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Inspiring Women to be Self-Love in Action


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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: 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.

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“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.

 


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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AFFIRMATION OF THE DAY: You Are Worthy

Worthiness[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

There is nothing you need to prove for acceptance. You are worthy just as you are in this present moment. STOP thinking you have to be something other than who you are and/or do something differently. You are enough right now. Act in this belief every day and your experiences and the people around you will shift to support it. You are worthy!


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday – This Phoenix is Stephanie

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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 Stephanie:

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

I love myself first in a number of ways, some more tangible than others. The most important thing I can do that demonstrates self-love is to do simply that: love myself. I do not accept negativity from others about me or my body, and as such I will not accept that from me. It is easy to pick apart all the parts of me that may not fit into a perfectly compartmentalized ideal, but I choose to instead love me in the most basic way.

Loving myself does not mean that I must act selfishly or put my wants above the needs of everyone else. Instead, I prefer to think of it as fulfilling my most basic needs in order to be the best possible version of me so that I may help others.

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

In addition to the care I take with myself mentally, I demonstrate self-care through running and eating a diet high in protein and healthy fats. I also cut out soda, preferring to have it as a treat. When I run, I am able to push my body to do something I never thought it could and that makes me proud. Running, however, has become more than just miles to me. When I am out on a run I can clear my mind of all the rubbish that can build up – the day-to-day stress of life. It is easy to think during the hour or so I am running that I could instead be spending that time doing work or playing with my children. I find that it is important to think of running as an insurance policy that I will be able to experience a full life with my children in the future. It insures that I have an outlet for me personally, and thus I am better able to handle what is thrown at me. Most importantly, perhaps, is that when I take time to show my children that I am a person and am allowed to take care of me, too, I am providing them with a model that they should also treat their own minds and bodies with respect.

FB_IMG_1452719523843Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

I live in a culture that frequently equates self-worth to a number on a scale, and I was not immune. I grew up very much obsessed with those numbers. I was always different than the other girls, taller or more developed at a younger age so it was very hard for me. As I grew, the same insecurities I had grew with me and compounded. However, when I found out I would be a mother that really changed. I learned to love my body and realized what it could do. After my first son was born, and I struggled at first to breastfeed him, I never once doubted my body’s ability to do what I knew it could. The thought occurred to me that I should feel like that about all aspects of my body. I figured that if I had brought a nearly ten-pound person into this world and fed him from my body, I was a rock star.

When the time came for the birth of my second son, I knew what I was capable of and chose to have him naturally. With his birth I was hit with even more love for my family, but also for me. I knew then that I was capable of so much more. After his birth, I promised myself I would not speak negatively of myself. I didn’t want my children to grow up thinking it was normal to belittle oneself, and from there the rest fell in place. I learned that self-love starts from within. Once I started to love me, really and truly, I wanted to show my body the love it deserved. I started running, which led to want to fuel myself properly. The numbers on the scale occasionally change, but I am not defined by them, and for that I am grateful.

What have you learned from self-love?

I have learned through the ongoing process of self-love that my personal self-worth is not contingent upon the thoughts or opinions of anyone else. What matters is that when I look in the mirror I am happy with what I see. I have learned that what I say has value, and I am learning to speak up more often because I am a strong, loving, educated woman. Finally, I have learned that growth is an ongoing process. I am growing every day. I learn every day.

 


Share your self-love story! Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories‬.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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ARTIST FEATURE: Blooming Where You Are Planted – An Interview with Gale Glover

Gale Glover Artist Feature[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

This is a story about a woman who might not call herself an artist in the same way others have claimed their inner artistry from childhood. She did not grow up dreaming of being a children’s book author. She did not necessarily feel the calling in her life to write until her hands couldn’t write anymore. However, her work ethic was cultivated from a young age. She learned about perseverance and determination early.

