People see me and think I am a ray of light. I laugh loud, smile a lot, shout to the world I’m hot, wave my poms for those who need a good cheer, grace the stage in the bikini without any fear, hug a friend when she can’t hold back the tears…but there is an inner battle going on inside of me that people can’t see. I nearly lost the battle 5 years ago. Even though I had a great career, dressed really well, drove a nice car and looked like I was a happy, successful woman…deep down I did not like me. There were voices in my head declaring I wasn’t good enough. "See, you didn’t get the job to work for The Oprah Show", "...you didn’t get that raise", "...you’re always going to be broke", "...you ain’t never going to have kids", "...you can’t keep a man". I believed these voices to be true, especially when it came to men because all my relationships with men were 'dead ends'. I dated guys who had no real interest in getting to know me beyond the parameters of my bed. Yet, I still wanted them to love me anyway. My failed relationships with men sunk my already low self-esteem. The more my spirit sank, the more I tried to deceive the world with my outward appearance. Fake smile, fake make-up, fake hair and nails, fake clothes, fake car. Everything about me was fake. If anyone tried to pry into my life, I would shut them down. I hid from the world so no one would know what was really going on with me. I didn’t want to talk to friends and if I did I was distant. I isolated myself in my apartment after work. I never went out. I stayed home and ate and ate crappy food to medicate.
I gained 15 pounds and was on my way to getting fatter. But on the outside, people saw me as this positive, upbeat woman who was just getting a little thick, no biggie. But behind my pretty smile, there was an ugly frown. Even though I wasn't considered overweight, I still had the mindset of an obese female who just gave up on herself. I felt like I was drowning in darkness. I called this darkness “the monster”. It’s the same monster that I thought hid in my bedroom closet back when I was eight. My mom always assured me the monster wasn’t real. But I saw it. While I was frozen under the covers, I saw my monster. It was a midnight blue beast, stood on two legs with dragon wings on it’s back. It had large scaly claws and green eyes that glowed.
Sometimes, it whispered my name. This was my monster. It made me feel scared, weak, and helpless. I hated the monster and wanted it to go away. So before going to bed, I decided to turn on the bathroom light down the hall too illuminate the darkness in my room. I sat up in bed, eyeing the closet. I waited for the monster to appear. It never came. It hated the light. I felt scared, weak, and helpless. I hated the monster and wanted it to go away. So before going to bed, I decided to turn on the bathroom light down the hall to illuminate the darkness in my room. I sat up in bed, eyeing the closet. I waited for the monster to appear. It never came. It hated the light. But now this monster was back to haunt me again. It enjoyed watching me fail. It fed off my fear and weakness. I became paranoid about people actually seeing the real me. I hid some more. I did not want anyone to know how ugly I truly was inside.
Then one day, I spent an afternoon with my Nana. Before my visit, I made sure I was fashionably dressed in flawless makeup. Even my hair was perfectly combed and curled. I wanted to appear happy and healthy even though inside I was a hot mess. I didn’t want Nana to worry about me because I could tell she wasn’t feeling too well that day. However, her spirit was strong. She liked telling stories about when she was a young girl in Troy, Alabama, and how much trouble she and her brother would get into. She loved getting gifts for her birthday, Christmas and Mother's Day because she was a "Depression baby", and the only gifts they got back then was a good meal. She talked about all the delicious southern dishes she learned to cook and eat growing up. But then she finally said, “Be good to yourself okay baby. Don’t eat the way I ate. You only have one heart, one life. Take care of it.” She passed away from heart disease 3 years ago, but what she said stuck with me. I needed to start taking care of me.
I thought of Nana’s last words of encouragement and finally just looked in the mirror. No clothes, no makeup, hair pulled back…raw looking at me. There stood the woman I didn’t want the world to see. But if I was going to make a change, I had to start with the woman in the mirror. I began a new life chapter with saying one word, 'yes'. I started to focus only on saying 'yes' to me and my life shifted. I stopped being fake. I stopped isolating and hiding. I stopped eating crappy food. I stopped partaking in dead-end relationships. I dragged my butt into the gym and kept saying 'yes' to myself even when I felt like saying 'no'. I kept pumping iron until my muscles gave out, kept climbing stairs until my legs buckled, kept "taeboing" until I passed out, and kept running until my feet hurt. Through this practice of saying 'yes' to me, I found strength. I found the truth. I found worthiness. I found love. I found beauty. I started to let my light shine and my monster and the bad voices eventually went away.
So no matter what I look like on the outside, there is an inner battle going on inside of me. Every day, I fight the mean voices and the monster that wants to terrorize me again. But as long as I continue to say 'yes' to me, I win. Begin tomorrow by saying yes to yourself first. It’s okay to be selfish. Don’t worry. When you are truly happy, everyone around you prospers. Believe in your worth. Believe in the power of the word 'yes' and what that means for you and then start your new journey. You will eventually see positive changes in your life. You will feel awesome. Just say 'YES' to yourself and you’ll never want to say 'no' again.
“The biggest enemy is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy.” -- Whitney Houston
Written By: Nikki Utley, Creator/Publisher/Editor-In-Chief at BFW Magazine: Beauty, Fitness, & Wellness for women
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