The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women. Empowering Change.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Michelle

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

Loving myself first means living a values-based life. When my Dad, Vietnam veteran and hardworking Appalachian man, was first diagnosed with lung cancer I had just started my PhD program in clinical psychology. I had also just lost my Godmother (my Dad’s sister) to lung cancer. I’ve been working toward the goal of becoming a clinical child psychologist since I have been 13 years old. I have had to overcome my fair share of adversity: a late-diagnosed hearing disability, growing up in Appalachia, and being a first-generation college student. This translates into me being a hard-working poor test taker with a purpose to help others from underserved communities.

As I traversed the world of grad school my Dad fought for his life. He was cancer free when I matched for internship 13 hours away from my family. It was the final step before earning my doctorate. Unfortunately, his remission was short-lived. I completed my internship clinical work, working with the population I believe I have been called to work with – providing evidence-based trauma treatments to children and adolescents. As my internship was winding down, I needed to decide where to go for postdoc (the next step needed to get licensed and to solidify my research career). I was at a fork. Do I continue to weave myself tightly within the field of childhood trauma? Or do I move as close to home as possible to be near my family? It is with courage that I chose my family – landing in the stars with my post doctoral career. I value my career, and I value my family and friends just a bit more. Clinical work is emotionally and spiritually draining, but the reward reaped when I am able to help a child, eases the toll to my well-being.

Sadly, my Dad passed away just weeks after moving home. Knowing that I needed these two years to breathe and rest my tired heart, I happily engage my research postdoc. This is why I cannot in good, self-loving conscience be a full-time clinician. Instead, I choose to overcome the funding obstacles of research in a climate that is ever so hostile to science. I will do it with courage and a firm understanding that I am Appalachian, and no one can quiet my voice.

Michelle dancing with her dad at her wedding

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul?

Self-care is a series of evolving lessons:

On nutrition: About 8 years ago I stopped eating fast food. I drink almost no soda and try to eat small portion sizes. About 3 years ago, I stopped eating all meats except fish. In the past six months, I started to eat minimal dairy and bread and mostly stick with vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans.

On exercise: In grad school I started running – an identity I have never really embraced despite completing two half-marathons and several 5Ks and 10Ks. More recently, I have been practicing yoga three to four days a week.

On balance: I try to minimize how much work I am doing at home. I do not check my work e-mail on the weekends. When I am eating dinner, I do not have my cellphone out. I go see my Mom every Sunday when I’m in town. I spend time with friends at least weekly and have coffee in bed with my husband and our two cats on weekends.

On adventure: I travel to see friends, family, and for conferences. When I travel I like to get off the beaten path, go hiking, and learn about the local culture. I also craft, plan and throw elaborately themed parties.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

Most days I suffer from imposter syndrome. There’s been a challenge at every step of the way in my career path. First I had to catch up with my peers in elementary school to get out of the “slow learners” track and into college prep. Then I had to figure out what being Appalachian and first generation in college meant for me. I then had to score well on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and have enough research experience to demonstrate my commitment to scholarly activity for my PhD program. There’s always been a “next up.” I’ve encountered plenty of people – mentors, elders, peers – who have led me to question myself, my worth and ability. Thankfully, for every one of those folks, I’ve had two others to remind me that I am enough and can do anything I put my mind to.

I want to make the world a better place. It’s always been about “How can I help?” How can I transform the lives of underserved youth by planting seeds of courage, compassion, and inner strength? I am my strongest when I am helping others. It is what drives me to keep going. So, when my Dad was dying, and I spent all those years away from home doing the “next step” I realized that I had neglected my value for spending time with and helping family and friends.

The obstacle of believing that I am enough and can fulfill my life’s purpose without choosing just that over other values has been like taming a wild bear, except I’m the bear and the trainer at the same time.

What have you learned from self-love?

I am learning to have courage. I haven’t always been able to help others; sometimes my path seems like I’ve all but given up on doing that. And while my inner strength does not always shine, I know that I can take breaks to let my mind, body, and spirit heal. Most importantly, my light glows even when it’s an ember.