Gale Glover is from Flint, Michigan. Flint has this wonderful reputation for teaching people how to fight for what they want, because Flint is not an easy city. It does not carry the white picket fence label. Although people can build a white picket fence, if they wish, they have to keep the fence up. They might have to change the color or paint it white every year due to environmental conditions – rough weather, rough circumstances and rough times.

Over the last few years I have watched Gale in the work environment stay late and catch up on work while also going to school, because that’s what people do when they want to accomplish something specific. She explained she grew up poor in a single-parent household. One mother and no father. She started working when she was 14 years old. At age 17 she skipped school and worked three jobs. The next year she moved out of her mom’s home. A few years later she ended up in a physically and verbally abusive relationship. The details sounded like a Lifetime movie. She dealt with the stalking and hiding from someone, being beat up numerous times, and jumping off a two-story house to escape to safety. Gale explained that it is easy for people to say, “Just leave. End the relationship.” But it is not easy. In her early 20’s, when this occurred, she wasn’t aware of the available resources for battered women. She did not know about YWCA or the National Domestic Hotline. She shared that even now it is a journey, because she is still learning what it means to be in healthy viable relationships that empower her.

We talked briefly about the importance of knowing what resources are available to those who have experienced abuse. The statistics on violence against women are alarming. She told me, “It is important for kids not to go through what I went through. That is why I work so hard.” One of her goals is to write an autobiography about her experiences. “I want women to know they can survive. We are survivors. We can get through anything. Knowledge is the key. If we know the resources, then we can get help.”

It is no coincidence that her degrees are linked to her experiences. She received her degrees from University of Michigan-Flint. She triple majored and received a B.A. in Criminal Justice, Sociology and Africana Studies. She then completed a Masters in Public Administration. Presently, she is in a Post-Master’s Education Specialist Program. But her studies and experiences are more poignant. One of the key reasons for her pursuing these studies is also linked to her daughter. Gale has a maternal spirit. At one point in her life she had five children living with her (not biological). Her home was a safe space for youth to develop. One of the children is her daughter, Alicia. Due to a number of circumstances her daughter faced, Gale gained custody when Alicia was a young teenager. She shared, “When I got my daughter she was struggling through school. She had bad grades in middle and high school. In helping her excel I had to ask myself, how can I tell her to go to college if I haven’t done so myself? So because of this, I went to school. I went from being a single person with no kids to a single parent going to school full time and working full time.”

She also shared that at one point they ended up taking a class together. Excitedly, her daughter, Alicia, is graduating with her Masters in Health Education, May 2016.

All of these life experiences lead to Gale’s children’s book series. She started writing the Reach Higher Ed series in 2013. The purpose in creating the series is to educate kids through the literary arts. The books are learning tools that introduce them to higher education. She explained the series is not only for kids. It’s also for their parents.

Gale Cover

The first book introduces them to higher education and encourages them to reach for their goals. This book includes 10 tips for being successful in college. It also has a glossary of academic terms. The second book is the activity and coloring book. She is presently working on Reach Higher Ed Learning Our Degrees. This third book introduces kids to the different programs like biochemistry, astrology and astronomy, as well as professions that kids can pursue like being a teacher or doctor.

This led me to ask Gale about her own bucket list. She wants to pursue a Doctorate in Education and start her own organization to help kids reach their highest potential. Moreover, she wants to do this in Flint, Michigan. She’s a die-hard supporter and fan of her city. She is the essence of the phrase, “Bloom where you are planted.”

When I think of Gale, I think of my own dreams as a writer and traveler. I am reminded through her that it takes work. When times are rough, I have to put on thick skin and keep going. This is why I chose Gale as the feature for March, because I notice her efforts. She does her work with a smile. Between pursuing this Post-Master’s degree, she is the Administrative Assistant in the Communication and Visual Arts Department at University of Michigan-Flint; She is the Marketing Editor for Qua, the University’s literary magazine; And she is a writer. She is blossoming where she has been planted. She is the fruit of her own labor. She is Gale Glover, a work of art always progressing to the next thing to support a generation following her lead.

