind as a way to bring more awareness and calmness into your life. Other meditation approaches focus on the breath and using your breathing to help you ground yourself in the now. In some styles of meditation, you keep your eyes closed, and in others, you keep your eyes open.

No matter what form you choose, they all have the same goal: to help you learn how to become more self-aware and in touch with yourself. You’ll start to notice the thoughts you experience more, the sensations in your body, and what state of mind you’re in; which all can be helpful in your self-care journey.

2. Connecting with Nature

“There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human well­being,” says Lisa Nisbet, Ph.D., a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature.

The earth is a living being, and just like we have a nervous system, so does she! When you’re out in nature, you’re regulating your nervous system with hers. This is one of the reasons nature heals the soul and helps to ground us. Being in nature also helps you be in the present, which is vital not only for self-care but also to help with your personal connection.

Many of us Latinas also have Indigenous roots. Our Indigenous ancestors lived connected to the earth. Our Indigenous ancestors have done this for thousands of years! We’re doing what’s natural for us.

3. Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is another way to take care of yourself. We often neglect to take care of our bodies even though they are constantly working hard to keep us alive. What you may not know is that stress and trauma build up in the body. This means our bodies remember what happened to them from years ago. Imagine being a body and carrying the burdens of the past, year after year. You would get deeply exhausted after a while!

Massage therapy can be a supportive ally to help your body heal distress and let go of past pain. I have experience working in the spa industry. I can’t tell how many people leave after a massage crying because of how healing the experience was for them physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

There are different styles of massage out there. For example, there’s the gentle Swedish style to deep tissue or lymphatic massage that drains built-up fluids in your body, especially useful after a traumatic physical event. Massage can also help you experience deep relaxation, which is a cornerstone of self-care and connecting with yourself. You can always start with a Swedish massage and then test out other styles until you find the right one for you.

4. Creative Expression

Whether through dancing, painting, singing, writing, or any other type of art – expressing yourself is a powerful tool to support your self-care. Humans are creative beings, and it’s natural for us to want to express ourselves. You can use creativity to describe the most challenging feelings or experiences as a way to heal from them too!

I grew up around domestic violence in my home. At the age of seven, I used dance and singing to express all the uneasy feelings from being stuck in a home that only caused stress, confusion, and frustration in my life. In time, I started to perform, and then teach dance classes to kids. Watching these little ones use dance to express themselves and build confidence was rewarding for me! I used creativity to transform something painful in my life into something empowering that I could also share with others. This is the power of creative expression. The act of creative expression can help you make sense of feelings and thoughts.

5. Therapy and Coaching

Therapy and coaching are some of the most supportive allies for self-care and will help you connect with yourself. Sadly in our culture, they’re seen as something only crazy people do.

The reality is that therapy is something healthy people do because we all have experienced trauma. Healthy people acknowledge their trauma and do the work to heal from it. Trauma controls you if you choose not to heal from it. Healing from trauma helps you to take back your power, and this is healthy. You can use a resource like Psychology Today to find the right therapist.

Coaching can be supportive of your therapy journey because you can use it to help you develop life skills to navigate your life and reach your goals. As a Professional Goal Coach myself, I wish I had coaching when I was in college and even younger. My life was like many in our community, and I had to figure out how to navigate the world on my own. I would have been able to think about my goals more clearly if I had a coach earlier in my life. You can use a resource like International Coaching Federation to help you find a credentialed coach to support you in any area of your life.

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6. Spending Time Alone

Being alone can be frightening for most of us, especially for Latinas raised to stay close to their families. Yet it’s through spending time by yourself that you’ll begin to learn who you are and connect with yourself more. When I started my healing journey many years ago, this was one of the first things I started to do. I ate at restaurants, went to the park, attended events, and traveled by myself. I started doing everything I could think of to help me get over my fear of being alone. The more I did this the more I began to learn different things about myself that I didn’t know before! It was refreshing to realize that I didn’t have to live my life centered around someone else for once.

