The Journey of Wellness

Starting a new fitness regimen is always a daunting task, And for people like me who aren’t much into athletics, or have no fiber of sportsmanship in their body, it can be overwhelming. I’m not a couch potato, and I’m too restless to be lazing around all day doing nothing. I have so much to do around the house and with the kids making a mess every few minutes. But a fitness plan has been nonexistent, for the longest time.

Well, I’ve been doing some runs around the neighborhood. Although, I value them for the solitude they give me, more than the health benefits. They provide an escape, a precious but brief recess from from the drudgery of daily chores. Then there is that occasional solo yoga session which merely started from a fascination on Pinterest. I wanted to know how possible it was for the human body to bend and twist and stretch like so. But now, I am truly, a fan. It does give one a sense of being centered, of being in harmony with one’s body, and with one’s self. Yoga is good for the soul. Meditation and breathing calms me down.

But that’s it.

I don’t do diets, as I’m too much of a foodie to deprive myself for the sake of looking like a Vogue or SI model. I don’t think I will ever consider liposuction or other cosmetic procedures to change my appearance. I know my body will never be a size zero. But, I am okay with it. In fact I am very comfortable with my body as it is now—love handles, saddle bags, cellulite, and stretch marks included. I’d be a hypocrite not to think it ideal for them to be absent, but they never get in the way of my happiness and fulfillment. I have learned to be a friend to myself, and I don’t beat myself up over adding a few pounds after the two kids. I wouldn’t bawl over not being able to wear a two-piece bikini without showing off a handful of bulges where there were none before. I am just at peace with all of me. Ergo, I think I have a healthy attitude about my body, and myself. Which is a long, long way from where I was before.

A long time ago, I was in a dark place.

 I know there were others in far worse situations, but I really was a wreck. Being a teenager is bad enough with all your hormones screwing with your judgement, but add a few more toxins to the formula—the proverbial dysfunctional childhood, my parents or lack thereof, being sexually molested as a child, and an extremely confused and confusing, untrustworthy maternal figure (this was before) who made me feel I was never enough, and who often told me I destroyed her future (she had me at fifteen, with her high school teacher who disappeared from her life and mine)—and you have a human explosive device. 

I did not appreciate myself, I believed that my face, body, and everything about me was flawed and unacceptable. I didn’t believe I deserved to be loved. I always felt I had to try harder, do a little more extra, and just shut my mouth up even if I was uncomfortable with a situation I was in. As long as everyone else was happy. I wanted so much to please everyone around me. Because I thought there was no point to being around if nobody could be happy with me. At seventeen, I was an anorexic, bulimic, and compulsive exerciser who could just not NOT go to the gym, even if I was running a fever, or had not had eaten anything for the whole day. I even cut myself too, and I made sure to use fine-edged tools so as it would be easier to conceal. I had sexual relationships that were uneducated and simply risky. All because I felt more beautiful having someone wanting me. Outside, it was hard to pinpoint anything wrong. I smiled easily, got along with everyone, and didn’t complain. But inside, I was ripping myself to shreds. Self-esteem? It was just a catchphrase that I didn’t really understand. And my self-respect was little to none.

But I guess there was still some trace of self-preservation left in there. As soon as I could, I left. Thinking a life in Manila with my long-absent but recently found father and his family, was better than my often absentee mother, who left me and my half-siblings alone with an increasingly drunk husband who had started finding his way to my bedroom in the wee hours of the morning; I rolled the dice and hoped that things would get better. My father was supposed to be this wealthy and upstanding businessman, his wife was kind and generous, and their then only son was still too young to be judgmental about me, his father’s love child. But I was horribly wrong. I idolized my father so much and was too desperate for his love and acceptance, I was blind to his deviousness. He was a pathological liar, his wife was either clueless or just too afraid of him (or of losing everything they had worked for together), and I was an immature, misguided sucker. Needless to say, it didn’t end very well.