She is a great reminder that this is blooming season. Spring!

 

Domestic Violence Statistics:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Intimate Partner and Sexual Assault Survey

Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Finding – Female Victims of Violence

More information about assault:

RAINN

Full Report of Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women

 

The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, interviews women artists who use their talents and creativity to fully express self-love, build self-esteem, and nurture their own authenticity while inspiring others. Creative expressions may range from performing to painting to writing to travel and everything in between. Our goal is to share how these empowered women cultivate agency, healing, and happiness through fulfilling their passion.

 


traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help women reach their highest potential.  “The Phoenix Rising Collective is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts. You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.

 


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

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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 Natasha:

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

I love myself first by taking care of my health first. I try to make sure that I really pay attention to what my body is telling me. If I find that I need to force myself to do something then I stop, take a breath and reevaluate what I am doing and why. At the same time when I notice that I’m avoiding a task I try to figure out the underlying reasons.

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

  1. I try to exercise at least four times a week. Through CrossFit I have been able to push myself further than I ever imagined.
  2. I food prep on a regular basis, usually on Sundays. I make sure that I have enough to eat throughout the week (five small meals for five days) and set an alarm so that I won’t forget to eat.  When I’m engrossed in my work I have a tendency to forget to eat. As a vegetarian and a graduate student, I have found that food prepping allows me to save money and have options that I wouldn’t otherwise.
  3. I’m Buddhist and I try to chant everyday, it is definitely a work in progress.
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LYFF Feature, Natasha’s Weekly Food Prep

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

When I was a teenager I was raped. For a long time I hated myself; I had a difficult time feeling that I was worthy of love or even loving myself. I have been working through this for the past 12 years; now I am able to see the good inside of me. Actually, it’s deeper than that: I have been able to see my strengths, weaknesses and potential. I have been able to embrace my flaws, change my self-talk, and learn to be kind to myself.

I am still on this journey of self-love and still get frustrated with myself (especially as I am writing my dissertation) but I am learning that I am human.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self love has shown me how strong and beautiful I am. Regardless of my weight, hair, skin, eyelash length, or waist size, I am phenomenal. I am not a doormat. I am not one dimensional. I am a full person. That sounds kind of hilarious, but seriously in this society sometimes it’s difficult to recognize your full humanity.

 

Thank you, Natasha, for having the courage to tell your self-love story. You are a brave Phoenix rising!


 

Share your self-love story! Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories‬.  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 Denise

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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 Denise:

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

Loving yourself is always remembering to be true – true to your mind, body and spirit. In learning to love myself I’ve learned how to love all of me, all the time.

I am learning to listen to myself. I am such a giver that sometimes I give until I have no energy left. However, not the new and improved me; I’ve learned to stop and think about how it will affect me. As I’ve gotten older, I realize how we’re quick to question others, but won’t question ourselves. In learning to love yourself first, you have to be willing to question yourself and come up with solutions.

Putting yourself first isn’t always the easiest feat but it’s a must.

I love to listen to music; it’s my biggest stress reliever. I can go for hours listening to Jill Scott, The Foreign Exchange, Dwele and a host of other Neo Soul-type artists.

I also love being by water. (SN: I cannot swim, and I don’t know if I want to learn!) Since we have no “real” beaches in Cleveland, I settle for going to the lake and sitting for hours just listening to the water. I actually do some of my best self-reflecting there.

I love to read and travel as well.

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

In October 2014 I began my fitness journey. The experience of going out of my comfort zone really opened my eyes to “how to be a better me”. I never had a true purpose for why I wanted to change; I just knew I had to. I looked at my fitness journey just as that, a journey. I was totally clueless when I began losing weight so I started following an Instagram account: fbffitness. After weeks and weeks of debating, I joined her 8-week weight loss challenge. The challenge consisted of being on a virtual team where you were to complete certain daily tasks and receive points. In the end, you had the opportunity to win money! Well, I didn’t win but I made it to the top five out of 100+ contestants.

