Learning to love myself has been an ongoing life process. It's something I work at with each new day. Now, I'm not saying I don't love myself at all. I'm saying that I am not good at loving myself unconditionally. I'm not sure that many of us are….
I'm a human. I make mistakes. I'm certainly nowhere near perfect. But nonetheless, I still know that beneath the flaws and imperfections lies a woman who is worthy of love and respect. Deep down, I know these things are true. I know that I deserve loving relationships. I know that I was created in God's image. I know that I have the skills and abilities to go where I want to go in life. But somehow… somehow… life still gets in the way of those sweet truths.
People break my heart. Words tear me down. Societal pressures tell me I'm not good enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough. I am let down. Things don't go my way. My self esteem is thrown out the window.
So how does it all balance out? How does one avoid depression and feeling like a failure? Constantly reminding myself of the TRUTH.
When I feel down, I have my friends, family, faith and a WHOLE lot of love to remind me that I'm more than enough. I have little daily reminders of just how blessed I have been.
But…. What if that wasn't the case? What if life wasn't full of people and blessings to lift you up? What if life brought one hardship after the other- relentless pain without a break? How should someone have hope for their future, believe in themselves, and acknowledge the core truth that they are loved!?
That's the situation so many people find themselves in. I would consider myself very lucky… on a daily basis, I find people who are starved for love, attention, and praise. Eyes light up when I call people by their name, ask them about their dreams, and encourage them to believe in themselves. I find that even in the darkest situations, one match-just one small thing- can light up someone's life.
Small acts of kindness and love go a long way. I do what I can, whenever I can, and hope that somehow it makes a difference. I've been working with one woman for a few weeks now who has really opened up to me, trusted me with her darkest secrets, and allowed me to pour love into her life. When an opportunity comes along and someone is willing to expose their deepest life wounds, I can't just walk away. I have the desire to help them see their own self worth, respect themselves, work through their issues, and find the light at the end of the tunnel.
In a culture saturated with issues surrounding transactional sex, it's so important to help people realize that they shouldn't feel shame or guilt for the situations they find themselves in. No one chooses to have that kind of lifestyle. They are simply trying to survive. Looking past the shame and guilt is not an easy task… women often feel ashamed of their bodies. They are emotionally scarred. They struggle to see the good in who they are.
But.. WHAT IF they could see that they are still worthy of love and respect? What if we could show them that they deserve a better life than the one they are currently living? What if we stress the importance of education? Maybe...just maybe… it would make a difference in the long run.
I met with Mpho*today to do just that. I shared this blog post with her - about how one woman describes loving her body. We discussed how people negatively affect our perceptions about ourselves and the importance of loving who we are, no matter what. I gave her a new journal and then we sat together… putting pen to paper about why we love ourselves. I must admit I was a bit nervous about this activity, due to language barriers, thinking the activity was dumb… etc. But to my surprise, it was a huge success. Here's what she wrote:
I LOVE MYSELF.
I REALLY LOVE MY CHARACTER BECAUSE IT HELPS ME TACKLE DIFFICULT SITUATIONS AND OVERCOME THEM.
I REALLY LOVE MY BRAIN BECAUSE WHENEVER I GO THROUGH A DIFFICULT SITUATION. IT HELPS ME TO THINK OF POSITIVE THINGS, NOT NEGATIVE THINGS LIKE SUICIDE.
I HAVE LOST MY MOTHER WHEN I WAS STILL YOUNG, BUT THIS HAS NEVER DISCOURAGED ME IN LIFE.
I ONCE DROPPED OUT FROM SCHOOL DUE TO TEENAGE PREGNANCY BUT I JUST DECIDED TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL FOR MY STUDIES, AND THAT'S ONE THING I LIKE ABOUT MY PERSONALITY.
I LOVE MY NOSE AND DIMPLE BECAUSE THEY ARE THE SAME AS MY FATHER'S.
I LOVE THE WAY I RESPOND TOWARDS PEOPLE, MORE ESPECIALLY MY PEERS WHEN THEY SAY BAD THINGS ABOUT ME. I WILL NEVER BE DISCOURAGED BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT I WANT IN LIFE.
I COME FROM A CHILD HEADED FAMILY, BUT I NEVER GET STRESSED ABOUT THIS BECAUSE I KNOW THAT IT IS NOT MY FAULT, THAT'S ONE OTHER THING I LIKE ABOUT MYSELF.
I NEVER COMPARE MYSELF WITH MY FRIENDS BECAUSE I KNOW THAT WE'RE NOT FROM THE SAME COMPOUNDS AND OUR BACKGROUNDS DO DIFFER. THAT'S WHY I LOVE MYSELF.
I HAVE LOST MANY PEOPLE THAT I LOVE BUT I KNOW THAT IT IS NOT THE END OF MY LIFE AND I HAVE TO MOVE ON. THAT'S WHY I LOVE MY CHARACTER.
She was so proud of her work. She was beaming when she finished reading it to me. When I told her I would type it & frame it for her, she smiled and gave me a hug. Success! I shared my writing with her, which helped her understand that she's not alone. She was quite surprised to hear me say that I struggle with feeling loved sometimes too.
After our emotional session about (and progress toward) loving ourselves, we sat down for another hour or so working through her biology assignments. I've committed to working with her once a week to (a) process all the emotional trauma she was been through (there's so much more to the story than I'm willing to post online) and (b) to encourage her to focus on her academics to pass form 5 (12th grade) and graduate. I am truly excited to work alongside her as she learns to love herself and discover her true potential.
When we can feel loved, valued, and worthy of respect… what's going to get in our way? I will support her in every way I possibly can to see her life improve. After all, that's what we're all here for, right?
Love your neighbor as yourself.-Matthew 22:39
As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. -John 20:21
Love & Light,
*Her name has been changed for this blog