But I survived all that, by the grace of a loving and merciful God. I didn’t kill myself, didn’t go insane, and was still alive and fighting to stay alive. I got out, even when he tried to shut me up and keep me under control. I managed to graduate with a college diploma, find a job to support myself. I was on my own, being estranged from my mom. But a handful of friends and a few loved ones, like my aunt, supported and never gave up on me. I grew up, learned to be my own parent, and now I’m a mother to two amazing kids, wife to an awesome husband, and have finally made peace with my mother (who has also come a long way, thank God). 

I have learned that my worth does not come from other people’s opinions and judgment. I don’t have to do anything or be anything just to earn my right to live. My worth is innate. It comes from God Himself, who created me and all things. Whether I was “unplanned” or “unwanted” as a child has no bearing on the purpose set out for me by my Divine maker. And as a Christian, I believe that whatever iniquity I may have, I have already been paid for by the blood of my savior. I am enough, and have always been enough.

Of course, there is no such thing as perfect, and in this life there will always be sadness, difficulty, pain, death, and loss. But everyone who comes into this world has always been enough as they are, no matter what gender, physical form, mental ability, orientation, race, religion, nationality, social and economic status, and whatever labels we try to box people in. Nobody can tell another human being they are unworthy of breathing the same air as they do unless they change something about themselves. That is such a gross lie. 

I have also come to love my body regardless of how much I weigh or what size I wear. It is a temple of my soul. It is sacred ground and must be respected, as everyone else’s body should be respected. I am not a body with a soul, but a soul inside a body—a fact most people overlook (and if you do not believe in souls, just think of it as consciousness— our body is just the tool and vessel, our mind/spirit the core of our humanity).

And that is why I must write a few reminders to myself, lest I forget:

  1. I am not signing up for this fitness thingy because I think I’m fat. Or because I think I “need” to lose weight. Or because anyone else thinks either of the two things.
  2. I am not signing up for this fitness thingy because I am afraid to get fat. I am afraid of bees, wasps, other creepy, flying critters. I am afraid of Freddy Kruger coming to life, of me becoming insane, or of finding out that I have been living in a matrix. I am afraid of being bitten by a zombie and turning into another walker, but I am not afraid of getting fat. And despite all these fears, they are all so small when I think about how great my God is. (Yep. So awesome, right?)
  3. I am not signing up for this fitness thingy so I can love myself. I already do. I am my own BFF when my other BFFs are busy with their own lives. I have accepted who I am, lumps and all. There is nothing else in my body I need to change to be a better person, or a more worthy human being. All necessary changes have to come from within.
  4. I am not signing up for this fitness thingy to feel happier about myself. My happiness is not dependent on the size of my jeans. My happiness is a choice regardless of anything. And my happiness is only dependent on one thing alone, God’s grace. Or my openness to God’s grace. And I am already a very happy person (despite my gnawing suspicion that I may be a bit bipolar and can still experience those awful, depressing, dark episodes after being sooo happy and energetic) and certain that there is this light that may dim at times, but can never be extinguished.
  5. I am signing up for this fitness thingy because I want to be physically stronger, more flexible, and build my endurance. Being stronger means I will be much more capable of taking care of the people I love, especially my kids. Being flexible means I can do tasks without creaking or grunting when I bend or twist during multitasking. And having better endurance means I won’t be easily overwhelmed by my daily business around the house and out,  and it means having enough energy at the end of the day, to do extra fun stuff with the kids after all the work is done. Abs or no abs, that’s good enough for me.

Bottom line is that being fit should not be a prerequisite for loving yourself, or loving others. Being fit should be the consequence of loving yourself and loving others. Just like putting some sprinkles on your sundae, or icing on the cake. It’s not the destination, but a way to make the most of your trip. So put on your running shoes, or spread that yoga mat. You are welcome to come along for the ride. Just don’t forget to enjoy the scenery, breathe, and drink lots of water.