I invite you to select one of these six self-care tips and try it out for a few weeks. Notice how you feel before you start doing it and after. You’ll be surprised by the transformation that can occur in your life just by caring for yourself.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on June 21, 2023

First-Generation Trauma in the Latino Community

First-Generation Trauma in the Latino Community

Sharing My Story as a First-Generation Latina

After spending the past few years healing from trauma, I can look back at my past and acknowledge the trauma I experienced as a first-generation Latina. First-generation Latinos were born in a Latin American country and moved or were brought to the US, usually as children.

My intention in sharing my story is to help other first-generation Latinos who have similar experiences feel validated. After all, the norm in our community is not to talk about the trauma we’ve experienced. To break free from generational trauma, we must start talking about it.

As an immigrant from Mexico, I arrived in the U.S. when I was five. I remember feeling overwhelmed, confused, and numb being in a strange country. In Mexico, we lived in poverty in a pueblo. We lived humbly and connected to the land; we grew our food. Suddenly I was in an unfamiliar country, and this situation made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable.

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Common Struggles First-Generation Latinos Face

When my mom put me in kindergarten, she placed me with an English-speaking teacher. This teacher started calling me a name I had never heard before. In Mexico, my name, Mónica, was pronounced with an accent on the o. Suddenly this strange lady was calling me a different name and would get angry at me for not understanding her. She thought I was ignoring her when I didn’t understand she was addressing me.

During my elementary school years, I learned to make myself small to survive. As a new immigrant in this country, I learned that people like me were not safe here, which created feelings of shame. We constantly had to watch our backs and deal with racism, even from other white Latinos in our community. This took a toll on my mental health. I didn’t have any support from anybody, including my parents, to help me cope with the intense feelings of shame, overwhelm, and uncertainty. I felt like an imposter because I didn’t feel I belonged in this country.

Additionally, I lived in a home where both of my parents worked all the time, so my older siblings and I were constantly left alone to take care of ourselves. My upbringing didn’t prepare me for society’s demands. I had to teach myself, but how is an elementary-aged kid supposed to teach themselves things they don’t know? I grew up in a domestic violence atmosphere and being shamed for being a girl. Several family members told me not to let anybody know what was happing at home. My trauma took on more layers due to this.

In high school, I finally got fed up with my home situation. Living at home after high school was not an option for me. When I thought about this happening, I felt extreme dread and anxiety. I had to figure a way out! This was when I decided to go to college.

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My parents and family’s perception of me changed when I began college. Both of my parents put me on a pedestal. They thought I would be the person in our family to get us out of poverty and help make something of ourselves. This pedestal created a lot of anxiety in me. I felt the burdens of my parents’ dreams taking a toll on me. I thought it was my responsibility to create a new path for my younger siblings too. Due to this, I started developing anxiety attacks that made it challenging to attend class.

In college, there weren’t that many Latinos in my major or even in my school, so I felt isolated and had little support. I had nobody to look to for guidance since I was the first in my family to go to college. It was me trying to figure things out on my own. At one point, I started to see my school’s counselor for support, but she had no understanding of what it was like to be a first gen. What kept me pushing through this difficult time was the fear of failing to reach this goal and disappointing my entire family.

Even after I graduated from college, I started to have nightmares that I wouldn’t graduate. When I would wake up from my nightmare, I would remind myself that I already did that! These nightmares lasted for years.

After graduation, it took me six months to land my first professional creative job. This had its challenges. Even though I had a four-year degree that proved I could do the work, I felt like a fraud. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be at this job. I worked long hours to prove my worth and continued studying topics I had already learned in school. Being the only Latina working with the “higher-ups” was also challenging. I didn’t feel like I belonged, so when I was at work, I was by myself unless I had to attend team meetings.

After a few years of working at this company, I thought about looking for another job to help me develop my career. However, every time I thought about moving on, I would experience intrusive thoughts like, “Who would want to hire me!” I felt shame for thinking I could grow past where I was. After all, in my head, I thought, “People like me don’t get this far.” Eventually, I left this job after a near-death experience in a car accident, but that’s a different story.

