After a recent speaking engagement, I had the privilege of meeting Audrey Carter, the executive director of the Hansen House.  The mission of the Hansen Foundation is to help recovering addicts gain access to treatment.

Audrey introduced me to an enthusiastic group of woman from the House that night. They were so excited after hearing me share my story, that they invited me to come to the Hansen House to talk to the women living there.

To be 100% honest, I really had no expectations about the night. I had collected clothing and toiletries from some of my friends to donate to the house and as I packed my car up with the beautiful hand-me-downs, I was excited and eager for my night to begin.

While traveling there, I thought about the top that I was wearing, and how it was a hand-me-down from my friend, Lisa. She had called a few weeks early and said she was cleaning her closet out and knew I would appreciate some of her clothes that were in perfect condition, but that she simply didn’t wear anymore. How ironic! There I was, wearing a top that was passed on to me, in perfect condition and beautiful. I was thrilled, since I love hand-me-downs! Always have, always will.

My friend, Wendy, joined me at the house. When we arrived, we were instantly greeted with a warm welcome. The women were smiling and there was an excitement in the air. They gave us a tour and while I walked through the house, I was amazed by the energy given off by the women. They all smiled, said hello and were genuinely happy to have guests in the house. We were then invited to enjoy a dinner the women cooked. It was a wonderful meal of chicken parmesan, salad and pudding for dessert. Let me say this: the dinner was delicious.

While eating, I overheard a woman joke about not being important. I turned to Wendy and said, “Okay, so we know one thing we will talk about tonight.” I hadn’t prepared anything in particular before arriving. Since I was the invited guest in their house, it was truly my desire to hear from them: what did they want to talk about?

As I made my way to the meeting room, again I had no idea what to expect.  When I entered the room I saw 32 women sitting in a circle waiting to hear from me.  I was hoping for a more intimate setting. I wanted it to be a bunch of friends sitting and talking about life. And, most importantly, I wanted everyone in the room to understand that we are all the same and we all suffer from low self-esteem at different times in our lives and, most important, we can change that. I quickly invited all of the women to get closer. So we all got closer.

I still was not sure what they wanted to talk about.

I thanked the women for inviting me and for the delicious dinner. Then, I mentioned how I overheard a woman say she was not important. I looked around the room, at all of them, and shared my story of how I bounced back from low self-worth and low self-esteem.

And, I reminded all of them that we are all important and have value to this world.

I then invited each person in the room to introduce her, and share her story. Well, after the fifth or sixth person, I realized they were all telling their stories of their past, stories of struggle and sadness that held a common theme: a message of hope. A message of women who truly know how to bounce back. The women, every single woman in the room, had strength and courage. The truth of the matter is they reminded me last night about what it takes to bounce back. They inspired me last night by reminding me that we all need hope, courage and strength.

Then, I asked one woman if she did her homework assignment from when they first met me at my speaking engagement. That assignment was to list 10 things they love about being them! Every single woman she said did it. Not only did they make a list, they made the most beautiful boards that shared the things they love about being them.

WOW! I was blown away. As they spoke about their lists and boards, the energy in the room shifted from where they were to who they are, and, most importantly, to what they love about being them and what makes them special. The women then created Beauty Boards in groups. I was beyond thrilled to say the least.

Each group stood in front of the room. Here they were holding the boards, introducing themselves and sharing what they love about being them. Some women openly admitted it was a hard assignment. Some women said that the exercise created a lot of anxiety for them, because they simply could not find something they loved about being them.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine that as you go through your entire life, when asked to share 10 things you like about being you, that you cannot come up with one. I had to challenge a few of the women, but when I did, they eventually found something they loved about themselves. It was a great night!

When we were done sharing the boards, I took questions from the group. They all asked the same ones: How? How do we begin to like who we are? How can we be happy?  It was at that moment that I realized, what they all wanted to learn was the same thing I had so desperately strived to figure out for most of my life: How do I love and accept myself?

I started my answer with: “You mean no one told you the secret yet?” They said, “no.” I then explained that’s because there is no secret. There is no one answer.

I explained that in knowing that you want to change, that you want a different life, you find the best place to start. Then the rest is really up to you. No one can change you, no one can make you change – you have to want to change and be the person who loves being who they are.

We talked about negative self talk and how to change it. I left them with this message: begin to have a love affair with themselves.  Their homework assignment until my next visit was this: I challenged them to wake up every day and immediately say something nice to themselves about themselves. And then, every day, do something nice just for them! They are also to start a journal and write down what they did just for them that day and not how they feel about themselves.

When we were done, I promised I would return at the end of May and have a cookout to kickoff summer. I have a feeling it will be more than just kicking off of summer, though. I think this is going to be the beginning of a long-standing relationship between me and the ladies of the Hansen House.

I invite you to share in our homework: do something nice for you, just you, every day for the next month. Write it down and take note of how you feel about yourself.

board 2 board 3 board 4 board 6 board one board 6 board 7If you’d like more exercises or need a little extra encouragement on how and why to have a love affair with yourself, please check out my book LIFE HAPPENS: BOUNCE BACK! for sale now in all your favorite on-line bookstores.

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