Behind the Mask

There is that Sting song, Englishman in New York. I can’t help but sing it to myself whenever situations call for it. Like when I see pretentiousness flitting about me in all their nauseating glory. It’s like a record on automatic play in my internal CD player, scoring the scene with the music. My favorite line goes: “It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile. Be yourself no matter what they say.”

That affirmation. It’s so simple and yet such a powerful statement.

Lately, Lorde and her chart topper, Royals, has been my choice of ear worm.


But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.

And we’ll never be royals (royals).
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.

All the hypocrisy and materialism that is being glorified by the media calls for it. Of course, media can’t be faulted for catering to the vanity, careerism, and consumerism of the 21st century individual. But they are certainly benefiting from all the gossip, reality shows (i.e., Keeping Up With The Kardashians), and overly provocative exhibitionism of young Hollywood (yes, Miley?). People seem to love it. And here in the Island Archipelago, we are lapping up that same stinky milk, it seems. (hello, Deneice and company) Ratings, ratings, ratings.

I will not be self-righteous about these TV shows, because I, too, watch some of them. (When the kiddos are not hogging the tube for a cartoon network marathon) And yet the power of media in promoting socially accepted values cannot be ignored.

It can’t be coincidence that when ABS CBN aired the “Royal Rumble” episode of The Legal Wife, a lot of my friends on social media took to ranting about their “hunches” and suspicions about their partner cheating on them too. Or when GMA aired their controversial My Husband’s Lover, it was all that Pinoy twitterers talked about.

It is also unavoidable that Pinoy teenagers into Asianovelas and watching K Pop and J Pop try to copy the fashion styles of their icons. Meantime, those who eat rock music for breakfast, try to adopt an edgier, non-conformist style of clothing. While those into Hip-hop and its kings—Jay Z, Kanye, Macklemore, and all that, would want to look more like their idols, cool and confident.

To be realistic, it is human nature to want to fit in, to be accepted by the group. It is normal to try to keep up with what is “in” and try to be updated with the general buzz. It is not objectionable to try to keep an updated wardrobe to look presentable at work or on campus. And it is not unwise to invest in new gadgets that would mean more convenience for you, your needs, and your lifestyle. Just don’t skew your priorities. These material things are acquired for the function they provide. They are not the objective. They are your means to an end.

Also, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to wearing masks once in a while. Everyone does. I think of it more like a silkscreen, a filter. We have to accept that not everyone is comfortable with what we are comfortable with. We are all as unique as the fingerprint we carry. And though tolerance is an ideal we hope to perpetuate, we have to be sensitive to others who are overwhelmed by what is unfamiliar to them. I would not want to scare off the general population with my not-so-ideal-childhood experiences, complicated family, or larger-than-life ideas about women’s equality. So I don’t have to advertise that on a first meeting. Think of it as being kind.

Wear your mask, sure. But never lose sight of who you really are. And when you meet someone who can take your truth without losing their head, get real. At that moment, you have found a friend. Congrats! You can take off that mask, now.

The danger is when some people confuse filtering with pretending. When some people start hating their real selves and become too attached to the mask, thinking it gives them the security and acceptance they can’t get from their own skin. And when one forgets who they really are and starts believing in their own mask as reality. Now, that is tragic. But it happens. Even to good people. Good people who don’t have anything remotely offensive or provocative to filter out of their personality.

ImageIt makes me sad whenever I see good people trying to twist awkwardly into less truthful versions of themselves just to please others. It makes me sad that they feel they need to keep up appearances for other people’s sake. Sadder still, that these good people turn into liars when that happens. Because they don’t need to.

The truth is this. When you lie about who you are, you may lose sight of the people who truly love and care about you. You allow the undeserving to have control over your happiness. And you may ultimately lose your authenticity and freedom.

