I remember the day I realized that no matter where we grow up in the world, what language we speak, or what we believe, our foundations are inherently the same.
I was at a summer camp in Moldova, sitting at a table with a group of orphan teenagers.
Every day, for a week, we met at the same time and place to journal together.
I was sitting across from a beautiful brown-haired, blue-eyed girl named Diana, who looked about 15 years old. She always sat next to the same boy—I saw them hold hands, write notes back and forth, and giggle flirtatiously. Her attention was usually on him, rather than writing. She reminded me of myself when I was her age.
You know, boy crazy.
On this particular day, I was discussing self-love. I led by example, writing down 10 qualities that I love about myself. I explained that when I struggle with rejection, loneliness and feeling less than good enough, this practice helps remind me of my uniqueness and worth.–
On this day, she listened.–
I watched as she opened her journal, for the first time, and made a list of things she liked about herself. She was focused—one by one, she saturated her page with words that defined her individuality. Once finished, she tore the page out and put it in her pocket, then looked up at me with a warm smile that seemed to say “thank you.”
We did not speak the same language, but we didn’t need to. In that moment, our hearts communicated.
I went back to my room and cried.
I remembered what it was like to be at that age—to want to be wanted, and seeking validation of my worth from boys. Hell, I’m still working through that and I’m approaching 30! I was overwhelmed with emotion at the thought that this may have been the first time someone had encouraged her to celebrate herself.
That evening, as everyone was saying goodnight, we found each other. Apart from sniffles and shedding tears, we embraced in silence.–
That hug remains one of the most powerful human exchanges of my life.
I don’t know where she is or what she is doing, but I hope she is regularly in her journal, exploring her individuality. I hope it has become a place of solace for her when she feels lonely, and a source of inspiration for her, in which to explore her passions.
Reflecting on this experience, I feel immense gratitude for the women in my life who have taught me unconditional, radical self-love. Showing up in the world, from a place of authenticity and fullness, has given me a greater sense of self-confidence and real human connection. Their example was a gift to me, and is now a gift that I want to give back to others.
We all want to be seen, and feel loved and valued by our peers, but I have learned (and continue to learn) that this can only happen if we offer ourselves these gifts first. By honoring our mind, body and spirit through the practice of self-love, we are no longer lost in a dance with other people’s approval.
And genuineness is where all the magic happens.
With this in mind, let’s regularly ask ourselves: how does the way I love myself impact the women and girls that I come into contact with every day?
Author: Brianna Miller
Image: Brianna Miller
Apprentice Editor: Catherine Simmons; Editor: Emily Bartran