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My Advice to Other First-Generation Latinos

It wasn’t until I started to heal from my immigrant and first-gen trauma that I began to have compassion for all my struggles and how far I had come in life. If you can relate to any of my experiences, I welcome you to be more compassionate towards yourself. As first-gen Latinos, we have unique experiences that nobody else in our family has. They don’t know what it’s like to create a new path that has never been walked before for future generations. They won’t know what it’s like to figure things out on your own even though you have no idea what you’re doing. They won’t know how traumatizing it can be to be the first in your family to go to college. They won’t know what it’s like to try and advance in your career only to feel more like an imposter the higher up you go. There aren’t many people who look like us up that ladder. All they see are the final results. They can’t see all the struggles and traumas we experienced to create those results.

If I could do this over again, I would also not take on my family’s burdens. I love them, but having those burdens put on me was harmful. Let’s not forget that our parents are adults and they can put in the effort to reach their own goals too. They should not be living their dreams through us! Our responsibility is to pursue our own dreams, to live our lives authentically, and to heal from the challenges we had to overcome to succeed and grow as first-gen Latinos.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on May 3, 2023

Machismo: 7 Ways It Impacts Latina Mental Health

Machismo: 7 Ways It Impacts Latina Mental Health

My Experience As a Latina Growing Up Around Machismo and Domestic Violence

I remember seeing my dad watching soccer every weekend when I was a child. When I became a teenager I made my school’s soccer team. I thought my dad would be proud of me.

I got home from practice dressed in my soccer gear and I saw my dad standing outside. He looked at me and then looked away. He pretended I wasn’t there. I felt confused. I was playing a sport that he enjoyed for so many years but instead of being proud of me, he looked disappointed. I felt sad and ashamed.

In his eyes, women were not supposed to play soccer, because it was a man’s sport. In fact, women aren’t supposed to do many things. Instead, they should be submissive, clean the home, do what the man says, and tolerate abuse.

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This is the home I grew up in. I have memories of watching my mom being physically, emotionally, and mentally abused by my dad and me intervening to make him stop when I was only two years old. I grew up being groomed as a five-year-old to be submissive and told that my place was in the kitchen and cleaning the house because I was a girl. My father demanded that I cook for him when I was a teenager because that was a “girl’s job.” I was told I wasn’t going to get far in life because I was a woman.

My living situation got to the point where I could no longer live around him anymore. I briefly lived in a foster home to get away from the abuse he inflicted on me. There was a positive result from this because it was this event that made the abuse stop. Suddenly, I had the police protecting me from him. The government told him that if he didn’t quit abusing his family, he would be sent to jail. It was the first time anyone stood up to him. It was the first time anyone stood up for me.

Being treated poorly because I was a girl made me feel so mad. I learned to disconnect from the natural gifts that come with being a woman so I could survive my dad – and men in general. I learned to be tough. I forced myself to learn how to stand up to men. I learned that I had to prove them wrong. The first time I proved my family – especially my dad – wrong was when I became the first person in my family to graduate from college.

I never realized how growing up within a machismo – toxic masculinity – culture impacted my life until I started to heal from my traumas. Let me provide some background on what machismo means.

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What is Machismo and Domestic Violence Statistics in the Latino Community

Machismo can be defined as, “a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity.”

Much of the violence within our community can be attributed to this concept of machismo.

A woman is a victim of femicide in Latin America every two hours,” according to research collected by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Machismo in the Latino community is alive and growing. This is something that is taught to boys and girls from a young age and normalized in our community for hundreds of years.

In fact, machismo remains so deeply embedded in our culture that, “violence against women has surged in Latin America; Mexico, in particular, has seen an unprecedented amount of femicides and crimes against women. Violent offenses against women have increased by 7.7% since the beginning of 2020,” according to research collected by Achona, the student-run newspaper of the Academy of the Holy Names, based in Tampa, Fla.