I’ve been there before, being such a people-pleaser, and growing up feeling like I never belonged anywhere. I always felt like I had to try so hard to be someone else for another person’s validation. But I’m so glad I’m so over that, and no longer in that trap. I have found my balance. I can wear a mask and not be guilty about it because in the end, I know who I really am. And I love who I am, with all my cracks and bruises.

I’ve learned that truth is constant, while people’s opinions are fickle. Whoever I am, however I am, in all my imperfection and strangeness, is a much better ally than any one who might ask me to cut off a piece of my self they aren’t comfortable with.

I guess the point is this. Learn to be your own friend first, before you try to be anyone else’s “perfect” friend. If you find you are wearing your “mask” more often than you are wearing your own skin, stop for a minute. We were all born authentic, but later on we grow up listening to other people’s versions and opinions of who we are. You need to come back to that place where you owned your identity. You do yourself and your Divine Maker a disservice, by being anything other than the beautiful, flawed perfection you were meant to be.

Ripping the Veil Off Our Daughters

Recently, a well-meaning friend was urging me and the hubby to try for another child. Says, “who knows it might be a boy, this time.” It sounded like the two kids we already had were not enough. And all because they were girls. What???

ImageSo. This mama’s FEMINIST sensibilities were naturally riled up. I wanted to tear something to shreds at that moment. Though I bit my tongue to stay polite. Besides, I was just tagging along for a night of drinking with the hubby and his buddies. I didn’t want to impose myself, opinions included, any more than can be handled by the present company.

But the incident made me think. Why, oh why, do we still have these outmoded notions? Even in this digital age, when we have women leaders heading multinational companies, billion-dollar industries, or running governments? Considering, the Philippines is a relatively progressive nation, for a so-called third-world country. I would expect that my generation (or my husband’s generation in this case) to know better.

Our women can get an education and not be shot by extremists (a la Malala Yousafzai). Our women can work and be the head of the family. Our women can own properties and put up businesses. They pay taxes. Our women can vote, express an opinion, and wear pants or short skirts. Hell, we do not have to wear an extremely uncomfortable burqa. And besides, we are no strangers to women senators, justices, and presidents, either. Our women are powerful and free. Supposedly.

So why, do a lot of people still place so much weight on having a male child versus having a girl? This isn’t Mao’s China, y’all. This is the Republic of the Philippines, the land of heroes, both men and women. Gabriela Silang would cut you down if she were alive, probably.

Reality is, despite leaps and bounds in women’s rights, our society seems to hold on to ancient chauvinistic ideas. Take for example, women sexualized in media for marketing and commercial purposes— noontime shows feature female dancers scantily clad and gyrating behind hosts, while pictures of female celebrities, also scantily clad, are plastered in the front pages of tabloids. (Okay, fine. Men have also been sexualized for the same purpose, too. Just that the cases for women are more prevalent) There is also a bias against women in the workforce because they can get pregnant and take maternity leaves, thus affecting productivity.

So on and so forth.

ImageThen there is the RH Law, which should take up a lengthy discussion on another entry.

On Equality. People, we are not trying to undermine the male population. There is no need to feel defensive or threatened. Sure we still appreciate a gentleman— when he opens that door, or pulls out a chair for us. It’s like (stereotypically) having a girlfriend who is attractive. You sure would like that she looks good, right? But you need her more importantly, to be faithful and understanding. We appreciate that men treat women with gentleness. But what we really need right now is empowerment that comes with respect. That is real empowerment.

Year 2014, and we still have TV commercials talking about men needing really strong shampoo, being “different” because they supposedly have “a more active lifestyle”. (minus ten thousand “pogi” points to the British-Filipino spokesperson of that hair product)

Are you kidding me? What are they trying to say? That women lie on their hammocks all day, not breaking a sweat, so they don’t need the same effectiveness in a shampoo? WTF?!

Let me just bring you back to reality, whoever-you-are-who-wrote-that-script.

