One of the most rewarding parts of creating Thank You, Me was connecting with readers and learning about others’ stories and struggles with self acceptance and self-worth. When a story connects us to another person heart to heart, this is, in my opinion, more valuable than any other reason to write.
One such connection happened when Cintia read my story in the Network for Grateful Living Blog and reached out to share her own story.
Cintia’s inner critic worried her into believing that her skin color was not “right.” She felt unwelcome in her community because her skin color was different from those around her. Finding self-acceptance in this environment was difficult, but Cintia’s continuous work in finding self-love immensely improved her relationship with herself and others. In her story, she shares how she accomplished this.
Cintia was kind enough to allow me to share her own story below.
Cintia’s Story: Finding Self-Acceptance and Self-Worth
by Cintia Pelissari
For many years I hid the feelings that caused me suffering. Much of this suffering was related to the color of my skin.
I don’t remember exactly when I started to feel bad about the color of my skin. Maybe it started with some situations during my childhood, some comments about it.
I’m from a tropical country, where “normal skin” is tanned skin… but my family emigrated from European countries, so my skin is white.
I remember feeling bad and alone when the others girls in school came up to me, comparing our arms and our legs saying, “You are so white.” And all of them laughed mocking me.
The years passed by and in my teenage years I could not wear any clothes that showed my body. I covered my body all the time, even in the summer. I tried to wear short clothes sometimes, but people called me “ghost” and felt ashamed. I felt I was wrong.
For many years I suffered and considered myself a person who could never be happy.
I worried about the opinions of people around me. I wanted to be accepted and I thought that in order for it to happen, I should be what they approved. In an irresponsible way, I exposed my body to the sun in order to obtain a tanned skin, but this only led to painful burns.
This may sound silly and insignificant, but believe me, in the eyes of a child or a teenager, little things like that feel monstrous. It certainly influenced my adult life. It is very painful to feel unwelcome in your own community.
I had no idea at the time, but I now know that this “silly” issue caused emotional problems, low self-esteem, and difficulties in personal and professional relationships. In the moment that I decided to start my personal journey to overcome these issues, I started learning about self-love and self-respect.
As I learned about self-love and self acceptance, the feelings of shame, fear, and inadequacy gave way to a feeling of appreciation of real beauty. Now I can see the truth.
Learning self-respect is not easy. The learning needs to happen daily, like taking a shower. We need take a shower every day in order to clean the body, and likewise I try to clean my mind and my emotions in every moment. I do this by practicing meditation and grateful living.
I still hear inelegant comments about my skin. But it doesn’t matter anymore. My journey in finding self-love has made me strong and able to appreciate myself, my perfect body.
Nowadays I know to respect and be grateful for my skin, grateful for all of my body. My body is a gift. Through it, I can remember and honor my ancestors.
The search for this feeling of self-worth is continuous. Every day and in every moment I need to pay attention to my thoughts because they are “the guilties.” They can become my enemies. I need to take care of them with love. With much love. In my case, it is possible to do this by practicing different meditation techniques in order to calm my mind: Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Zazen or just breathing and contemplating.
Louise L. Hay says, “How you start your day, is how you live your day.” So, every morning, my first thought when I wake up and open my eyes is a prayer to God. “Thank you God for this new day which is beginning. Thank you that I am alive. May this day be full of blessings, peace and happiness.”
During breakfast in the kitchen, I read my reminder:
“It’s not just another day; it’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness…” —Brother David
Another personal rule is: don’t compare. Never. Don’t compare what you are with what others appear to be. I’m the only person that knows exactly what is happening in my heart, in depth. I’ll never know exactly what is happening in the lives of others, so it’s impossible to compare the actions and reactions. Everyone has their own baggage and it cannot be compared or judged.
During the day, when something wrong happens or a bad feeling comes, I breathe deeply and talk to myself like a lovely friend: my sweet child, please stay here. Where are your feet? Here, keep calm, stay here and breathe, slow down…
There are always possibilities of new storms darkening my days. When this happens, it reminds me to look at the sky. In these moments, it is as if my tree of gratitude, now with deeper roots held tenderly in my heart, gives me the strength and safety necessary to face any storm.
I realize that the seed of gratitude is now and has always been in my heart. But like in a garden, cultivating is necessary so that seeds grow and blossom and give fruits.