Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Woman's Worth...

At what age or point in our journey do we realize that we are worthy of ones love, friendship, trust, and respect. Or a better question might be at what age do we lose it? At what point in our journey do we say it’s not that important to “have it all”, and I will just settle for what ever is given to me? Why do some of us refuse to settle, and others feel like there is no other choice but to settle? Why do some of us look outside of ourselves for love, and never learn to completely love ourselves from within?

When I was completing my course work for my graduate studies, my final requirement was an internship. I chose a battered women’s shelter to complete my studies. During my time there, I performed intake, worked the phone hotline, and counseled women individually and in groups. What I found was that whether a woman comes from extreme poverty, or great wealth…is educated or uneducated…are stay-home moms or working moms…there is a common thread that binds us all and that is a feeling of unworthiness…almost an acceptance that this is “just the way it is”. This way of thinking leaves ALL women vulnerable to all types of mental and physical abuse…The mental abuse in most cases leave more scars than the physical. The abuse for many of us started at a very young age when we learned that hurt and disappointment were synonymous with ‘love’. Over the years, I’ve talked to quite a few women from all walks of life (not necessarily in abusive relationships), and again, I found a common thread that connects us all on varying levels at varying times of our lives…unworthiness…

I was inspired to write on this topic because I now officially have a pre-teen daugher who is confident, outgoing, and has a high bar of what is acceptable and what is not. My husband and I are committed to nurturing her spirit and making sure that settling for less is not an option…not from her parents, her friends, her family, or eventually boys. I have to ask this question: “didn’t we all have that spirit at one time or another? What is it that happened along the way to some of us which caused us to lower the bar. This is what I am trying to figure out, so that I prevent this from happening to my children and I am writing this so that you can look within your own journey and evaluate your worth and together we can stop the cycle…

Many times the way we view ourselves and our relationship with others comes from our own upbringing and our personal relationships with our parents. I personally came from a very dysfunctional family dynamic. My father continues to battle with substance abuse and has his entire life, which prevented him from providing any kind of an example of what a good man, good husband, or most importantly what a good father should be. For most of my life I looked to others to make me feel special. And many times this left me empty and disappointed.

For most of my life I yearned to be more important to my father than the streets, and he was never able to put me or my siblings before his habits. This was the first major heart break of my life which as you can imagine went on for decades…but I have siblings who were also greatly effected, and we have all processed the absence of a true father figure in very different ways. One of my sisters wanted love and the fairytale life so desperately; that she was willing to settle for the outward appearance of what she thought was the “perfect” life. Instead it turned out to be a similar relationship as our father and mother. In other words, she married a mirror image of my father without even realizing it…My brother who is embarking on marriage, is similar to me in that he prays daily to be the opposite of the example he had. This is dangerous also, because when you try so hard not to be something; that very “something” can sneak up on you without warning.

I decided that I never wanted to feel the heartbreak that my relationship with my father caused. This was not healthy in that at times I had unrealistic expectations for some of the most important people in my life. In fact, I almost didn’t see the “real thing” when it did come. My sister fell for her first love and stayed with him at a high cost, where I fell hard for my first love, but wasn’t willing to lose myself to gain his love. Why did we have so very different ways of processing love, and we came from the same family dynamic? Why do so many women sacrifice who they are to be with that man who completes them? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I see it repeatedly. I see it in the woman who puts all her dreams and aspirations aside to follow her true love…I see it with the woman who has been cheated on repeatedly, but somehow blames herself for not being enough for her husband…I see it in the woman who is being beaten by her husband, but blames herself for aggravating him after a hard day…I see it in women who don’t question blatant lies, because they are afraid to be labeled a nag…I see it in women who work fulltime, do all the housework, take care of all the kids needs, while their husbands are hanging with their boys, or watching TV, but never says a word…I see it in the woman that has been deceived from the beginning, but can’t give up on the hope that one day he will be different…I see it in the woman who is not really happy or satisfied, but with a man who is a nice guy, so shouldn’t she just be happy that she has someone??? I see it in the woman who is married to a man who is not interested in women, but blames herself for not being attractive enough for him…There are many more scenarios of women who settle for so much less than what they are worthy of.

I was recently moved by the Oprah interview with Whitney Houston, because my heart hurt for Whitney and the path she traveled…it reminded me of the journey that so many of the women in my life (including myself) have or are going through now. Must we go through so much pain and heartache to come “through” the journey? Are there things we can do to make the journey a little less painful?