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The 7 Ways Machismo and Domestic Violence Affects Latina Mental Health 

Here are some ways that living with machismo impacted me as a Latina – as I share some valuable insights on how machismo impacts our community’s mental health. These insights are based on my healing journey and don’t represent the experience of every Latina. However, I encourage you to see if any of these observations resonate with you:

  1. We feel emotionally and physically unsafe in the world: Trauma gets stored in our minds and bodies even if we’re unaware of it. Exposure to violence as children causes us to live in a constant state of fear. Our brains can’t develop naturally as a result. Our bodies become accustomed to living in fear, which creates a baseline. In order to protect ourselves, we develop coping mechanisms where we are always on edge. 
  2. We feel ashamed of being women: For those of us who grew up in an abusive environment where we saw our mothers being treated poorly, we develop internal shame. We rely on our parents to help us regulate our emotions. But in an abusive environment, our self-esteem isn’t able to safely develop, so we can get stuck in a cycle of self-hate that makes it difficult to love ourselves and build a secure sense of self. 
  3. It makes it difficult to trust men: We may develop trust issues with men because the important men in our lives – our fathers – were toxic. The opposite could also happen where we trust too easily. Many times we gravitate towards toxic men because that’s what’s familiar to us. This continues the cycle of abuse. 
  4. We feel a loss of not growing up with the support and protection we needed from our fathers: Fathers play an important role in teaching their daughters self-worth and helping them to feel safe in the world. The challenge of feeling safe, loved, and relating to men in healthy ways is complicated when we grow up with fathers who didn’t play this role in our lives. The result of this lack of care is we become vulnerable to narcissistic men. These narcissists will “love bomb” to manipulate and control us. We may trust these types of men blindly if we aren’t used to this kind of attention because this is the attention we needed from our own fathers as children. 
  5. We repeat the toxic cycle of abuse: Living with abusive people becomes normal since we grew up surrounded by domestic violence. We may end up in toxic relationships with toxic men because we aren’t able to recognize the red flags. 
  6. We can develop extreme masculine traits: Growing up with domestic violence forced some of us to develop extremely masculine traits as a coping mechanism. We became tough as a protective mechanism to survive. As a result, we have difficulty putting down our guard around men and trusting they’ll be there for us. 
  7. We can develop health issues: Growing up with constant fear and stress keeps our bodies and minds on edge. Our minds and bodies get affected by this as we age. There are many health issues we may develop, including anxiety, depression, and burnout, among other potential health issues due to these stressors.

These are some of the impacts that living with machismo can have on Latinas. There are a lot more! It might feel challenging to take this in but it’s something we have to examine closely if we want our community to heal and grow.

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I encourage you to take a moment to understand how exposure to domestic violence and machismo can leave lasting – but invisible – scars on your children, especially if you’re a Latina living with an abusive partner. As we grow older few of us are courageous enough to do the work to face machismo head-on and heal from its effects. These impacts might last a lifetime if your kids don’t get the right support from a young age but you have the power and the tools if you’re willing to walk down that path.

Even if you don’t have children, but you grew up around machismo or you’re with a toxic partner, I hope this article will help you recognize the red flags that machismo and domestic violence have had on you. You can start to take control back and heal from your past if you’re ready to make different choices and begin this healing journey. You deserve it!

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on April 3, 2023

Recreate The American Dream To Honor Your Latino Roots By Mónica O. Duarte

Recreate The American Dream To Honor Your Latino Roots By Mónica O. Duarte

We All Want the American Dream

If you’re an immigrant and Latina like me, you probably grew up with the notion of moving to the United States to live a better life and live the American dream. Your parents constantly discussed it in your childhood home while they struggled to put food on the table.

Talking about going to el Norte was mysterious to me as a child. Why did the adults talk about it all the time? Why was it better than the place I grew up in? And what the heck was the “American dream?” I never realized we were poor and how much my family was struggling. This drove my parents to move to the United States, and live the American dream.

Se Te Ve El Nopal En La Frente

I remember my mom reminding us many times not to forget our roots after we moved to the U.S. For example, in our culture, we have the saying, “se te ve el nopal en la frente” meaning “you can see the cactus on your forehead.” It means that you’re so Mexican we can see the cactus from the Mexican flag on you, so don’t pretend to be something else! My mom would often say this to me so I would not forget my humble beginnings and that although I lived in the U.S., I was still Mexican.

