A L W A Y S  L O V E  Y O U R S E L F 

The #SoyYoSoyHermosa Project was created by Lissette Pedreiras to bring 11 women together and share our stories, our insecurities and how we are battling self-judgement one day at a time... how we have learned to love ourselves just as we are and how we are driving that confidence out into the world one woman at a time. Below is my story...

If you could see little Erika, you wouldn't believe we are the same girl. Growing up I was a very shy little girl, I would say that it wasn't until I was in college that I became the confident, social butterfly that I am today. Over the years something clicked and I am happy that it did.

As a child, I was always the girl on her mama's lap at parties and wouldn't participate in any of the games because I was too shy to dance in front of anyone or do anything in big crowds for that matter. Elementary school was tough because I didn't know any English at all... I was in the ESL program and didn't know anyone in that school. It was probably one of the toughest years of my childhood. Within one year I learned English and made a couple of friends... still a very shy, sheltered little girl.

I remember being in middle school not knowing who I was during those super awkward years. I wanted to fit in so badly, I wanted curly hair just like all the Puerto Rican and Dominican girls in my school, I wanted to dress cool but my mom couldn't afford it and I just didn't feel like I belonged. I still missed my beloved Ecuador and the warmth and love I grew up surrounded by. Besides trying to find myself as a teenager during those weird years I was also bullied by these girls who made up a rumor that I was a lesbian... I have no issues with lesbians but I knew I wasn't it. But imagine being 12-13 and having this rumor about you at school. I remember my mom had to come in to the school and speak to the counselor about this bullying, I remember I cried. I guess, thinking back, I was what they would call a "goody-two-shoes" but I didn't mean to be, lol, I was simply a really good kid with excellent grades... I had straight A's all throughout middle school and even made it in the Honor's Society Club. So you know kids, they hate even from an early age. 

In high school, I got my first C ever! I wanted to die and I am pretty sure my mom wanted to kill me, lol... I blame it on boys! I had the biggest crush on this boy and was finally coming out of my shell. I made some amazing friends and HS was the highlight of my student life for sure. Now I don't want to credit any boy for my confidence (I rather give all the glory to God!) but that boy I had a crush on in 9th grade eventually became my boyfriend by the time I was a Senior. After two long years of dating, he broke my heart and (of course!) I thought I was going to die. We truly are so stupid when we are teenagers! Lol. 

Something clicked back then and I remember telling myself no one was ever going to hurt me that way again. I prayed that I didn't feel so heartbroken anymore, I prayed for confidence and self love. And it worked... I took public speaking in college and killed my presentation that semester and I started loving speaking in public and was definitely more outgoing. I became a happier more confident young woman. Somehow that sad time in my life gave me a new perspective on how I truly wanted to be and the expectations and goals I wanted to set for myself. Jesus has his ways and I love him eternally for that. 

So sure there are a couple things I love about my body but what I love most is the confident woman I have become over the years. If you told me back then I would be a blogger and speak at several panels, host live TV shows and share photos of myself for a living, I would have laughed at you! Life is wild... you have to learn how to love yourself for who you are in order to see what God has already planned for you. Every experience and event during your life has a purpose. Trust... I look back and laugh because I know God always had this plan for me. If you are still here, thanks for reading a little bit about my story... I hope that it helps you in any way possible and reminds you to always love yourself first.

This is my story but I would like to invite you to read the story of another 10 women who like you and me have felt insecure or "not enough" in the past. Head on over to @liiraven's blog to read all our stories. I hope it this project inspires you to feel more confident in your skin and to always always love yourself! Thanks to Lissette, Geri and David for putting this project together so beautifully! Here are some more shots from this magical day...