Yesterday I participated in the Boston Women’s March with my whole family: baby, toddler and husband. Once we heard about the march, we immediately thought we should go and support the movement for equality, human rights and climate action. Although both my husband and I are not American Citizens, America is our home and our children were born here. We thought that we should stand up to what we believe and set the example. Our kids don’t understand it now, but we will be able to look back and talk about this day when they grow up.

Politics aside, what we believe is that love and respect for others is the way to build a better life and a better society. Anger and fear have a role to play in our lives, but we shouldn’t let them drive our behavior and our decisions. Living in society is not always easy, especially for those that “don’t fit in”. Just think about all the behavioral rules one has to follow to be accepted as part of a group, to feel included, to feel like they matter. Expand that feeling to a globalized world where we have so many different cultures, races and beliefs.

I can speak as someone that grew up with very limited exposure to the world and different cultures until I moved out to a bigger city and then to a different country. I’m embarrassed to say that, but I think it is important to bring it up. Until I was probably 15 years old, I would judge people that were open about their homosexuality. If I had to say the word gay, I would almost whisper as it was some sort of profanity. I was raised catholic and most people around me would either condemn or avoid this topic at all.

When I was in college, I met for the first time someone that was open about his homosexuality. At first I suspected it,  but I would never ask or talk about the subject with him. We became very good friends and one day he told me his story. I confess I wasn’t surprised, but at that moment I had to choose between discriminating him or accepting his choice and continue our beautiful friendship. I chose to accept and learn. That was a big moment in my life, where I learned that some of my values were wrong. Why would I judge someone for his or her sexual orientation? Once I actually stopped to think about it and I challenged what some of my friends were saying or joking about, I realized how small minded we were.

I started then to open my mind to all my preconceived views of what was ‘normal’ or acceptable to society and I just kept realizing how little I knew and how much I would have to work to adapt to this ‘new’ world in front of me. I confess that I am still learning and adapting to a lot of new concepts but I believe it is making me a better person and hopefully I will be able to teach my children to be better on accepting the different and the new. Once we open our hearts and make an effort to accept and respect each other despite of our differences, we will learn that we can all co-exist in peace.

An example of how our environment molds us, is when we accept legit bad behavior towards us as okay. For instance, I only realized I’ve suffered sexual harassment and abusive relationship many years after it’d happened. When I was just a teenager looking for a job, the manager that interviewed me kept commenting on my looks and saying that I probably didn’t need that job because I was too beautiful. At that time, I was upset because I did need the job and wasn’t taken seriously, but I didn’t realize how bad what he said was.

I have also been in abusive relationships without even knowing it.  For instance, I had a boyfriend calling me stupid out loud because I was trying to help him on a scientific assignment he was getting wrong – he was upset that I knew more about it than him did, so to not look bad in front of our peers he decided to yell at me. Well, I didn’t like it. But I laugh it out and let him do his way. Of course it was his temperament and things like that happened a few times until the relationship ended. But, in the first place: what gives people the right to mistreat others? Why did this boyfriend need to yell at me in public to feel less embarrassed of the fact that I knew more about something than he did?

The list goes on and on. I could write more about abusive relationships, unfair treatment at work, religious bias, science denial, discrimination and stereotyping. But instead, I would like to share with you what behaviors I try to follow and model for my daughters hoping that they will have better experiences and be more open to the world than I was:

Treat people fairly.

If you disagree, do so respectfully.

If you feel repressed or intimidaded speak up.

Rely on facts and good science.

Do your part to keep our planet healthy.

Learn something new everyday and challenge your views.

Vote and make your candidates accountable for their promises.

If you fail today, try again tomorrow, and tomorrow. Never give up on good and justice.

Last but not least: Love yourself, your body, your community and your planet. Love is contagious, once you start it you can’t stop it! 🙂