Women are out in the sun AND rain, selling fish and hawking plastic ware in the streets. Day and night. They work in the fields planting rice and other crops that end up on your dinner table. They are in the call center from 9 PM to 6 AM, after commuting for hours, sometimes in smoggy conditions, exposing themselves to sexual predators and muggers in those wee hours, just to earn money. Then later, they come home and do the laundry, cook food, take care of the children, and see to their homework.

Women run for public office, draft legislation, influence public opinion in the media, and organize demonstrations to voice their opinions on the streets. They also stand on their feet the whole day, teaching your children in the classrooms what they need to know out in the real world. We have kick-ass women athletes winning medals for the Philippines. We have women running marathons and triathlons, going on rescue missions, tending to victims of calamities, and trekking dangerous roads to distribute relief. And what about our women in uniform fighting battles alongside their brothers, sometimes losing their lives for our country’s freedom and security?Image

Women have as active a lifestyle as men in this period in history. I don’t know why you didn’t know that, whoever you are.

The fact is, women matter as much as men, despite human history’s ridiculously late acknowledgement. Without women, society would cease to exist as we know it. Women are not second-class citizens, and they hold as much power and have as much capacity to influence positive change as a man in the community. Society doesn’t need women to run errands for the men. For real progress, society needs women to stand alongside the men and make decisions, too. And who would run the errands? No one. Both of them should be able to see to their own tasks. That’s what you call partnership.

Anyway, back to our friend. He had his bullet points drawn during the discussion. And I have my counter-arguments.

One: He said that when the children are all grown up and they get married, our daughters will have to leave us to be with their husband and their own family. But that if we had a son, he would still be supportive of us in our golden years.

Me: I disagree. Children’s decision to be supportive of one’s elderly parents is not determined by their gender or sex. Case in point, my aunt. Despite the challenges and complicated back story, her mother (my maternal grandmother) was welcome to live with her and her husband after grandmother lost her job in the US. (At first anyway) And when my grandmother was asked to leave eventually, (because of valid reasons relating to everyone’s mental well-being), it was my aunt’s call, not her husband’s. (Now she lives on her own, and not with her son’s (my uncle’s) family— so there.)

Two: When they get married, my daughters will take the name of their husbands, thereby ending my husband’s bloodline.

Me: Wrong. Women can choose to keep their name if they want to when they get married. They can opt for a dash to include their husband’s name too. (And if their fiances or husbands-to-be won’t “let” them, then they aren’t worth their trouble) Besides, bloodlines don’t end with the family name. Case in point, me. (I hate that I am still my biological father’s daughter despite not having him on my birth certificate, and not even carrying his friggin’ last name.)

Three: Sons are more “sweet” and “malambing” when they are little.

Me: Uh, no. You want an overload of sweetness? You want loads of affection? You want tender moments? All little kids can give you those. And FYI, all children need affection from their parents, and give as much, regardless of their gender. Little boys and little girls, both.


ImageMy girls are enough. They don’t need to become boys to be of value and importance in society. When they grow up, they can be whoever they want to be. Whether they decide to get married, stay single, be a stay-at-home mother of 3.5 kids, or a jet-setting CEO, I will be proud of them.

And my husband told me the same thing. He loves them, and will be happy whatever they decide to become.(And that is why I am so proud of him, too. Mama Lilia did an amazing job BTW!)

What matters is that they grow to be kindhearted, decent, and responsible people. That they live with a healthy sense of respect for themselves and for others. What matters is that they find love and meaning in their lives. That they never lose faith, and they stay strong no matter what challenges they face. What matters is that they know how to dream and take risks, to work hard and play hard, to stand bravely for what is right, to get up after taking a fall, and to live a happy life without stepping on anyone’s toes.

And what matters is this. They are our children, and we love them unconditionally.

