The right to have a positive self-image

What do you believe about yourself? Are you one of the fortunate few with a strong, healthy self-image? Or are you like so many others who vacillate between days when you are on top of the world and days when your view of yourself tanks into a toilet already full of unmentionable things?

I have struggled with very low self-esteem for much of my life. That’s something I’m now working on turning around, and while I foresee a long battle since nothing changes overnight, I am slowly starting to see the rewards of doing it. My mood is improving. My negative thoughts are coming less often. I see myself differently. I’m starting – just starting - to forgive my long list of mistakes. My future has more possibilities. I’m understanding that while I am far from perfect, there is actually a lot to like about myself, and it’s okay to say that and believe that. Those are revolutionary ideas for me. While far from solidified in my mind, I am making room for them and pondering them, sometimes moment by moment. It is so liberating to look at myself and name things that I genuinely like.

Over the past year in particular, I’ve sometimes marveled at the simple difference between a woman who is confident and self-assured and a woman like myself who isn’t: our self-images come down to what we believe about ourselves. One woman believes good things about herself, and the other woman believes bad things. While I am sure the reality is more complicated than that, when you strip away all the variables, that’s the core difference, in my opinion.

How a woman arrives at a point where she has poor self-esteem cannot possibly be generalized. Every woman’s road through life is different. However, regardless of how she got there, there is one reality that I am starting to understand: she doesn’t have to stay there. Just because she travels from point A to point M with a negative self-image does not mean she is doomed to travel from point N to point Z with the same weight about her neck. If I can reject years of negative thinking and live a freer life, then so can others.

I think all of this is one reason, out of probably many, why it matters so much to me that we bring these affirmations to the erotic massage parlors. The women inside have been isolated for years. It is so important to me and to The Flashlight Project’s volunteers to break that isolation. We must be the other voice inside these parlors: the voice of positivity. It is vital that we be that voice for everyone inside, from the owners to the managers to the younger women.

If we don’t do it, if we don’t bring these affirmations, if we just give up and walk away, then who will speak truth into these women’s lives? Who will tell them that it is indeed okay to make mistakes? How will they know that mistakes can be forgiven and let go of? Who will tell them that they are amazing people who are funny? Smart? Talented? How will they know that they have the potential to do everything they have ever dreamed of doing?

They won’t know. And the guilt, shame, embarrassment, and humiliation they may have been living under will continue to drag them down into the dirt, robbing them of the freedom and right to go through their lives, breathing easily and accepting themselves for who they are: amazing people.

I don’t accept that it must be that way. If my future can change, so can theirs. If I have the right to have positive thoughts running through my mind, then so do they.

So, we will keep going. We will keep printing affirmations, laminating them, and putting them into the gift bags. Wherever that affirmation ends up – be it on a refrigerator, under a pillow, in a suitcase, on a bathroom mirror, or, yes, in a garbage can – we know that it will first be read by someone. That moment when a woman reads a positive message, one that may cut through the hardship and negative thoughts she is suffering from that day, is well-worth fighting for.

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