After we arrived, I would continue to hear about the idea of the American dream, not just from other Mexicans but also from Caucasian folks. When I watched T.V., I saw white folks in fancy cars, houses, and things – without a care in the world. Was this what my parents were talking about when they said they wanted a better life and to live the American dream?

Growing Up Around Systemic Racism

As I got older, the issues of systemic racism reared its ugly head, and I realized that if I wanted to live the American dream, I had to learn to assimilate. I had to put my nopal on the back burner and try to be and sound more Caucasian. As a Mexican, brown, and Indigenous young girl, it wasn’t easy to live in a country where who you are is wrong. To succeed and live the American dream you must try to be something you’re not. Being told this constantly by the media, other people, and how this country is set up started to impact my self-esteem so much that when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t like what I saw. I felt ashamed of being me. I felt ashamed of my roots.

So to cope with this shame, I started to assimilate unconsciously. I dyed my hair blonde and started to imagine what my life would be like if this country accepted me. What would my life be like if I could live the American dream? I can look back now and see how unhealthy this kind of thinking was. Yikes! I didn’t know better. And yet it was the idea of the American dream and wanting to belong that pushed me to be the first in my family to go to and graduate from college to actually live the dream.

During college, I immersed myself in everything Caucasian. My first boyfriend was Caucasian and I was exposed to a different culture and an unfamiliar world. It was a fancier world filled with privilege – something I had never experienced before.



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When Your Life Gets Turned Upside Down… You Grow From It

Then at the age of twenty-four, I went through a near-death experience in a car accident, which put my entire life into perspective. I realized that who I had become was not someone I knew nor recognized. I realized I didn’t know who I was. What did I like? What did I dislike? What were my dreams and goals in life? I had become what others wanted me to be and I almost completely lost myself.

I started to get into spirituality to help me find myself, but it was not until I began doing trauma work that I started to heal internally, see myself clearly, and reclaim my true self. During my healing process, I learned how much harm society inflicted on me when it constantly told me that who I was as a Mexican, brown, and Indigenous woman was wrong. Since a child, the Caucasian culture groomed me to create inner distortions of myself – to bend myself like a pretzel in order to belong, which caused deep trauma.

As I started to dig deeper and heal more, I realized the American dream I grew up being told about for many years was racist. This dream didn’t include people like me. This dream was a dream that Caucasian folks created based on their culture and lifestyle – based on what worked for them. I didn’t want to live a life with a white picket fence, a bunch of fancy cars, 2 ½ kids, working myself to death to make enough to pay for all the fancy things I had to impress others, and being detached from my feelings, my true sense of Self, and my humanity. I didn’t want it anymore if that was the American dream.

Recreating the American Dream

Instead, I realized I could create my own American dream – or is it a Mexican one? One that fits me as I am with my nopal el la frente and everything else that comes with it. I could still create an easier life while being authentic to who I am as a Mexican woman and to my Indigenous roots. I didn’t have to give any of that up. It was one of the most liberating feelings ever when I truly understood this! All I had to do was be myself and live a life that supported that – not the other way around.

Probing Questions to Help You Recreate the America Dream to Honor Your Latino Roots

You don’t have to give up who you are either to live the American dream. Instead, create your own as a Latina!

Here are some probing questions that will help you discover this. I highly suggest you journal your answers. Who knows what deeper insights you might gain that can shift how you see yourself?

  1. What does the American dream mean to you as a Latina?

  2. What parts of your idea of the American dream come from you and which come from the society you live in/the environment that you were raised in?

  3. What parts are you willing to let go of that don’t belong to you – to truly honor who you are as a Latina? Do you notice any fears that come up when you think about this? If so get curious about them.

  4. If you could look into your future self where you’re honoring who you are as a Latina and living your dreams, what do you see and feel? What advice would this future self give to you about how you might shift what the American dream means to you and how to create it?

