“I wish I had your level of confidence.”
This statement, no matter how many times I hear it, never ceases to stir up something in me. This week I received a message from a woman in Nigeria saying how much she admired me, was inspired by me and encouraged by my love for my body. She also said that she wished she had the level of confidence that I did. Now y’all know I am already an emotional being, so it’s probably unsurprising that instantaneously, tears welled up in my eyes. Maybe that seems a little dramatic, but you have to understand: for my entire life, this phrase had been one I only thought to myself about other women (and men).
I never imagined someone, let alone someone a whole continent away would have those thoughts about me. For the longest time, self-confidence seemed like this magical, mystical and elusive concept for me. I have never been thin, something always jiggles when I walk, my skin darkens the moment I step out into the sunlight, my hair transforms on it’s own throughout the day, and I am short– all things that were not celebrated growing up. However, these qualities that once left me insecure are now some of the ones I love most about myself.
I grew up feeling like I was always either too much or not enough. My self-worth was tied to academic excellence, my weight, and people pleasing. Whenever I attempted to lose weight, it was never from a place of self-love, but self- hatred/disappointment. I’d quickly drop a few pounds and see the instant positive reactions I’d receive, which ironically made me feel even worse about myself. So soon enough I’d be back to my old ways, continuing on in a never ending cycle.
I’d open up a Victoria’s Secret catalog, knowing darn well that once again I would not find someone who looks remotely like me in inside. I don’t think I ever actually thought that I’d look better as a size 2, but rather that the world would like and accept me better. And then I got to college, where apparently being “thick” was a thing people aspired to be and have. So when men (and women) began to make known how phenomenal they believed my body to be and their attraction to it, a small voice whispered, “You are now worthy (of love). You are now desirable.”
But I still didn’t feel worthy, confident, or loved. I felt like a tool, an imposter and lonely. So of course, my actions reflected as such. I wasn’t concerned with my physical health and my weight constantly fluctuated. My faith always seemed to be hanging on by a thread, meanwhile my mental health continued to dwindle with a deepening depression and increasing panic. I clung tight to toxic relationships/situationships/friendships because they were the only ones I thought I was worthy of.
So what happened? Did I just wake up one day and say,” You know what, I think I wanna be confident and love myself now!” Of course not! Self-love truly is a journey. It started with small changes, small wins, small seeds of faith, and small desires that grew bigger with time. I believe that self-love, self-confidence and self- care all go hand in hand. After all, how can you be confident in a person you do not love? Why would you engage in practices to care for yourself in mind, body and spirit if you do not love yourself?
So where did I find this confidence? If I’m being honest, I’d say first and foremost, I found it in God. I wondered how in the world God could continue to use me for His glory and positively impact other people while I was so broken. I wondered how I could possibly continue to doubt my worth and claim that I loved God. Because with even the deepest levels of depression working to consume me, one truth remained: I AM STILL HERE. So that must mean something. That must mean that in some way my life had WORTH and PURPOSE, no matter my appearance, my failures, my mistakes, my trauma, or my circumstances.
The more my faith and love for God grew, the greater my love for self became. Slowly but surely I began taking certain actions of self-care, like writing more often, dancing more, and eating less foods that I knew were harmful to my body. As I danced, my confidence grew, as did my comfort with and love for my body. Now, (and for the past 3+ years) I no longer share any piece of my body with just anybody. I made (and have maintained) certain personal commitments to myself and God— willingly. Lastly, but possibly most importantly: I WALKED AWAY FROM THE TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS.
I let them go.
I let them go.
I let them go.
I let go of or created distance from anyone who was: emotionally abusive, consistently disturbing my peace, manipulating me, draining my energy, abusing my kindness, didn’t have my best interest in mind, was filled with negativity, triggered/encouraged unhealthy behaviors, diminished my faith, downplayed my dreams, couldn’t support me or who’s spirit just didn’t sit well with me.
Of course I have messed up countless times. I won’t claim to have it all figured it— because I don’t. But what I do know is that it is possible to be self- confident, filled with an abundance of self-love and practice self-care. It may not always be easy, but I promise, it will be worth it. If you feel you need something to get you started on (or dig deeper into) your self-love journey, here’s a few questions to consider:
*I recommend getting a pen and paper to write down your responses
- Who am I?
- Who do I desire to be?
- What does my self-care look like? (*see my self-care check in for guidance)
- What makes me happy?
- What are my goals?
- How do I define my worth?
- How do I define self-confidence? Self-love?
- What would self-love look like on me?
- What is preventing me from moving to the next level in my self-love journey?
These are are just a few to get you started! Are there any more you can think of? Please feel free to let me know and send any questions my way! I’ll try my best to answer them as well as I can.
Remember, you are not alone. Your life matters. You are so worthy. You are so deserving. You are so capable.
I see you.
I see you.
I see you.
Love + light.
***All of these amazing photos were taken by Amanda Clare. For more photos from this series, be sure to follow her on Instagram, @divulgenyc !***