Of Skeletons and Old Misdemeanors

Don't live in the pastMost people have done things they aren’t proud of. Many have made mistakes, and made terrible decisions that echo until infinity. But we can’t get stuck in the past. We have to keep moving forward. We have to keep reminding ourselves if we have to.  It will be a struggle for most people who have difficulty letting go of guilt. I know I have, and I struggle still. But as long as I can breath, I have a fighting chance of overcoming it. I can win the battle.

I have also learned that short cuts are not the answer. They are but temporary respites from the problem, and once you have reached the end of the short cut, you have to face the same old monster again. So, no. Escape routes via alcohol and other substances, over-indulgence in retail therapy, partying, food and other kinds of consumable material, or any kind of addiction at all for that matter (including Facebook, online games or apps like Candy Crush, yep) —-they don’t, and won’t work. In fact they complicate things, and mutate into another monstrous entity if you aren’t careful.

Take the long road, but know that it would reap long-term, sustainable rewards. Go through the process. Resign from a job that  literally makes you sick. Talk to a therapist. Take up yoga or meditation. Go on a long vacation and see other places. Sign up for a week-long spiritual retreat at Church and pray like you have never prayed before. Go to rehab if you have to. Cut ties with people that make you less able to control your weaknesses, and people who are toxic to your mental and emotional health. Even if you call them friends. (Even if they are your own family—well, at least give yourself space and time until you are strong enough to face them.) Heal yourself first if you need to.

And then, go ahead. When you are able to, take responsibility for your actions. Own up to your mistakes. Say sorry to those you hurt. Deal with the consequences of bad behavior. Pay your debts, and start over. Do what you can to lessen the trouble , if not rectify the mess you made. But whatever you do, don’t you ever give up on yourself. And don’t ever think you no longer deserve to be happy.

Find your joy again. Just don’t make the same mistakes if you can help it. Live. After all, you are still alive.



International Women’s Day 2014



We give birth, raise our families, teach our children, support our partners, and give of ourselves until it hurts.

But we also earn our living with the sweat of our brow, we head companies, pilot planes, drive race cars, save lives at the risk of our own, fight on the battlefield, and in the courts of law. We weld machines and create computer programs, discover cures and new species of life. We climb mountains, dive into deep sea, and even explore outer space. We broker trades, play hardball, win Olympic medals, lead nations, and make history.

We are not anonymous. We are not worthless or inconsequential. We are women, and we are important. Without us, the world will be at a standstill.

Yet even at this day and age, there is still so much to be said about respecting women’s rights, and putting value to women’s role in society. There are still women that have no access to a decent education, healthcare, and income. There are still women treated as property, diminished as mere sexual objects or means of procreating, or worse, are physically and emotionally abused. Truth is, women’s voices are mostly still dismissed, our ideas oftentimes mocked as “emotionally driven”, and women’s opinions are still largely ignored. Truth is, our ability to influence outcomes, produce results, or make practical decisions at all, are still questioned. Just because of our gender.

But women will prevail because we always have in the face of adversity. And we will help each other. So celebrate being a woman. Celebrate other women. Inspire other women to be unafraid, dream big, and change things for the better.

A Love Letter

February is supposed to be the love month, with the 14th notorious for it’s much-hyped Valentine’s Day celebration. In a nod to all the hoopla, I wrote a love letter which I posted on my Facebook page. But it was rather short by my own standards (being a love letter and all). And it was a little bit strange because it was addressed to me, and in the third-person.

Just to appease my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, here’s the edited version.


Dear Lizza,

Please be patient with me.

Rather, be patient with yourself. I know it is difficult not to feel disappointed every time you don’t reach your own expectations of what you think you should have done, and how you should have done it. It is even more difficult when you feel that you have disappointed the expectations of everyone around you. You feel so small peering at the overwhelming judgment of the world around you, like an insect about to be crushed underfoot.

