Before my time in the Peace Corps, there were many instances where I sold myself short, took less than I worked for, bent until I broke, and became a designated floor mat. I would shrink in situations that made me uncomfortable and gravitated towards being a peace keeper instead of true to my core and exigencies.
By being a peace keeper and labelling myself level-minded and conscious, I sold off bits of who I am to appease others and now as I sit in a small room in a country far away, I see how desperately I needed those pieces I so freely gave away.
It became essential to me to rebuild my fortitude.
“I want to be virtuous and live with integrity,” I said many times before. “I want to empower other women and inspire those around me,” I said more times than I can count. Yet, I was passive and behaved in a way that didn’t align with my essence and the goals I had for the woman I was creating.
I’d apologize when I didn’t need to and frankly, I got tired of hearing the word ‘sorry’ come out of my mouth when it wasn’t called for. It took me so long to get on board with the idea; not all relationships, friendships and connections can or should be salvaged and restored.
I had to release the desire to control what was out of my grasp, and work on areas of my life that would bring me peace and self-respect.
I wanted to empower women to be their best self and to be go-getters and dreamers and doers. Yet, I was staying small and keeping my voice to a whisper in the background. It’s taken months of reflection, conscious writings, and deliberate changes to my behavior to understand my place in this world and where my soul feels most alive. But it’s here and now.
As I write, I see more clearly. My journey in Peace Corps has forced me to break away from the shell I gladly hid behind; I saw that my voice and perspective is meant to be shared and adds values to the conversation. By advocating for myself and my ideas, I have a greater respect for my truth and capabilities.
It happened gradually, then one day, I looked around me and everything in my world was different. I wasn’t content with mediocrity or lack of consideration.
I wasn’t content with ‘this is the way things are done.’ I began to question power, procedures, and my new norms. And by having open and honest conversations while being cognizant of other’s perception and realities, I witnessed a pragmatic shift in my interactions, my confidence and my relationships.
I was no longer searching for validation or affirmation. I gave myself the endorsement to go after what I want, to speak up when I am uncomfortable or when I have an idea for the betterment of a system. And to know that I am capable, valuable and decisive. By advocating for myself, I created the self-worth that I had always dreamed of having.
It’s not easy getting to a place where you feel comfortable sending query emails, raising your hand, interjecting into conversations, sharing a different point of view or belief, but it’s so worth it. I spent so many years biting my tongue, but I want to walk the walk and talk the talk that I preach. I’m stepping into a new era with a focus on self-love, self-respect, and leaving everything I touch better than I found it.