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My mother’s absolute favorite story to tell me and her friends is how she came up with my name. She had seen an American movie in Brazil with her family when she was 18, in which a father was looking for his daughter. The girl in the movie was: pale, kind, innocent, and there, while watching, my mother fell in love with the idea of having a daughter. She saw the little girl's two pigtails and heard her sweet voice shout for her dad. Her name was Nicole. My mother fixated on having her own sweet little girl, just as pale, kind, and innocent as the Nicole in the movie. Once I was born, that was my role whether I liked it or not.

My parents immigrated from Brazil to America for the American dream, and prayed for a better life for themselves and their future children. Growing up, I tried my absolute best to be the perfect child for my parents so that they didn’t feel they had left their home country for no reason. I grew up with this unspoken expectation but felt the need to live up to it. I had been referred to as an “anjo do céu” (angel from heaven) by my parents, and my six year old mind came to believe it so much that I had truly thought I had fallen from heaven with angel wings. I treated everyone with kindness which years later I realized I was naive and my kindness created opportunities for people to take advantage of me. Wanting to keep my angel image, I had trouble being able to say no to things or defending myself. My friends would always ask me to help them with work or my old manager would ask me to stay longer for work and I never denied them. Although I was being kind to others, I wasn't being kind to myself and my boundaries. I never showed anger nor frustration, because that wasn't expected of me.

My entire life I had always felt conflicted with myself because I never understood why I felt the need to be perfect. I was kind and respectful in actuality, but of course when I was younger I wanted to get into trouble-- I wanted to talk back to my parents or to stay up like how many kids were. I wished I had been able to make mistakes and not beat myself up about it.

In my mind I blamed my parents for it and for creating high expectations for me, but in reality it never was their fault. My parents have never shown me anything but unconditional love but I thought that their love was for a version of me that was not my true self. I wasn't actually being myself, but what I thought they wanted me to be.

During quarantine, I was isolated and had a lot of time to myself to be with me. I wasn’t trying to live up to other people’s expectations. And I realized that who I had tried to be no longer resonated with me. I’ve come to realize that I don't need to be perfect. I can have my own opinions and I can say no to people. I’ve learned to love my personality and to allow myself to feel anger and sadness. I don't have to be the Nicole from the movie, but my own Nicole. I love the person I am now and who I am becoming.

© Nicole Bianchi. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.