Michelle shares why she chose the photos in her self-love story:

Father/Daughter Dance – My Dad and I dancing to I Loved Her First. I believe he loved me enough to wait until I was home before passing away so that we could all be together.

My Life Partner – This guy and I are on this journey together. We’ll dance, walk, skip, crawl, and even carry each other on our path.

PhD Graduation Cap – Robert Frost has been narrating my life. I tend to take the road less traveled when I come to a fork. And, oh, has it made all the difference! I still got to where I was going, and I’ll get to where I am meant to be.

Vinyasart – I chose this because it captures my creative outlet – exercise and mindfulness – which all nourish my soul.

 

Inspired by Michelle’s courageously honest and heartfelt story? Share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.


Love Yourself First! Friday shares the unique stories of diverse women to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to shed light on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Yewande

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

It was difficult for me to really love myself. I tried convincing myself that I did, but inside I always felt very insecure and not always comfortable in my skin. Now that I love everything about me, I never want to lose that feeling. I tell myself something I love about me at least once a day. Every day is not perfect. I still have rough days, but knowing what it’s like to truly love myself (imperfections and all) is a spiritual and healing experience.

I make an effort to connect with others, because in the past I struggled to do it. I missed out on many experiences because I was uncertain about myself, and as a result, I lived mostly inside my head. People thought I was mean or stand-offish but in reality I was uncomfortable with ME. Loving myself first means that I take care of my mind, my body, my soul, my heart, and my family and friends. I want to radiate positivity everywhere I go so that if there is anyone out there feeling the way I once did, she/he can find hope and inspiration in my story and in our interaction.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)

I changed many of my negative habits. I make it a priority to remain active weekly – working out frequently and using FitBit to track my steps because it keeps me motivated (I love work-week challenges with my coworkers).  I’ve cut out a lot of foods that weighed me down internally (fried foods, bread and dairy), and I replaced them with healthier alternatives (baked foods, non-processed foods, coconut milk).

I love to read books of all genres to keep my mind fresh and alert. Lastly, but most importantly, I talk to God through prayer and daily affirmations.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

I used to be overweight and suffered some complications with my health. Becoming healthier has truly transformed me. I feel good inside and out, and I think healthy eating and activeness have contributed. I am more open to people and have been able to build stronger relationships.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love has to be defined by the individual and takes on many different forms.  You can show yourself love in your daily actions and interactions with others. For example, I know if I stop practicing my healthy habits I may need to re-evaluate self-love; there may be something deeper going on with me, because being healthy is how I show myself love.

I’ve learned that it is difficult to build relationships with others when there is no self-love.  I want to make sure I am always loving me so that I can fully love others.

I have also learned that people really love me! When I struggled with self-love, I felt that others did not truly love me. I mean, why would they if I could not love myself?  What I have come to find is that (1) people really do want to get to know me, and (2) I do have something to offer the world. I have been able to experience things I NEVER would have experienced, and I finally feel like I am living life. It feels good.

 

Inspired by Yewande’s self-love story? Share in the comments. We want to hear from you.


Love Yourself First! Friday share the unique stories of diverse women to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to shed light on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Tracie

Photo Credit: Erika Kapin Photography

Love Yourself First! Friday is back with all new Phoenix features.  This week we’re sharing Tracie’s self-love story.

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

This is, admittedly, a difficult question for me to answer, as I don’t always do a good job with self-love, let alone loving myself FIRST. That said, I’ve come to understand it as centering myself and my needs as first and foremost in the planning and execution of my life.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)

Meal planning is something I’ve recently began practicing as a self-love/self-care habit, which may seem light work to some, but is HUGE for me. Making sure to drink adequate amounts of fresh water daily, allowing space for heightened “inappropriate” emotional moments (esp. sadness & anger) to flow unedited, and telling the truth (at least to myself) about how I feel in the moment are a few other things I do to let the inner me know that she is safe and valued.

Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

The meal planning challenge is a HUGE one, because it really opened my eyes to the ways I leap to prioritize others before myself. From start to finish, meal-planning three meals for five days straight takes me about 3 hours – hours I balked at setting aside for myself, but wouldn’t blink an eye to devote to someone else if asked. The first time I realized this it was HUGE for me; it was my opportunity to take a different approach towards myself in the future. If I can show myself even HALF of the love I show others on a consistent basis, I know, overall, my life can only get better and better.

What have you learned from self-love?

I’ve learned that self-love is not habitual for many (if not most of us) and is something that must be learned. Even the idea of practicing acts of self-love takes work, just to sit and figure out what it should LOOK like some days, before you can even get into the work of it. That said, the joy of getting and staying in love with you FAR outweighs the effort. The beauty and peace of mind that have come from this journey are immeasurable, quite honestly. I’m grateful that the older I get, the clearer I get about how best to support myself, and that feels lovely.


Love Yourself First! Friday invites women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to shed light on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: These Phoenixes are Trina & Valerie

 

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Love Yourself First! Friday invites women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to shed light on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This is a first for the series (and hopefully not the last). We’re featuring two women at the same time. Best friends. Authentic, loving and honest friendships are to be treasured, and these Phoenixes definitely understand that.  Trina and Valerie share how being friends has healed and transformed their lives:

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

In 2015 Valerie and I decided to radically transform our lives. We have been best friends for over 41 years and have always felt there was a greater purpose for our friendship. Both of us were at a crossroad in our lives. Around late February, we met at Barnes & Noble and developed a plan that would give us the power to take back our lives. We were burnt out and had to shift our mindset from seeing ourselves as just moms, caretakers and breadwinners going through life with no real joy or sense of fulfillment.

We began to utilize our friendship as a means for keeping ourselves accountable for the changes we were implementing to live lives of self-love. Self-love meant learning to establish firm boundaries with our families and friends, and in our careers:

  • We learned how to say no. If we can’t do it we no longer beat ourselves up about it.
  • Our children are now young adults so we have had to learn how to be of assistance to them but no longer plan our lives around their schedules as much.
  • We don’t bring work home in the evenings or on weekends from our 9 to 5 jobs.
  • We don’t spend time with toxic and negative friends any longer.
  • We freed ourselves of the duty to cater to everyone else’s needs before our own.

Our lives now exemplify the peace and joy we could not find because we had given our power away to other people and things.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul?

Through our friendship we have demonstrated self-care, spiritually, by attending weekly Bible study together at our church. We also attend Sunday services at Word of Faith Worship Cathedral, volunteer with P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens) Ministry, and have participated in their youth conference as facilitators. Every Tuesday is our fast and pray day; during this time we are praying, reading the Bible and seeking direction from God on being better women and awesome friends to others, growing our business, parenting our young adult children and any other matters that come before us.

We love to travel and had never been to the west coast, so in April we visited San Diego and Los Angeles, California for eight days. It was a wonderful adventure and so much fun to decompress and leave everything and everyone behind. We are great travel buddies because we don’t always have an agenda, and we also don’t require a lot from one another. For example, there are times when we just sit in silence and take in all the beauty of our surroundings, and there are other times we have gut-busting laughs about something that has happened.

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Photo: Trina and Valerie at Manhattan Beach during their vacation to Los Angeles

We also demonstrate self-care through reading, something we have always had in common. We go to the bookstore, get coffee, find all the books we want to take a look at during the visit, and talk about our findings. We’ve actually purchased the same books for one another! It’s like our own book club.

Through our friendship we have demonstrated self-care by creating our business, Power of the Pair. Our mission is to educate, empower, and encourage women to become accountable and committed to meaningful friendships. We take time every day to work on our business, putting a message out to the world that we are better together. We believe in the power of friendship because it has helped us to find our way back to loving ourselves first.

Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

Trina’s Ephiphany – My unhappiness from a former marriage caused my blood pressure to spiral out of control, and I also had chronic insomnia. I was afraid to face the truth and did not want to hurt my ex-husband, but in the end I was hurting myself. I internalized my pain and became quite ill in the process. My blood pressure was so high the doctor asked me if I wanted to live. This was not due to diet or lack of exercise. This was due to STRESS. I knew I had to make some changes in my life and realized I had to love myself, mentally and physically, in order to live a quality life. I had the conversation, moved on with my life and never looked back. I started exercising at least three times a week, watched my sodium intake, and I am no longer on blood pressure medication. Yes! Yes!