I never really celebrated that accomplishment until recently. In my mind, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Wrong! It was huge. After I finished the challenge, I began personal training at a local gym for a few months. With personal training and a new diet I was on a roll…so I thought. I was still unhappy. I had to learn that this lifestyle change is all mental. I realized I can make all the physical changes in the world, but until I changed my mental outlook I would still be exactly the same.

I am happy to say that I am 40+lbs down forever!

Women Weight Loss Journey[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

LYFF Feature, Denise, sharing her 40+ lbs weight loss

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

Embracing change is a huge challenge for me. I’m now allowing myself to try new activities, new foods and new adventures. Being patient with myself is also an obstacle. My friends would say I am one of the most patient people you would ever meet, and I am…with others. In my own life I want things to be quick, fast and in a hurry. Learning to be more patient with myself has allowed me to relax and understand that things will happen when God says so.

What have you learned from self-love?

I have learned from self-love that no one will love you like YOU! Self-love allows you to be your own advocate. Self-love allows you to be a better woman, wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend. Self-love has taught me to be happy with all my flaws.

 

Thank you, Denise, for sharing your self-love story! You are truly a Phoenix rising. Congratulations on such a major lifestyle change. It most certainly is a big deal!

Were you inspired by Denise’s story? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Want to share your self-love story?

Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories‬.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring features.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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Worst Love Yourself First! Friday Ever – A Reflection

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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 Tracey:

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Tracey, LYFF Feature

As I pondered my self-love routine, so I could write something enlightening about my journey of self-discovery and how it’s manifested in productive, healthy routines that nurture me, I had a disturbing revelation: I have nothing to contribute here. I don’t do self-love. I don’t meditate. My prayer life is spotty. I eat crap. I don’t write regularly. I don’t get lost in books. I rarely exercise. I don’t get my hair and nails done. I’ve had like three massages in my life, and I judge myself harshly.

I racked my brain; I really did.  As I read others’ entries about difficult but beautiful journeys to self-love, I thought, I know…I’ll spin it. I will take some moment of joy in my life and spin it into my self-love story. I can do that. I’ll sit down and ala “And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street” I’ll exaggerate a story so fantastic that I will seem like the most self-aware, evolved, self-loving human on earth. I will spin a tale of complete, balanced self-love, and if I was really careful, I might even believe my tale enough not to feel so harried and distracted and self-negligent.

And then, I realized, that if I say, there are things that I need to do in the name of self-love, but I don’t do them in the name of “getting things done” that I may turn a corner. If I stop pretending to be content and start seeking peace, and if I decide that today, not tomorrow, I will ignore the messy bathroom and write down what I need to do to nurture myself, I may just get there.

This is my hurdle. I don’t do self-love. I do self-judgment.  I haven’t come to grips with the fact that what I “should” do and what I need to do and what I want to do are, on occasion, the same thing. That to sit with a cup of tea for 30 minutes everyday and read something that I enjoy, not because it’s about parenting or losing weight or some non-profit, but because I love to read and reading feeds my soul is something I should and need and want to do. That to quietly meditate for 10 minutes everyday just to be quiet and listen to God, is revolutionary in my life.

After all this consideration, I discovered something important. If I spent time loving myself dearly, I would not be able to judge myself harshly. So, I will love myself dearly, fully, happily. And one year from now, I will revisit my self-love journey and I’ll actually have something to contribute.

 

Thank you, Tracey, for your honesty; it is most definitely a powerful contribution. We look forward to one year from now. You are a brave Phoenix rising.

How  many of you can relate to Tracey’s story? What commitment will you make (even a small act) to be self-love in action? Share in the comments.


Want to share your self-love story! Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories‬.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring features.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.

