This April, I found myself walking down the streets of NYC to meet twenty-some other women for a day-long workshop on confidence. I was out of my element – both literally, in the city, and emotionally, as I was about to share my most vulnerable thoughts with a group of strangers.
Sarah Herron, a former Bachelor contestant and founder of SheLift, is just as genuine and kind as she appears to be in the media. Her welcome, nurturing attitude set the tone for the day as we dove into introductions and then got to the heart of the matter. Growing up with a physical difference, Sarah was no stranger to low confidence and sinking self-esteem. In her own journey, she found key elements to be the stepping stones to self-love – and she was ready to help us find the same. Here’s what I learned that day.
We tell ourselves narratives
You know that voice in your head? The one that’s not always nice to you? That’s your self-narrative. It tells you what you believe about yourself – even if that belief is unfounded. They key, according to Sarah, is to understand and recognize those narratives so that you can speak truth into your own life.
As we journaled about our narratives, we spoke about how we would describe ourselves, what fear was holding us back, what others say about us and what truth would set us free. Personally, I realized that I had a need to be liked that stemmed from years of feeling like an outcast. Living with vitiligo, I’ve often felt as though people see me as “the girl with vitiligo” before I even have the chance to speak for myself. That fear – and my own dislike of my skin – drove me to seek acceptance from others to help me feel good about myself.
We can change – and own – our stories
Recognizing the voices and false narratives in your head is the first step. What comes next is a holistic shift in perception that will allow you to re-write your life – at least as you see it in your mind. For an hour, we dove into our values, our desires and the good that others see in us. We were authoring a new narrative to frame our lives. And as a last step, we rewrote the lies we had been telling ourselves – and shared this new version with the group.
Throughout the day, I fought back tears as these narratives that I had been holding as truths came shattering down and put a mirror to my reality. For more than twenty years, I haven’t felt like myself. In fact, I’ve felt like I was robbed of my youth because I spent every day hating my skin and wishing to be anyone but myself. But that day, in that room, I rewrote my false narrative and realized one simple truth: I am exactly who I am meant to me. It’s a truth so simple and so easy to see – and yet so hard to realize when you’re drowning in a web of lies.
Everyone struggles with confidence
I wasn’t alone that day. I sat with twenty-some other women who shared their own stories of struggling with self-esteem and self-love. And as each woman spoke, I realized that the beauty we so often see in others can be so difficult for that person to accept. You can’t see the narratives holding that person back – but they are as real to them as their beauty is to us. “But you’re beautiful!” I wanted to yell, until these women believed me. “Just get out of your own way.” That’s all they needed. And the same applies to me. I just couldn’t see it before.
For years, I wondered how my life would have been different if I hadn’t had vitiligo. Why did I have to be one to suffer through this? And yet, walking out of that room, I was faced with my truth: I am exactly who I am meant to be. And I just need to get out of my own way. So for the first time in my life, I’m laying the tormenting thought of “what if” and “why me” to rest. I am exactly who I am meant to be.
What self-narrative are you holding onto as truth that will set you free?
Erika Page is a blogger, speaker and self-love advocate with universal vitiligo. After living with vitiligo for two decades, Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.