Valerie’s Epiphany – I was so unhappy with my job that I resigned with no job offer to fall back on. I did have some cushion, because I was living with my mom at the time. So financially my basic needs were met, but there were no resources for anything else. By the new year of 2015, I had a heaviness and pressure on me to complete my dream of becoming an author and speaker. The pressure was so heavy I could not sleep at night. I felt if I did not do something to accomplish it, I would suffer in some way. In addition to becoming an author, I also wanted to be a professor, so I enrolled in school and began to work on my doctorate. I felt that if I went to school I could at least teach on the collegiate level. This would also satisfy my need to write.

Shortly thereafter, Trina and I met for dinner one evening and I mentioned to her that we needed to collaborate on something together. After dinner I suggested we go to Bible study. When leaving church we talked so much about starting business together that Trina stated, “Val, if we don’t do something this time then shame on us.” Her statement really resonated with me. She also shared a dream she had; God had given her our business name. We were to be called POWER OF THE PAIR. She saw us as spiritual twins, a pair in spirit. Something immediately went through me, and I knew it was divine. I knew in that moment we were meant to embark on our purpose together and join forces as one in business.

What have you learned from self-love?

As friends we have learned that if we don’t put ourselves first, we will not be able to fulfill our purpose for being here. We have to do what is right for us. We may be judged for it but stress, financial struggles, health issues and worry are not the answers to living quality lives. Coming together and working towards living spectacular lives are the best things we could ever do in our friendship.

 

Are you inspired by Trina and Valerie’s LYFF story? Share in the comments. We’d love to know how healthy, supportive friendships have helped to transform your life.

 


Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Kadijah

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Love Yourself First! Friday invites women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to shed light on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This week’s Phoenix is Kadijah:

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

I love myself first by being organized in my day-to-day activities. Once I am organized, I can consciously take into account setting aside some quiet time. It does not mean I need to leave the house, but it does mean up to two hours (at minimum) each week I will self-reflect. Getting up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning just so I can have a cup of coffee in silence. I reflect on my accomplishments thus far and what I would still like to achieve in my life.

As a single mother of two girls, finding those few moments for myself is not always easy, but it is necessary for my well-being. At times, when I need a bit of a boost I’ve placed notes on the bathroom mirror reminding myself I am just as worthy of receiving the love that I exude to my children and others on a daily basis. I build in time at least once a month to have fun with friends.

Loving myself means knowing my worth, understanding my limitations and pushing myself to move past them. Loving myself is having the confidence to keep fighting even when others doubt my abilities, proving to myself that I am a strong body, strong minded, and strong willed individual.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)

Self-reflection is key for my self-care, taking time to look at my life as it stands and having confidence that further greatness is to come. When feeling frustrated, I leave the house to jog for a while; I also like to find a good book that will allow me to escape from reality and find solitude in someone else’s story. Finally, I pray and have faith that God will only put in front of me the challenges that He knows I can get through.

Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

I am currently 41 years old. Twenty-four of those years were spent with my now ex-husband dealing with various levels of mental, physical, and sexual abuse. For many of those years I lived on hope, the hope that our relationship would reach the level of love and respect that I craved. Not only did we never achieve that, it became more and more toxic over the years. Finally, I had to face the reality that I was not living, but just “surviving.” I put his needs and wants above mine. I forgot to love myself. Instead, I tried unsuccessfully to be the person that he wanted me to be in hopes that my life with him would improve. Two children and 24 years later, nothing was better. I did in fact, learn how to hide my unhappiness and bruising from everyone – including my family and friends.

I had a feeling of hopelessness, and I gave up thinking I could be anything other than the abused wife and mother of our children. When faced with so much violence, I became numb and emotionless. I ended up losing myself. I no longer knew my likes and dislikes. I went into survival mode just to save myself and my children from harm. I wanted out but didn’t know how to go about doing it. Finally, I gave up on the hope that things would improve with my husband and started the journey toward divorce. He knew he was no longer in control, so things exacerbated to a level that gave me no choice but to remove my children and I from his hold. It has been a long process, but one with many tears of joy instead of sadness. My husband is incarcerated for the abuse and we are now divorced.

