Love

The Road To Radical Self Love

LOVE. It’s not something we ‘learn’ – it’s WHO we are. At our core, we are the very definition in its purest form, but somewhere along the way, we feel we need to earn this. Even from ourselves. Why is that? Because society says so?

To some extent, sure. I mean, it can be hard to love someone who is terrible towards you or the world. However, I also believe that LOVE is the only way we heal – individually and collectively. When we CHOOSE love, we choose FREEDOM. And don’t you want to be free?

Here’s the deal. We don’t always get to choose our circumstances, I get it. But we are the only ones in charge of our reaction to them. And it really can be THAT easy. If you say so…

I remember being a kid and loving everyone I came into contact with. I hugged everyone and invited strangers to participate in whatever I was doing. Blame the “only child syndrome”, but I absolutely loved entertaining people, including random people on the street. I was blessed to grow up in an environment where love was given openly and freely on a daily basis. I was raised by a single mother who, to this day is the epitome of LOVE in every sense of the word. And when I was young and my mom was at work, I would spend time with my Nana after school and during the summer. My Nana, too, is a shining, brilliant example of LOVE. Two incredible women FULL of so much love it oozes from their BEing. It’s beautiful!

It’s true. I experienced LOVE consistently my entire childhood. But my life was not all rainbows and butterflies. Hardly.

It started with my father… or lack thereof.

My only memory of him was when I was about 2. For whatever reason, I remember being in a little yellow dress and running around the house giggling as he made me lunch. And that was that. I never saw him again. And I didn’t hear from him until I was 20 when he called to tell me he was sorry for everything and… he had 6 months to live. Turns out, it was much shorter than that.

Cancer. It took him at 46 years old.

He was absent my entire life and chose drugs and alcohol over being a parent. And then he died. I believe that’s why God chose the incredible women I have in my life to be my guardians. For that I am so grateful. And as a kid, I didn’t realize the impact his absence would have in all areas of my development, including the way I allowed myself to receive love.

Over the years, I had quite a few negative experiences with men. And from what I remember, it started with my father. His lack of being present created a space of self-doubt in my mind, although I didn’t see it until much later in life. Even when it was right in front of me, I turned a blind eye thinking that in doing so, I was showing up as “strong, courageous and brave”. I learned that I could handle everything on my own – I didn’t need a man in my life, in any capacity.

Over the years, I was faced with situations that would challenge my view of men even further. From my 4th grade music teacher shutting me in the closet with him to caress my face and tell me how pretty I was, to having 2 different bosses make inappropriate passes at me as a way to instill fear and feel powerful. Unfortunately for them, they messed with the wrong girl and I was quick to speak up to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

But here’s the thing. You never really know how you will react until you are faced head-on with something. And at 19, I learned that even my powerful, outspoken voice could be silenced.

You see, despite my better judgement, after being asked out numerous times by a man that was 8 years older than me, I finally agreed. Our first date was not at all what I imagined and I found myself pleasantly surprised. He was chivalrous and charismatic. He made me laugh. I begin to trust him. But let’s be real, at 19, my expectations were not exactly high. Nor was I clear as to who I was. When I agreed to a second date, little did I know that this would be a moment that would forever change my life – in more ways than one.

After a nice dinner, we went back to his house to grab a jacket before going to a movie. I waited in his living room as he went back to his bedroom, feeling nervous and excited with butterflies dancing in my belly. And then he called out to me “why don’t you come back here and pick something out…” Thinking nothing of it, I did so.

Mistake.

Or a blessing.

It’s really all perspective, isn’t it?

As I stepped through the door… (taken from my previous article, which you can read here)

He grabbed me tightly, picked me up and laid me on his bed. What started out as an innocent make-out session, quickly turned into a fight that I remember so vividly. I pawed at his back as he unbuttoned my top. “Please stop”, I said. I didn’t recognize my voice. It was timid, meek, soft. “Oh baby, it’s fine. It’s just me. Relax. Enjoy it.” He unbuttoned my pants. “STOP!” I recognized this voice. It was mine and it was powerful. “You’ll like it, I promise”, he said. As tears streamed down my face, I was determined to fight with everything I had. And I did! But he was bigger than me, much bigger. I was all of 105 pounds and he was easily 200 pounds of solid muscle with the upper hand. He had me pinned beneath him and I felt utterly helpless.

As he ripped my shirt open and pulled my pants around my ankles, I found myself praying through the tears, “please, God… make him stop!”

He raped me that night. My world as I knew it would forever be changed. And so would I.

