Learning to Love the Differences: An Advantage to Multicultural Counseling
By: Lexxy Trujillo, Masters Level Intern
Growing up, I knew I was different. In the beginning, this cognition came about when noticing the obviously stark contrast between my many pale skinned counterparts and I. When reaching for a peach crayon in my cozy kindergarten classroom, as all those around me did, there was shame in realizing my self-portrait did not reflect the deep hues of my own skin, so obviously sun kissed by cherished hours spent rolling around in grass fields with my childhood teammates. But that shame never outweighed the embarrassment of daring to have a portrait that stuck out so boldly, to reach my arm across the table for a shade that better represented the skin I was born with. At that age, it wasn’t about the brown crayon versus the peach crayon. But about a deep internal desire to fit in, feel accepted, and be understood.
When I was old enough to understand the importance and implications behind the inner conflict between the brown crayon versus the peach crayon, I was distressed. No matter how hard I scrubbed the papaya soap, my skin remained to be a distinct contrast in comparison to my peers. I could buy all the same clothes from all the same stores, follow their makeup tips and tricks, change my gait to exude confidence, quiet my voice, and adjust my vocabulary to a more respectable vernacular. I was still different. I could see the difference. I could feel the difference.
My skin reflects my cherished time in the sun, spent under warm beams of light that so comfortingly hugs me on my lowest of days. It mirrors the same skin of my Hispanic father, who would move mountains for my bright smile. My nose, so prominent and distinct, always whispers subtle reminders of my Asian mother who taught me to laugh without care. My round cheeks, so lovingly passed down to me by my grandfather who taught an entire family how to love freely. I am different. I can see the difference. I can feel the difference. Nothing can change that. No longer do I feel the need to change who I am to love myself or feel beautiful. But it took me a long, hard-fought battle to reach this secure sense of self-love. A journey that forced me to confront the differences and deconstruct many concepts that were both explicitly introduced to me or subconsciously reinforced by cultures that would rather have me assimilate and change than accept or love me for who I am.
I am not ashamed of the rises and falls in my journey to self-love and acceptance. Instead, I aim to use them to assist in creating a positive change in my practice as a counselor with an emphasized interest in multicultural counseling. There were systematic and individual factors to society and in the cultures around me that subconsciously encouraged the nefarious whispers insisting that the only way I could fit in or be accepted was to emulate Eurocentric depictions of beauty. And these are only a few of the factors that refer to my journey of self-love. This doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of racism and microaggressions that have impacted my sense of safety, identity, and way of living throughout my life. Those same whispers also have negative connotations to the character and actions of people of color. Those same whispers are the reason why despite my good intentions and character, I’ve been closely stalked by accusatory eyes around stores as I shop for dog food and heckled by snarled smirks questioning the validity of my citizenship or English speaking capabilities during soccer games.
While I may not understand your exact circumstances, I understand the courage and bravery it takes to radically accept and love yourself. From the frustration of frying your hair to decay in attempts to emulate the girls on the billboards. To having to kindly smile and swallow pride in the face of racism in attempts to simply remain safe or not be ostracized. The journey it takes to proudly wear your skin. Seek a counselor you see yourself in or feel thoroughly understood by. They won’t just give you a pat on the back followed by kind words with hollow affirmations; They’ll lend a guiding hand in personal experience of the patience you deserve and understanding of the exact keys in which the melody your pain plays. Sympathy is great. But empathy can assist in creating additional spaces of comfort and lead to doors of self-discovery you may have previously never felt the safety to explore. At the very least you may simply feel seen, heard, or represented. And if those are the minimum of expectations, imagine the endless amount of possibilities that could be created in a space that encourages and affirms your special brand of growth! I am so proud of you. To be bold enough to have the audacity to love yourself in all your differences. Of course you deserve someone who assists in exploring, accepts, and celebrates every single special part that makes you uniquely you! Gone are the days we forgo the brown crayons and fear the bold spotlight.