My children and I have finally reached a point of happiness; happiness and freedom are feelings that I never thought I would obtain.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love has taught me to consistently evaluate what makes me happy, making sure the goals I have set for my life are truly my goals and not what is expected of me by others. Self-love is having a free body and mind to do whatever I want. No longer will I allow others to control my feelings and desires. Self-love is when I see the smiles on my children’s faces, confirming that I am finally loving myself and doing what is right for my family. When people ask me how I am doing, my response is “Living and loving life.”

Inspired by Kadijah’s powerful LYFF story? Well, let her know in the comments.


Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: Join the Collective

LOVE YOURSELF FIRST! FRIDAY

Cultivating a Tribe of Women Who Unapologetically Love Themselves

Are you ready to share your self-love story? Well, Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is your golden opportunity to do just that. It’s time to give yourself credit, pat yourself on the back, and offer yourself kudos for the strides you’re making to sustain a deeper, stronger love for who you are.

We often don’t realize that we are already – through our everyday, practical actions – providing ourselves with the care that fosters healthy esteem and ignites the will to keep moving forward. From taking 10 minutes to have a cup of tea/coffee to walking in the park for exercise to meditating and praying on a daily basis, these are all a part of giving ourselves the love we deserve.

So, share with us what self-love means to you and how you’re putting it into action!

This is how it works:

Send an email HERE or at info@phoenixrisingcollective.org. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to be a featured Phoenix.

Join the collective of women who’ve shared their stories! Let’s work together to cultivate a tribe of phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically love themselves.

And, for daily inspiration from our self-love sisters, follow us on Instagram.

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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Roxie

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Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of The PRC’s Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This week’s Phoenix is Roxie:

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

Above all, loving myself has always and will always be a journey and not a destination. It takes many shapes and forms and shifts with the fluidity of my identity and my daily life. Loving myself means actively working to create peace in the battlefield that is my body vs. the societal expectations of that body as a fat person, as a woman, as a person with a disability etc. Loving myself can mean being unapologetically vain, loud, strong, defiant or any other number of things that I am told that I cannot be. It means empowering myself and empowering others through whatever means necessary. It means engaging in activities that bring me peace and joy. It means decorating my body with whatever clothing, make-up, accessories, body hair, color, pattern, tattoos, piercings or lack thereof, that I choose for no other reason than it appeals to my aesthetic. Loving myself, truly loving myself, has been consistently making space for my truth to not only exist but to thrive and in those moments of truly loving myself, inspire others to do the same.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)

I would have to say that this journey began when I read a book called Fat!So? by Marilyn Wann. It was the first time in my life that I had ever considered that my body wasn’t disgusting, but that I could actually come to accept it, maybe even love it. It all seemed far too radical for a girl who had been in and out of recovery for a pretty severe eating disorder, but I was always radical in my defiance and decided to give it a shot. Self-love for me started with affirmations that grew more and more difficult. I began with things I already liked, “Roxie, you have beautiful eyes,” and moved up to the much more complex, “Roxie, you have beautiful thighs!” In a time when I hated myself, this was radical self-love. As I’ve grown, I understand self-love to mean caring for myself in ways that make me feel extraordinary, and I think these vary from person to person. I have always been really into fashion, and I mean hair, makeup, accessories, the total look. So I started dolling myself up for selfies and posting them online, which nourishes and embraces my femininity. In the last few years, I have worked on doing what is healthy for my body including weight lifting, endurance training, and eating a very healthy nutritionist-approved diet. Most importantly, I embraced my body and the word fat and incorporated it into my activism work. It’s really powerful for me as a fat woman to show up in spaces I’ve been told aren’t for me. I go to the gym and dance on the treadmill, I hang by the pool in my bikini, and I go to the mall in a crop top. I do all of these things knowing my own worth, beauty, and ownership of identity and hoping that we can change the societal expectations placed on women to look or exist in one certain way.