 


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ARTIST FEATURE: Awakening to My Truest Self – An Interview with Jade Ponds

 

Womens Art and Creativity[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

There are many characteristics I love about the February 2016 feature, Jade Ponds. Her punching dry wit and her determination to reach personal goals are two obvious aspects that stand out. Also, she has a gentle and kind spirit mixed with tough love. There is a lot to this young woman whom I have had the pleasure of knowing in different capacities.

She was born in Banbury, England but moved to Flint, Michigan as a child. She had written her first poem when she was 10 years old. In actuality, her teacher placed her in “time out” for getting in trouble. She told Jade not to move until she wrote something. Soon after, without ever having written poetry in her life, she produced a poem called Love. Jade years later joined the Navy and served a four-year term, traveling to places like Dubai, Singapore and Hawaii, just to name a few.

I met Jade at a poetry event in December 2007. She came to the venue to support her cousin who was in the first spoken word class I had taught at University of Michigan-Flint. After the event, she approached me. She explained how shocked she was to see her cousin not only perform but sing on stage. This evidently was an anomaly. The next year Jade registered for the course. She wasn’t just a student in the class; she was a mentee. The odd thing about talking about mentor-mentee relationships is that the flow of knowledge and wisdom feels one-sided at times. But that was not the case with Jade. She shifted the tides in how I saw learning because she was someone who wanted to learn everything she could about writing, performing and developing as a person. She always asked a lot of questions – Jade kept me on my toes!

When she finished the spoken word class in 2008, she didn’t just move on to other classes. Oh no! Jade registered for credits to assist me with the other spoken word classes. She started producing the chapbooks for the course while working on her own poetry book. She graduated from University of Michigan-Flint with a B.A. in English literature. She continued her education, graduating with a M.A. also in English literature and a concentration in Creative Writing. I had asked her to emcee a monthly performance set I was organizing. The shift in the relationship moved from teacher-student to friend. Not long after, we started working together at Genesee Valley Regional Center, a Flint juvenile detention center. We co-facilitated a spoken word workshop with young women Monday evenings. Jade (after graduation) accepted a job with General Motors as an UAW supervisor while still publishing poetry books, co-facilitating the performance workshops as well as teaching martial arts on Wednesday evenings. Yes, she is a 4th degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. She is a woman of many talents.

Jade Ponds [womens art and creativity] The Phoenix Rising Collective]

However, the information above is not the story I want to tell about Jade. The story I want to share is specific. It’s about the shift in her life. I begin this story by sharing an excerpt from her poem Fair Exchange:

Life hangs in the balance

Balance no longer an option as one side dearly

Outweighs the other

Death is near

She is set to be a mother

Complete with belly rubs from well-wishing strangers

Never knowing the danger lurking around the next bend

The end

Much closer than before as she

Blacks out and falls to the floor

Pain overwhelming

Not just a throbbing

Or a stabbing

Or a shooting pain,

But a combination of all three times ten

Accompanied by blood

Horrific at best

With no chance for rest before rushing to the E.R.

Hands trembling

Scenes skipping from one to the next

to the next

then darkness

This poem speaks to an experience that made her rethink her life and the sort of legacy she wants to leave on earth. In July 2009 Jade was at her annual family reunion in South Carolina. Big family. Lots of children. All sorts of food. Playing games and talking smack – what every reunion should have, right?

She explained what happened on this particular summer day:

I woke up that morning because I am an early riser. I was also the only adult who would play with the kids. We were on the trampoline around 8 in the morning for about an hour, jumping up and down like kids do. When I got off I couldn’t stand up without feeling like I was going to fall over. I felt a pain in my abdomen – the lower right side. I ignored it though. Although the pain persisted, I kept moving through the day playing other games. Around 6 in the evening I was unusually tired. My mother-in-law gave me two Tylenol so I could lie down on my back because my stomach was really hurting. It got worse. I stood up to get somebody and then I passed out. I ended up waking up and calling Mike (her husband) but then I passed out again. I was rushed to the hospital. There were moments where I could see everything in front of me but then it got darker and darker until I couldn’t see anymore. And that’s when I had an outer body experience. It was sudden. It was like stepping outside of myself and seeing me on the hospital bed, along with Mike and the doctor. It was peaceful and I didn’t feel any pain.