Answering these questions will support you as you uncover what the American dream means to you as a Latina and how to begin to move forward in recreating it.

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Healing From Your Traumas

The other part of recreating the American dream is working to heal from your traumas. Traumas create distortions of how we see ourselves and it’s not until we heal from them that we can finally start to see ourselves and others clearly. This also impacts our dreams and goals. We can create distorted dreams and goals due to these traumas. In my opinion, this is how the idea of the American dream originated in some aspects and why they forgot to include folks that are minorities and of other cultures.

You Can Create Your Own Dream

Know that you have the power in you to create whatever dream you want that’s authentic to you. You don’t have live someone else’s dream or be something you’re not. Instead, you can discover what your dream is by doing this deeper work.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on August 17, 2022

How Imposter Syndrome Trauma Impacts Latinas By Mónica Duarte

How Imposter Syndrome Trauma Impacts Latinas By Mónica Duarte

Being Latina is beautiful, from our culture to our language and even our Indigenous roots. We have a lot to be proud of and grateful for, yet almost every Latina I interviewed for research I’ve been conducting shared with me that they experience imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.

I can strongly relate to this as an immigrant myself. I’m originally from México and my parents brought me to the U.S. when I was five years old. Navigating the ups and downs of this new country was challenging. But I never realized I had experienced imposter syndrome trauma until years later. I call it trauma because as a Certified Latina Coach specializing in trauma (who has healed from a lot of it) that’s what it truly is: a trauma. Let me share how this trauma uniquely impacts Latinas and what you can do to overcome this to live your fullest potential.


Many people in this world can relate to the idea of imposter syndrome. Yet, for us Latinas (and Latinos), this trauma has much deeper roots that originate from colonization. History shows that when the Europeans invaded our lands, they made a point to try to remove our Indigenous roots. They did so by taking our ancestors’ land, culture, language, and sense of self. This caused deep traumas that taught them it was no longer safe to be who they are or celebrate their culture. Anytime they tried to reclaim their rights, they were abused and even killed.

On an unconscious level, this taught our ancestors that being who they are was wrong and it was not something to be proud of – including their successes. This is how imposter syndrome trauma works. Being constantly told that who you are is wrong makes it nearly impossible to feel good about yourself and your success. So how does it impact Latinas today?

Colonization remains alive today in subtle ways. The past traumas continue to impact us. As we carry the traumas of our ancestors in our DNA, the idea of imposter trauma syndrome becomes something that has taken over our beautiful culture and something that we must heal from if we want to take our power back.

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According to the CDC, epigenetics is the study of how your environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. For example, the BBC documentary, The Ghost in Your Genes, explains how the environment and stressors that your mom experienced caused certain parts of your genes to shut off. This means that whatever traumas your mom experienced while she was pregnant with you, – they were passed down to you even though you weren’t born yet. The same goes for your mom’s mom and her mom’s mom and her mom’s mom. Whatever traumas your ancestors experienced were passed down to you even though you weren’t alive when your ancestors experienced them.

So in your DNA, you’re encoded with the history of your ancestors and their past. This is impacting you in fundamental ways without you knowing it. Imposter syndrome trauma is one explanation for why colonization silently affects Latinas. The traumatic events your ancestors experienced that caused them internal pain, a sense of feeling ashamed of who they are, and a sense of not belonging in the world are still alive in our ethnicity from a genetic perspective.

Realizing this can be a huge revelation that can cause sadness and even anger, but there’s hope! Let me share some powerful tools that can support you in healing from this. You don’t have to live with this trauma or pass it down to future generations.

Systemic Racism

When I first moved to the U.S., I remember my parents telling me in different ways not to do anything that would make me stand out. As a child, this impacted me deeply.

In kindergarten, I was in a classroom with a teacher who only spoke English. The pronunciation of my name in my home and country was different. Suddenly, this white lady I didn’t know was calling me a name I didn’t understand. She would get furious at me for not understanding her when she called me this name that was not mine. Soon I realized that my name had changed and I had to be okay with it.