Please, please don’t give up on me. Believe in me.

wondermomRather, believe in yourself. Other people do. Your children think you rule the world with your uncanny domestic crisis management abilities. Your husband believes you are Wonder Woman who’s able to juggle everything and still look like a million bucks when he gets home. Your friends treat you like a rock legend because you birthed two amazing little humans and you raise them while dealing with home cooked meals, homework and everyone’s laundry.

Yes, you may falter and fail at times; you stumble, lose heart and back out of resolutions. You give into fears and weaknesses. Sometimes you break down in tears or lose your temper at the most inopportune times, when your schedule suddenly goes awry because your child gets sick, or when someone unwittingly pushes your buttons, like say, your husband. You’ve even screamed in frustration, more than a few times now, in front of the kids, while you picked a fight with the hubby because he forgot to do the dishes again, like he promised.

There will be these delays and detours from your grand itinerary of successful domesticated parenthood, all because you are human. But you will get there, eventually. You may not know it yet, and you may not even see the finish line, but you are on the right track.

So please, stop comparing yourself to others. Stop listening to all those righteous opinions about what being a good mother should be, or those pretentious lies about you not having an excuse to look haggard, or those uppity criticisms from women who instead of empowering other women, bash them with negative comments about not being a working mother in this day and age. Nobody knows the difficulty or the unique circumstances of your job like you do.

Everyone wears a different pair of shoes. Everyone is walking on a different route. You have had your own dragons to slay, and you slayed them on your own. Thankfully, God’s hand guided you through when you were most alone. You’ve fought battles nobody knew about; you’ve won some, and you’ve lost some, too. Only you know the pain you’ve suffered and survived. And when you picked yourself up from the ground, those who judge you so harshly, never even saw what happened. But you do. So don’t belittle those victories. They have made you a stronger, better version of yourself.

Be gentle with your words when you talk to yourself, because everything you say is amplified and is unavoidably passed on to those around you. Especially the people you hold closest to your heart—your children. The vitriol and self-imposed cruelty you feed upon, can maim and break a person’s spirit. You can break your own spirit.  You can break theirs, too. And when you hurt your children, it will come back to you a like a sick circle of hurting and getting hurt, a never ending cycle of resentment. You wouldn’t want that.

perfectAppreciate the good and beautiful in yourself. That’s the grace of God shining through.  No matter how flawed or broken you think you are, you have a soul that is deeper than the ocean, grander than any mountain, and more immortal than the universe itself. And your soul is made even more beautiful with each lesson learned. So welcome those cracks and scars, for they are proof that you are strong enough to weather the storms and remain standing tall.

Remember how much you have grown from a listless, insecure, little girl. Now you’re a woman who has outgrown the fearfulness, self-destructive habits, and naivete of youth. You are a woman unafraid of the future, who knows to value the past, and yet stays alive in the present. You have come into your own despite everything—a dysfunctional upbringing, an utter lack of parental guidance (let alone parental presence), an unstable, traumatic childhood, and a father with neither conscience nor remorse.

So cry when you need to cry, hurt when you have to hurt, and be angry when you need to be. You can grieve after each loss, but afterwards, dust yourself off and keep on walking.

You don’t need to bare your soul and show all your broken pieces taped together by newly-recovered rolls of hope and faith; Don’t prostate yourself at other peoples’ feet just to gain their respect or acceptance. They may still judge you unkindly and unfairly in spite of everything. People can be selfish, insensitive, and impossible to please. You don’t have to convince anyone of your worth. You don’t have to beg to be loved, recognized, appreciated, or justified. You are perfectly made in God’s eyes. He designed you uniquely, putting much thought and care into who you are. And He loves you unconditionally. Believe this—He has great plans for you. Have faith in that promise.

So talk to yourself a little more kindly. Compliment yourself more than you criticize. Celebrate your achievements and success, no matter how small. Have confidence in your own strengths and abilities. Accept praises gracefully, and ignore unsolicited negativity. Know that you deserve to be happy, and own it. Treat yourself like the treasured gem that you are.

You are worth it.