What I learned was I needed an emergency surgery. My fallopian tube was removed because I had an ectopic pregnancy. Unlike normal pregnancies, the fertilized egg stayed in the tube instead of moving to the uterus. I was 7-weeks pregnant and the baby was growing in the tube, which had ruptured. Essentially that day, I had been bleeding in my belly. I had lost the baby.

This moment of awakening represented both death and new life. On one end, my child had died and I could feel my life draining out of my body. For a moment I thought, “This is my last day on earth.” And it could’ve been. I asked myself how were people going to remember me. And I didn’t like the answer. What I understood about myself was that I had been holding myself back in life. I was the person that didn’t allow people into my world. I was very guarded (and still am to a degree). But I wasn’t living up to my full potential. I was not fully writing my truth or loving completely and fully. I might have to be responsible for other people’s feelings, especially if I impact them and I connect with them. Yes, I was shy, but it was more than just being shy. I was afraid of publishing my book because I was afraid to share. So this brought on that question, “How am I going to be remembered?” It was time for me to recognize the things I liked to do. For example, I liked helping people. But it was also time for me to recognize the experiences that placed me in a corner. In the past, I didn’t want to give people an opportunity to get to know me. And I think that stems from my hurtful relationship with my dad. He was the first person who truly let me down in my life. When I started to acknowledge resentment from within, I also had to acknowledge the discomforts and vulnerabilities related to our father-daughter relationship. I listed the discomforts:

On my dad’s watch I was molested.

On my dad’s watch I didn’t feel a sense of security

On my dad’s watch I felt like he wasn’t listening to my heart.

On my dad’s watch I felt unloved.

 

Although Jade acknowledges these experiences and feelings, she also admits she is still healing. And she doesn’t shy away from the anger or frustrations she feels about her dad today. She writes about it; She talks to trusted people; She uses her experiences to empower and help. When I am with Jade I am pushed to the next level of artistry because she reminds me that my truth should be spoken and shared, if for no other reason than to release and speak aloud as a way of acknowledging myself in the universe. That is where my healing begins.

It’s befitting to end this article with her words I carry, especially during times when I want to shut everyone out, “What I have learned is to treat each person as an individual and not as a collection of failures.” Yes, what I have learned is that there are some people who will show you how to trust. I’ve been fortunate to connect with a woman who shows me what trust means in my artistry and in myself.

Thank you, Jade Ponds!

 


 

traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie is the Art + Creativity contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help women reach their highest potential.  “The Phoenix Rising Collective is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts. You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.


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

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This is the first self-love story of 2016, and it’s exciting to bring it your way.

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 brave Phoenix to kick off the new year is Candi:

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

Loving myself means giving myself exactly what I need. I do this by acknowledging how I feel in every moment and staying conscious of my inner dialogue. I pamper myself and also take myself out on self-love dates.

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

I practice a vegan diet, exercise, meditate, journal, spend time in nature and create art.

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

The most recent obstacle I’ve faced was starting my business; I had no idea how to, and I have little to no support. But my persistence and authenticity kept me going, so along the way I’ve been adopted by many soul sisters. Overcoming this fear made me appreciate my creativity, and I proved to myself that I can be in business and be myself: kind. It made me trust myself more and my intuition.

What have you learned from self-love?

That it’s not how others treat me that matters; it’s how I treat myself that counts.

 

Candi is Founder/Creator of Lioness Healing Arts. Be sure to check her out and also follow her inspiration and newest jewelry creations on Instagram.

 


Share your self-love story! Send an email HERE. Put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Phenomenal women who fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self esteem share their stories‬.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.