Please Note: This post references and briefly describes domestic violence
I am a survivor of domestic violence, and God wanted me to share a part of my story that I had never told anyone. So, I engaged in a spiritual haggling session with God because sharing this vulnerable part of me was scary. But I know that God knows more, so there was a reason—there is a reason—I needed to tell this part…
I was on a self-love retreat in beautiful Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The group had just finished lunch and were headed to class out on the villa patio. We engaged in an exercise where each person gave a 5-minute testimony of something significant in their lives that caused them to stop loving themselves. Then, it was time to head down to the beach for a sunset walk. I was relieved thinking I’d escaped having to share my story, when our leader announced, “We’ll continue class on the beach.”
As we walked along the beach, the weather was perfectly warm with a slight breeze. The sky was lending itself to God’s coloring, turning shades of orange and purple. I felt the sand dancing between my toes and watched the blue water rush to the shores to welcome me. When it was my turn to share, I could feel tears rushing towards my lashes. I began my testimony:
“I used to always make it a point to cover my body. I would choose clothes that covered my arms and legs and anywhere else I had a scar because I didn’t want to deal with the stares and questions. I haven’t worn a bathing suit in public in 20 years. I didn’t want to deal with the pointing fingers and judgement of my stab wounds. So, I strategically picked clothes that would cover my scars.”
As mouths dropped and eyes raised, our leader said “Wait a minute. You said, ‘stab wounds.’ Let’s not rush past that. Can you explain?” I felt my body shaking as I gave a brief account of being stabbed 22 times by my ex-fiancé. This was not something I saw on TV—this was my story! In that moment, I was reminded of the horror and the pain. I gasped for air as crying took over.
When I looked up and saw others crying, I realized the group had formed a circle with me at the center, as I shared the shame I used to have about my body because of the scars. This was a full-circle moment of healing for me, and now my testimony included how God had been healing me over the past ten years. In the last five years especially, He has started teaching me how to love myself. So, it was no accident that I was on a self-love retreat, in a complete circle of beautiful strangers, sharing my testimony about an experience that caused me to stop loving myself.
The woman next to me, who was not comfortable with being touched, reached over and put her arms around me. My body collapsed on hers in relief; I felt relief and rescue from my former insecurities thanks to sharing my story. God also granted me the courage to share the following habits I’ve developed on my self-love journey:
- I keep a wine glass on the counter in my private bathroom. It is filled with colorful cards. Every week I take one of the cards and write down something I love about myself.
- After I bathe, I intentionally wait before getting dressed, so I can stare at my naked body in the mirror. I do this because I need to love the woman I see in the mirror. So, I stand naked in a full-length mirror and say, “Yaaasss!!! Give it to ‘em, Queen! I love you girl!”
- I recite The WHOLE Woman Affirmation every day to affirm my value.
- I had a photoshoot. Two weeks before my trip to Saint Thomas, I put on a sexy bra/panty set, thigh-high boots, a leather jacket, and put my tripod to work. This photoshoot wasn’t to send pics to some man for his validation or lustful comments or donation on a bill. This photoshoot was just for me to live boldly and love the woman in the mirror fiercely!
The next day, someone told me they called their mother who struggles with self-love and told her about me and my story. Then, another person who had avoided wearing a bikini because of stretch marks from pregnancy came to me and said, “I’m rocking my bikini today. You did that for me.” Like I said, God knows more, and God knew that sharing my testimony on that day, on that beach, with that group of people would set off a domino effect of healing.
Today, as I’ve shared my story again, I pray someone really starts to love themselves because you are truly beautiful. By the way, I’m still rocking bathing suits! I’m loving myself!
What is one thing you can do today to start loving yourself—or to love yourself better?
You are not alone. If you or someone you know is seeking help from an abusive relationship, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website, or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).