As I crawled into the bathroom, pants around my ankles, I sobbed. I cried for myself and for others that had gone through the same thing. I cried for my innocence and the shame I felt for not being strong enough to push him off of me. I cried for being a statistic. I cried because in that moment, I knew that I would not tell a soul.

After sitting on the bathroom floor for what felt like eternity, I calmly got up, wiped my face and walked through his bedroom towards the front door. “Where you goin’, baby?” Was he fucking serious?! I didn’t respond and left his house in silence, shocked, shaken and utterly overtaken with sadness. How could this have happened to me?

I walked into my apartment and showered, put on my pajamas and laid in bed, praying that God would use this experience for good. I asked that he give me strength and provide purpose in my pain. I cried. I cursed God. I cursed my abuser. I cursed myself. I should have known better.

Even in my darkest moments, I knew that all of this had to have happened for a reason. You see, I was raised to believe that EVERYTHING in our path happens FOR us, not TO us. And so I made the decision in that moment to allow myself to feel my emotions fully – the anger, sadness, disbelief, fear, confusion, hate, mistrust… and FORGIVE.

As crazy as that may sound, I realized that by staying stuck in a sea of negativity, I was AGAIN giving away my power! Nobody, especially not “him” deserved that. And I was committed to taking it back.

These profound experiences – that of my father and my rapist in particular – led me to believe 3 things that would shape my life for many years…

Men always leave.

Men can’t be trusted.

If even my father couldn’t love me, who would?

Let me be clear in that I know now that these things are not true. But you can see where I got this mentality from. Much like I am sure you may have now or have had at some point, similar limiting beliefs yourself. Let me remind you – we are not born scared, insecure, angry or any other negative emotion. These are learned, conditioned ways of BEing that create imbalance in existence on this planet. And the more we believe them, the further away we get from our authentic-self. Who we were born as, which is LOVE.

Immediately after being raped, my entire “life plan” shifted. I was in school studying fashion with the intention of styling for TV and Film. But before graduation, I got sick. Like, really sick. And I would spend the next 6 years in and out of the hospital + 9 years of misdiagnosis, ultimately becoming my own guinea pig in order to heal and begin to LIVE again. And it was in the moments of solace, pain, peace and surrender that I knew – I was meant for bigger things and up to this point, I was setting myself up to live a life of mediocrity.

I did end up starting my own fashion styling company, which I ran for 3 years. And in that time, it became clear to me that my purpose in this world was much bigger than that. But in order for me to make the impact that I wanted to make in the world, I knew that I needed to get real with myself. I needed to fall in-love with my WHOLE self, including my broken pieces – the ones that truly made me beautiful.

I begin studying emotional intelligence, holistic health (which I ultimately went back to school for), women’s empowerment, self-love, happiness, mindset, anything I could get my hands on that would further me towards living the life I knew I wanted – and deserved – to live. I skipped wild nights out with friends in my 20’s, instead choosing quality sleep and nutrition. Not always by choice, sometimes I was in the ER and it just wasn’t an option. But oftentimes it was simply because I was on a mission to heal – without medication – and truly LIVE. I lost friends because they “didn’t get it”. I fell into depression. And despite the immense support that I did have, I felt alone.

And then I remembered something my Nana always told me as a kid.

“You are never alone. You have all that you need within you. You are enough.”

I begin to praise myself for my gifts and my strengths. I begin to SEE myself again and I remembered the power I harnessed by BEing ME. I was reminded over and over again that I am not my past, nor am I my circumstances. I am FREE to be whoever I decide to be. And that in itself is a miracle.

And the best part? I FELL HEAD-OVER-HEELS IN-LOVE WITH MYSELF in the process! Even the broken pieces.

I now dedicate my life to helping people heal. For years I did lifestyle coaching, which became women’s empowerment coaching. And with each client, I learned something about myself. Now I am blessed to work for a company on a mission to impact over a billion lives through education, inspiration and empowerment and I could not possibly think of a more perfect place to be.

I will forever wear my scars – not as a victim, but as a survivor. And I will continue to do my part to be a source of LOVE and POSITIVITY in the lives of everyone I come into contact with.

Remember, sweet souls. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Only when you love – truly LOVE – yourself, can you give that same love to others. And the world needs love now more than ever. Be the reason somebody smiles today. Be the reason someone decides to choose LOVE over fear. Be the reason somebody wakes up with a fire in their heart on a mission to CHANGE THE WORLD and create a massive impact.

Trust me when I say, you DO have that kind of power. Use it for good. And start with yourself. Because you are nothing short of absolute MAGIC! And the world is begging for more of what YOU’VE got!

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