Mariana Atencio | Perfectly You: Embracing the Power of Being Real

We often get caught in paying attention to labels and the opinions of others. The environment that we grew up in, the people we allow into our life, and our culture and society teach us information that becomes part of our belief system. Hence, we take the way we think for granted. That is all good unless some of those beliefs inhibit us from evolving into our greatest selves.

Gracie Award-winning journalist and TED Talk speaker Mariana Atencio, in her new book Perfectly You: Embracing the Power of Being Real, reminds us: “You don’t need to be perfect. You need to be Perfectly You!”

Originally from beautiful Venezuela, Mariana moved to the U.S. to continue her studies on a full merit scholarship at Columbia University where she graduated with a master’s degree in journalism. Even though Spanish is her first language, and she looked for opportunities in a Spanish-speaking market, Atencio eventually became a national news correspondent on an English-speaking show.

Although there was still a decades-long division between English and Spanish-language media,  Mariana learned to embrace what makes her different and unique despite the challenges she faced

“My story wasn’t one where I shot out of a cannonball or took the elevator to the top. It was a steep staircase that included unemployment, being virtually undocumented, hustling and taking on anything that vaguely required camera skills. But along the way, I learned perhaps the most valuable lesson of all: that it is precisely my differences, my quirks, and individual traits that contributed to me becoming who I am and being privileged enough to do the work that I love.”

After her first TED Talk called What Makes You Special, where she shared her first experience in the U.S. during a summer camp in Minnesota, she felt an inspired impulse to write her first book.

It’s about how feeling “different” made me understand how others feel when we label them as such, instead of valuing the specific knowledge or insights that they have due to those perceived differences. And so, over the years sharing stories with viewers, people I met, events I covered and saw, one common thread emerged: there are more things that unite us than separate us. I realized there is a thirst for this message of unity in every corner of the world. And this book is a service to that.”

We live in a world of diversity expressed in many ways. But how do we embrace our differences while allowing others to live the life they consider is best?

Mariana suggests: “Empathy. There’s no other way around it. Beyond cultural, ethnic or religious differences, we all have a shared experience, a sense of commonality. A sense of shared humanity. When we are able to see that, we respect one another and we do better, we live better.”

book cover copyright ©Harper Collins

Atencio believes that by giving our best in every situation we will inspire others to do the same. She is an example that empowering ourselves is to focus on what makes us unique. In that state, we will be able to help others to find the courage in themselves. 

There’s nothing more empowering than discovering your own potential and knowing that you can achieve full control of your life if you put your mind to it. Trust me, it really works and every success story has the self-awareness factor.”

Understanding that we are all unique but we all want the same feelings of happiness, love, and fulfillment, Mariana continues celebrating diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. She dreams of a society where we can all thrive and live according to our beliefs as long as we respect each other. And it’s true, why do we have to compare ourselves to one another when we can allow each other to simply be?It’s not about making comparisons. It’s about tapping into the ordinary to discover the extraordinary in each of us.”

Our beliefs influence our perception, hence what we think generates an emotion which affects how we perceive the world. When we experience negative emotions, it’s an indication of where our focus is concentrated. By being aware of how we feel, we can consciously shift that focus towards those emotions that feel better. 

Perceptions are opportunities to examine our own limiting beliefs, fears, and ideas. Every time we have what you can call an opposing event, there’s an opportunity to rise up to defeat those limiting beliefs and fears,” Atencio states. 

Through everything Mariana Atencio feels and does, she wants to give back and be of service to others. When we asked her to describe herself she said: “I thrive on meeting people and listening to their stories, if I can inspire anyone to believe in themselves, I think it causes a butterfly effect that turns into positive change and spreads all around with infinite possibilities.”

Her book it’s just one way of expressing her desire to positively impact people. Every year, Atencio gives back to a cause that is near to her heart to honor her late father on his birthday, as he taught her the importance of giving back. 

“In 2018, I partnered with the organization “Comparte por una vida” (Share for a life in Spanish) providing donations to children in my native Venezuela, which is going through a humanitarian crisis right now.

She also gives back to her community in Florida and became involved with Reading Pals, a volunteer-based literacy initiative in Miami that provides mentors for students in need from Pre-K through 3rd grade.

Mariana Atencio’s core intention in life is clear to her: “It’s not just about being, doing and having anything you want. It’s about making sure that what you do, what you say and how you act shows who you really are and then putting what you are at the service of others.”
Header photo by Vera Franceschi