The truth is, people will have their preconceived notions of who, what, why, and how you are who you are, without letting you speak a word. Sometimes the bar is set low based on your gender or race, sometimes exceedingly high.

In any situation, you have to make sure the you is solid. That is the only constant that you can rely on.

In modern America, and heck, pretty much for the entirety of this great land’s history, race and gender have been sensitive subjects. As proud as my Puerto Rican mother is, and as strong as my Chinese father is, my sisters and I were raised conscious of the multicultural world around us.

Growing up in a predominantly white, Jewish area of New York’s suburbs, I was made fun of, a lot. People and children make fun of and harass that which is unfamiliar. It’s always been that way, and probably always will be.

While my parents had plenty of chats with other parents and school officials about the bullying and teasing, their biggest lesson and heaviest talks were with us. We were made aware that you can’t control other people’s fears, prejudices, and past; we can only control who we are and how we deal with these situations. Don’t start fights, but don’t back down, either.

I don’t expect people to always accept who I am. I don’t expect people to go into a social situation thinking of me as just another person with whom to get acquainted. To strangers I might be the minority woman who was a priority hire, a bad driver, hail from the Bronx, have a 13-year-old child, live in the projects, or own a laundromat. While any of these identifiers ring true for many, they are untrue assumptions for me.

It is the strength and the pride of my parents that was passed on most clearly through this lesson. Be confident in your identity, live the best you can, keep your head up, always push forward, and prove the haters wrong. Living well is not only the best revenge, is how you make an incredible first impression.