I’ll start my story when I had to move to my grandmother’s house after my parents separated. Let’s just say she was not friendly in the least. I went from an environment where I was loved by both of my parents into a hostile place where I never felt good enough for my caretaker.
Every day I would hear some variation of:
“You ain’t never gonna amount to nothing.”
“You must have been out looking for men.”
I vividly recall an incident where she locked me out of the house because I came home a little later than she wanted. I was home by 9pm. She expected me home at 8:59pm but she neglected to tell me that as she delivered my daily installment of put-downs earlier that day.I bothered me because, my cousin whom she adores was there and coming the in at the same time with me and she said nothing to her.
As a teenager, I buried myself in dance, track and academics. Those were my safe places. All of my studies and extracurriculars were bound to help me leave that place. I believed it whole-heartedly and hitched my wagon to that star. I was bound to get a scholarship somewhere, and just about anywhere would do.
My hard work paid off when I receive my full scholarship to St. Augustine’s College. Reading that letter seemed to lighten the 100 pound weight I had been carrying since living with my grandmother. Summer and winter breaks meant I had to return to the looks of disapproval and accusations but I enjoyed my time at school. It was a welcome change.
The less than kind words from my grandmother continued over the years. At 25 years old, I visited home and that meant having to endure my grandmother’s antics. On an otherwise pleasant day during my visit, I woke up in the morning with plans to start my day at the stadium to work out. In her usual fashion, she asked where I was going. I don’t recall if I even got a chance to talk about my plans before I was accused of lying and “chasing after men”. Despite this unsavory start to the day, I went on with my workout and plans to see other family and friends. When I returned home later that day, she was already calling me every name in the book but beautiful. It was hard not to be angry.
In my youth, I thought physical distance was all I needed to be rid of my grandmother’s abuse. And for a while, it seemed like that was working. I didn’t know how deeply she injected her negativity into my mind. Her constant belittling left me with deep feelings in not being good enough. This shaped my perception of myself in regards to confidence. It effected personal relationships as I learned to lean on isolation as a coping mechanism. Even today, I find when I’m struggling most with confidence and self acceptance, I go to my safe space and I clean. The isolation helps me think and the cleaning helps me feel in control. I couldn’t control how my grandmother treated me but I surely can control how organized my spice rack is.
Things changed when I met my husband. He is truly a breath of fresh air. He lives and breathes positivity. When we met, I had just lost my other grandmother whom I adored. He was confident and positive. He was everything I didn’t know I needed. As I mourned the passing of one of my favorite people on the planet, he spoke life and beauty into me.
His voice and my grandmother’s voice battled in my head for a long time. As the years have passed, with my husband in my corner, I was able to focus my energy on quieting her voice and harmonizing with my husband’s voice in my head until I developed my own inner voice. When I feel like I’m not at my best, he is quick to remind me of how wonderful I am. He tells me I’m beautiful even when I feel the exact opposite.
It’s a struggle some days. But I’ve worked hard at surrounding myself with people that are positive and all around great people. My mother is my role model. She is one of the most positive people I know. She lives up to her name. She is truly a source of joy to everyone she meets. She holds strong to the practice of treating everyone with kindness.
My professional background taught me the importance of the emotional cup. On days when my cup is low, I see myself get agitated with my family for things that I otherwise have the patience to deal with. It is in those times, that old negative inner voice starts to speak and I know it is time to do things that bring me joy and fill my emotional cup.
And when I find myself pushing past those signs that my cup is running low, I depend on the people around me to give me the strong push towards things that bring me joy. They remind me that I am special and wonderful and that I deserve all the kindness that I put into the universe.
If you have a similar story or if you find that you struggle from time to time with confidence, I invite you to:
- Seek help. Therapy works if you want to do the work. Do the work to let go of the past.
- Learn what fills your cup. Take time for self care.
- Embrace those that see and love how you sparkle.
- Surround yourself with people that will impact your life in a positive way
- Remember that you also deserve to experience the kindness that you so freely give.
While these are easy to read, they can be difficult to put them into practice. Start small. Set your intention on developing one of these and then the next. Self love and confidence is a journey, not a destination. Allow yourself to be present for every single step.
Know you are not alone.
I’m walking right beside you.