When my parents were working on getting our legal papers, the white man who was helping us yelled at my mom and told her we should go back to México and that we didn’t belong here. I saw my mom crying and as a little girl, I suddenly felt myself feeling ashamed of being Mexican and felt genuine fear for my life.

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I’m the first in my family to graduate from college. During my first quarter, I realized how much I stood out from everyone else in my classes who were mostly Caucasian. I learned I had to assimilate into the mainstream culture if I wanted to graduate from school and be successful.

After I landed my first job as a Graphic Designer, I worked with a group of women who made a point to make me feel like an outcast because I didn’t fit in with their culture.

These are some of the many personal experiences I’ve had with systemic racism in the U.S. and I can only imagine what other Latinas have gone through.

We live in the land of the free, but as Latinas, we’re told from a young age that if we want to succeed, we must assimilate and look more Caucasian. Some don’t have the option of doing that because we can’t change our skin color. Being constantly told this causes imposter syndrome trauma. When the outer world is persistently telling you that who you are is wrong – you learn to tell yourself that internally. No success becomes enough because you feel pulled to prove to others that who you are is enough and yet when you do this you’re giving your power away. This only continues to feed into the cycle of systemic racism and the colonization trauma we carry from our ancestors.

So how can you overcome imposter syndrome, begin to take your power back, and own yourself?

1. Heal From Imposter Syndrome Trauma

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for Latinas to heal from imposter syndrome trauma. As a Latina who has done the work to heal, I feel completely different now than I did two years ago. I no longer feel the need to change myself to be liked by anybody, no matter their race or ethnicity. I’m proud to talk about my Indigenous roots and educate others about our culture and experiences.

Additionally, when a Caucasian person is being unkind to me, I tell them firmly and respectfully how I like to be treated. Most of them don’t expect this from someone like me. They assume women like us will shut up, do the work, and keep our heads down. I’m not like that anymore, and it’s not because I’m special. It’s because I did the inner work. Now I speak up, and I’m proud of myself every time. By doing this, I’m teaching others what is acceptable if they want to be in my life. I know I have the right to be treated respectfully, especially as a Latina.

Additionally, I’ve worked with other Latinas who had traumas that caused angry spells and left them feeling unsafe with putting themselves out in the world. By doing trauma work, I have seen their transformation from being angry and feeling small to being more empowered in their lives and free. They’re no longer controlled by those traumas and can finally be more of their true selves.

A note of advice: if you decide to walk this path, make sure that you work with someone — either a therapist or coach — who has the proper training in trauma. They’ll understand your struggles as a Latina who has done the work for themselves.

2. Connect with Latinas Working on Themselves

There’s nothing more powerful than being part of a community that supports your inner growth. Unfortunately, our culture hasn’t accepted that taking a deeper look at trauma or finding new ways to work through it is okay. Some Latinas and Latinos may push back and say that doing this type of work is for “locos.” They’ll start comparing themselves to us, how hard their lives were and how they’re fine. These individuals don’t understand how trauma works because not wanting to examine your trauma is a trauma response. This is why it’s so important that while you work to heal from imposter syndrome trauma or any trauma you surround yourself with other Latinas who are doing the same. We’re out there; you just have to look.

3. Learn to Trust Yourself and Access Your Inner Resources

Imposter syndrome trauma happens because you learn to internalize what others think of you and how they treat you. In order to heal from this, you must learn to access your inner wisdom and resources to trust yourself again. In doing this, you’ll start to feel stronger in yourself and more naturally confident. You’ll learn to give yourself what you’ve been seeking from the outside world: validation and acceptance. Imagine knowing and trusting yourself so deeply that you can create your own inner confidence. If you’re looking to go on this path, I highly recommend working with a therapist or coach that will support you in this. You can also find books and online courses that support your journey.

Final Thoughts

My intention after reading this is that it will help you make more sense of yourself, and how imposter syndrome trauma impacts you as a Latina. To support you in becoming aware that you don’t have to be so hard on yourself anymore. Instead, you can begin to take steps to heal. If you have any questions about this that you would like answered in a future article, let me know!

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on August 1, 2022