We all have different thresholds of what we will accept and not accept along our pathways of relationships. Some of us hold the bar higher than others…The key is to have a bar. All relationships require compromise and understanding, but it is when compromise and understanding turn into enabling and dysfunction that there is a problem. As women we need to find our spiritual peace, and replace some of those old voices from our past with new voices which say, I am good, I am loving, I am special, I am a gift, I am worth fighting for, I want to be happy, I want to feel joy, and most importantly…I am worthy of all of this and more…So many people in our lives don’t do what it takes, because we simply do not ask or require anything different from them.

I challenge everyone reading this blog…male and female…to evaluate your own level of worthiness in all of your relationships. If you have children, boys and girls, start telling them each day how they were uniquely crafted by God, and how beautiful, smart, strong, amazing, gifted, unique, special, and worthy they are. Men show your girls how to be treated with respect and honor. Women teach your boys how to communicate and display love, respect, and affection. Teach them how to love themselves and everything about them. Teach this so that they will not settle for anything less than that same love they give to themselves. It is up to us to acknowledge our past and what it has done to us, so that we can help our children prosper, receive and give love, and to know that they are worthy of having it all…and so are we!

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts…Please post…


  1. Just checking to see if this works

  2. I am so moved by this peace and I thank you for the challenge. I can relate to this on so many different levels where do I start.

    I too came from a dysfunctional family in the since that my father left when I was four. I saw some fighting but was to little to understand what was really going on. Growing up my Mother was a tower of strength. She was often angry and I didn't know why then but now I understand. She had five children 3 boys and 2 girls myself being the youngest. She did the best that she could do and I have the up most respect for her giving the hand she was dealt. Because I did not have a father around I was always picking the wrong type of man and getting my feeling hurt. I was looking for someone to feel the void my Dad left. As a matter of fact I am getting a divorce which would be final tomorrow. That was a choice I made for the following reasons:

    1. I did not want to subject my children to a dysfunctional home. I feel that your home is a safe haven and one should always feel safe at home. My children are young and I was determine not to sacrifice my happiest for a falsehood - staying together for the sake of the children.

    2. I was completely loyal and faithful to my husband. I related to Whitney inasmuch as I took my vows seriously and that was my husband and I was determined to make it work. So many people told me not to do it but I followed my heart again trying to fill that void left by my Dad.

    3. I did not want my children to think that what my husband did was okay. Although they are to young to understand now I will tell them at the appropriate time. Going outside of the marriage was not acceptable to me never so he left and I filed for divorce and never looked back because I am worth more.

    4. I respect me and I want my children to take that strengh with them in their lives. Promises are made to be kept and you should never disrespect a person in anyway, shape or form.

    5. I had to regain me. I had to find me again because being married to this person I lost all of me. He practiced Islam where woman do not have a voice. I was always vocal and I felt my voice was silence. My brothers and sister practices Islam as well so I was pressure from both ends into a religion I did not want to practice. I was never comfortable, I could not wear the clothes I wanted to wear because I was told it was to revealing or to tight mean while the men could wear basically what they wanted to wear. Could you imagine being a grown women and your husband telling you what to wear, always speaking for you, not being able to live - I settled.

    5. Finally I was betrayed after I did everything that was asked of me to find out he was being unfaithful that was my wake up call.

  3. Previous post continued...

    I married someone just like my father. I was completely blind side of what was going on everyone knew but me. Now I am left with 2 children I am trying desperately not to let this effect them.

    When do we know our worth and will not settle. Things changed for me at 40. Especially because of what happened in my marriage I am no nonsense. I will never let another man dictate to me what I should be doing. I will never that another person put me in that situation again. I will always have a voice and ALWAYS be true to me. However you do start to question everyone and over analyze everything. I met a wonderful man. Everyone has there faults but I thank my biggest fear is having what happened to me in the pass effect my future. I am struggling with that.

    The most important thing are my children's well being. I don't want this to scar them emotionally. I don't want my daughter or son for that matter searching for something they may not ever find. I don't want them to have to depend on someone else to make them happy. I am very aware that my actions will effect them in the long run. I make it a point to never speak negatively about their father, they never see us argue they never did. I decided we will work together for the sake of our children so this cycle will not continue.

    I am still a work in progress. I know I am worthy I still need to find some spiritual peace. Thanks Alicia for the free therapy.