Roxie 2

“I embraced my body and the word fat and incorporated it into my activism work.”

Now, being radical and out there as an activist can be as draining as it is invigorating. So, for me, self-care also has a calm and peaceful side. This connects me to the purest part of myself. Primarily, this is manifested through my spirituality which takes on two key roles: introspection and compassion. In order for me to experience continued growth, I engage in meditation/prayer, drumming, and dance. These activities turn my focus inward and upward. They provide spiritual nutrition and help to guide my compass. In order for me to feel accomplished in my sense of spiritual purpose, I live in active compassion. My mother used to say, “Blessing people makes me feel blessed.” I have found that this is so very true. I find joy in sending cards and gifts to friends, in greeting strangers, in comforting those around me, and in anonymous acts of love and sharing. I also care for others and myself by being a big old clown! I love to laugh, and not a little chuckle. I love to laugh until there are tears rolling down my face and I start laughing at how funny it is to laugh so hard. So, I commonly make jokes and perform with improv troupes.  Caring for others, for me, is a form of self-care, and what better care exists in the world than laughter, love, and smiles.

Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

Throughout my life, I have faced a lot of obstacles that affected my view of myself. From growing up in extreme poverty to struggling with a debilitating medical condition. However, when it comes to barriers to my own self-love, the strongest opponent I ever faced was the echoes of psychological and emotional abuse that I endured from family, peers, and partners. I was bullied for being different at a very early age. I was too large, too ginger, too loud, too eccentric, too much everything. I remember a distinct conversation that I had with my mother after a particularly bad day of bullying around grade 5. I was crying until I began to hyperventilate, and I asked her why this kept happening to me. She told me that she didn’t know, but it had to be something that I did otherwise the kids wouldn’t tease me everywhere we went. This one thought–that it was something I must be doing–haunted me for most of my life. In all honesty, on my lowest days it’s still the thought that creeps in. “Roxie, there is something wrong with you.”

Going into high school, this underlying fear kept me from engaging with most people. In college, it attracted me to the wrong person and I spent years in love with someone who regularly reminded me that I was “too much.” That relationship ultimately ended with the harshest words anyone ever said to me, “It shouldn’t be this hard to love someone.” At that moment, something changed in me. He was right, it shouldn’t be this hard to love someone, however, he was wrong about what needed changing. I needed to stop making it so hard to love myself. I needed to get out of my head and into my life.

With fear and trepidation, I stepped and misstepped into a new adventurous journey and into who I was and what I wanted out of life. I learned to stop apologizing for laughing “too loud.” I gave myself permission to not do my hair and makeup in order to earn the right to run to the grocery store. I told myself it’s okay to cry. I stopped being too much for myself, and eased into my enoughness. At the end of the day, I wasn’t the problem. I was never “too much.” I was just the right amount of sassy, bubbly, funky, groovy, silly, loveable, compassionate, and kind. I was the perfect blend of me to fill the one-of-a-kind lifetime role of Roxie. With that knowledge, existing wasn’t something hard at all, in fact sometimes it’s downright effortless.

What have you learned from self-love?

The most important thing that I have learned through self-care is that I don’t owe anybody anything. It’s so simple and yet so complex, but that’s the bottom line: As a human being I do not owe anybody anything. This empowers me for two reasons: 1) I no longer feel the obligation to be attractive, or the smartest person in the room, or to have the best house on the block. I’m not bound by those perceived societal expectations. 2) (The second reason is my favorite!) It makes everything I choose to do that much more special and loving. I choose to apply my make up because it feels smooth on my skin and I love to watch how all the colors dance and blend in the light. I choose my clothing based on what feels good and will bring me joy. I choose to be nurturing to my partner, not because I am feminine, but because I love him so much. When we take away all of the social clutter, and allow ourselves to exist, we have the choices to achieve true greatness. We become the people we are meant to be.

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Share your thoughts about Roxie’s courageous self-love story in the comments. And, to get more inspiration from Roxie, connect with her on Instagram @lilfoxieroxie.

 


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