By Alice Kanitz Sanchez, Bud Class of 2015

In one of my favorite genre flicks, insecure bassist Scott Pilgrim finally obtains the Power of Love in the form of a sword and battles it out with the villain to win the heart of Ramona Flowers. However, in a crucial moment, his sword of love is broken and he is killed. Thankfully, he had an extra life (it’s a weird movie), and it’s with the Power of Self-Respect that he ultimately prevails.

The power of self-respect and its cousin, the superpower of self-acceptance, were two of the hardest things for me to obtain. I came from college as a Third-Culture Kid—someone who has spent significant time outside of one’s parents’ culture during their formative years. I wasn’t quite Brazilian like my birth certificate said, I wasn’t really Mexican or Venezuelan like the past seven years of apartments would indicate, and I sure as hell wasn’t Texan. Of course I knew certain norms of politeness and friendmaking, but I didn’t know how to relate to kids who lived their entire lives within the same block. I hyperfocused on how different I was from everyone: my accent slipped, I knew no one aside from my boyfriend, and I didn’t realize everyone went to school in fleece jackets and leggings instead of skirts and plum lipstick.

So I did my best to mimic what everyone else wore. I pivoted conversations from “what do you mean you’ve never seen The Office?” to “yeah, that one party was crazy!” I deleted all the Facebook pictures of my high school pink hair, and I stopped telling people where I was from if I could help it. I chose a specific major that didn’t spark for me because I thought I probably should. I was never content with who I was, watching my back to see if anyone would figure out I wasn’t cool like I pretended to be.

Then several things happened. My sophomore year, I met a group of friends who loved me for who I was, and they accepted me. My junior year, I leaned into WOE with my whole heart, coming away with friends who I am sure will turn into bridesmaids. I never knew I was likable without putting on a costume. Maybe I was worthy of the power of love; I would die for any one of the people I cherish. So why was I still unhappy?

There are many things I don’t like about myself. I can be inflexible and self-absorbed. I can be irresponsible and reckless at times; I can be an absolute downer at others. There are also wonderful things about me: I love unashamedly and unabashedly. I like to think I’m funny. I like to think I’m good at empathy. And I couldn’t have worked on the darker aspects of my character if I had not first gained self-respect and sought help—not to please others, but because I owed it to myself. Finally, I gained the superpower of self-acceptance.

Now, I walk with a skip in my step. I am secure in my identity, my story, where I come from and where I hope to be. I am studying a major I love, surrounded by friends I love, going on seven years with a man I love. I deserved to be happy, and I fight tooth and nail for that happiness with the Superpower of Self-Acceptance.