  4. As a read this I had to reflect on who I am now, who I was yesterday and who I want to be tomorrow. As you know I was married at a very early age. It was the accepted norm in my family and in my culture. Expectations were low and motivation was pretty non-existent. I knew I could be more, do more, expect more and yet when I "fell in love" I felt that the next logical step was to marry. Throughout my marriage I experienced a vast array of emotions, there were happy years and sad times but somewhere along the way I started to lose who I was, I lost that spark that made me "me". I knew I was settling, I told myself we could make things work, if for nothing else but for the children. When things got tough and I made the decision to separate, I had to deal with a mother who thought I didn't fight hard enough to make the marriage work, a mother who would allow my husband to come to her house and would basically be his shoulder to cry on. This was a hard pill for me to swallow. This same mother who had been a rock in our lives, this same mother who was a widow and 27 with five girls. This same mother who never once told me at 17, don't get married, you have so much more to accomplish, was now blaming me for a failed marriage. Well after a year of marriage counselling we decided (much to my moterh's delight) to give it another try. We were together for another 8 years after that. (we are separated now and the divorce is next) But what I realized during this journey is that I was not being true to myself, I was putting up mirrors for the family and friends, I was not truly happy. The reason for this is because although he was a good man, he too had unresolved issues with his own mother, and no matter what, I could not be the mother he wished for. I am strong, confident, independant and very outspoken and I couldn't swallow it all away to make him feel better about himself anymore. I did it for years and slowly and painfully I came to the realization that I couldn't continue living that way. I had to make a choice, continue to live a half-life or choose to live for me, not for the kids, not for my mother and certainly not for a man who would never be satisfied. Once I made that choice, and it took me a long time to get there, but once I did, I've not looked back. It has been the most liberating experience in my life. I am at peace with who I am, where I've been and where I am going. We all have a choice, that's not to say the choice will be an easy one, but at the end of the day you have to make the choice that it going to make you happy. I'm glad I did!


  5. Alicia, the piece is very well thought-out and well written. It gives me a lot to think about for myself, my two daughters and now I even have a well as my son and four grandsons.

    I am going to forward this to someone dear in my life and hope that it will prompt a much needed conversation between us.


  6. What a powerful, thought provoking article.
    I do not know how many times, I've sought to understand as you so perfectly put it, why we lower the bar of expectancy or never set one for the way we are to be treated, respected or loved.

    I'm afraid to say we may never know or understand all the many "why's". All of us have very different makeups and levels of tolerance and acceptance. It's like trying to understand why people will risk their life for a perfect stranger and run into a burning building and others may see someone getting beat to death and do nothing. I believe long after we close our eyes in death we will continue our search to understand the "why's" in this thing we call "life."

    Knowledge is power and Love is Power......This magnificient journal/article/book you have embarked upon is powerful.

    While you dig deeper in defining ""A woman's Wealth", may the revelation continue to free you, me and empower others to not settle for less but demand more.

    I Love you dearly and look forward to more....

  7. I love this piece...recently I was in a situation where I had to compromise my "worth" for the greater good, and it has left my spirit broken...when will it end...

  8. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself here Alicia. I found your post to be insightful and thought-provoking. I took a lot away from it, at this moment, I'm thinking about how you concluded the piece...imploring all of us to teach our children these valuable life lessons. With a boy and a girl, ages 11 and 9 respectively, we've found that we're entered a NEW where more of our "teaching" has to come through their "seeing"...they can now discern that credibility is about your "deed" matching your "creed", as much as possible, we work to "live" what we seek to teach, and let our actions, results, and responses serve as the lessons...which then may be followed up with reinforcing words. I believe you describe the GREATEST gift we can give our kids...and that is modeling a life full of big thinking, clarity, and fulfillment...that "smart" is something you can "get" and is a result of effort, a willingness to fail and learn, and a desire to stretch for what we want to have and become. It's clear that your message came from down deep. Thanks for sharing a part of yourself in an effort to enhance the lives of others. Continue to live your truth. You are one helluva model for your kids...and our kids as well.

    Looking forward to your next installment,


  9. Thank you for this post. I know that many women can identify with your experiences. You have written some innermost thoughts that women often do not articulate. Thank you for sharing your insights in a public forum.

    - Kupenda Auset

  10. Hello Alicia....
    I read a post by Ken Williams on lead me to your blog. I appreciate your thoughts and insight. I too came from an abusive relationship which brought me to a place where I felt worthless. Through counseling and the grace of GOD, I am now stronger and better than ever. Women need to hear your message. Thank you for sharing!


  11. Wow, I think I read this article 4-5 times. Each time I read it I interpret differently. After the 3rd time I said I wonder if these different interpretations are a result of my mood, or how I am feeling on that particular day spiritually, physically? The truth is each time I read the article I gained more insight to me and that is awesome that one article can provoke so much thought and introspection, emotions and feelings. Over the past 3 years I have been on such a journey in my life. 3/1/2 years ago my life took a turn I was not ready for even though I thought "I am strong and can take just about anything". I was an Executives wife, career women myself, awesome children and family and a great social network. God let me know that I was a little too comfortable...Sickness struck my family, followed by my marital issues, death of a best friend. My response was physical exhaustion and then illness myself. But I took a look at myself and Step #1. Tell those closest to me "everything" that was going on with me for support. Step #2. get into therapy for an objective ear and counsel. This was to hold myself accountable and to also share the burden because I knew I did not want to hold onto the hurt, disappointment, sadness alone because they were like poison to my spirit. Oh of course I joined the "why me pity party" club and went to meetings often it was a comfortable place to be. But one day I said to myself "Why not me? I started to think okay what are you going to do about all this? That started my personal road to healing and then... I cried I realized that I had not cried in over a year. I gave up my membership in the pity party club, I forgave myself and I moved on...and still moving and searching. So what have I learned? First, I never get too comfortable because things can change in an instant. Second, I learned to forgive because holding on to hurt is like poison and it takes up too much time. But a big lesson I learned is that life is all about learning how to love, and God wants us to value relationships and make every effort to maintain them instead of discarding them whenever there is a rift, a hurt or a conflict. I'm still learning and I thank God for my valleys because it has helped me to appreciate the mountains and the mountains that are yet to come. I am so grateful for my life and all that I have

    Alicia, this was a powerful article and thank you as it allowed me a re-visit of my journey and it has shown me the then and now and my growth. Finally, I hope this article resonates with everyone’s sense of self worth as it did with mine. I also hope that the dialogue that precipitates’ continues to give you hope feeds your sprit.

    Wishing you all many blessings,
    Raye in VA

  12. @Ken...Thank you...Thank you...Thank you. You continue to support and encourage me in all that I do, and I appreciate you. I also appreciate your insight, for the male perspective has been much different than many of the women who have responed...I thank you for taking the "man" hat off and opening yourself to the message...Thank you so much for sharing my work with your network...I know you would not have done that if you didn't believe in it...Thank You again!!!!!

  13. @Kupenda...Thank you for your time...I am honored that you read my piece, and that you liked it. I hope this piece gives women the courage to articulate more and more...

  14. @Stacey...Thank you for reading my piece, and I thank God for your journey out of your abusive relationship...I thank God for your Strength and that you found your Worthiness!!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your time with me!

  15. @Raye,
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us all...I've watched you over these last several years, and I saw the stages of your "worthiness"...It is so refreshing to see where you are now, and to know that you have come through the journey, and are prepared for the next one...Isn't it awesome to know that your network is strong...I am so proud to be a part of that network, and I am super proud of you!

  16. I, too, came from a very dysfunctional family, had low self-esteem, no motivation, but chose to never get into a serious relationship (I'm 42). Anyway, it wasn't until I found God's unconditional love that I realized my worth in Him, and my life is changed. A mentor once told me, "Sugar, we're all in the same boat, and we're all paddling toward God." I think most times people believe the lie that "I'm the only one" [this is happening to, who's ever experienced this, who's ever gone through something like this, etc.] and are unable to realize it's the human condition - that ALL of us at one point or another has experienced what everyone else is going through. That isolation keeps us in the cycle. Only in realizing our worth in God - that He loves us and it doesn't depend on us - can we find true happiness, contentment, peace, and joy, and learn to accept ourselves and others.

  17. I'am really touched by your piece. I thought I had left all that behind. But as an adult I realize it becomes a part of you. I continue to struggle today to stop the cycle. And realize through god all things are possible he has changed me in so many ways. And know he has not finished. Thank you for sharing it's nice to know that the deep dark secret is not only mine.

  18. I just pinged you on FB to tell you your writing is amazing and very touching/inspiring. I am sure you read the writing below before but when I read your writing I could not help but think of it:

    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

    Dream Big!