For 35 of my 45 years of existence, I desperately searched for the self-love everyone tried to convince me I needed.
Yet those words fell on my deaf ears as they were always unable to tell me HOW to do that!
- I was a woman who endured ridicule during childhood as the "Nigger" in a once all-white neighborhood.
- I was a woman who endured several "violations" from childhood into adulthood.
- I was a woman who felt lost, often with no space to be comfortable, and so I had no idea of what this elusive "self-love" was or HOW to obtain it.
Frustration grew each year that I'd hear someone say, "Suzette, you gotta’ learn to love yourself first."
As Kanye asks, "HOW?"
Not only did I not know what this self-love was and how to get it, I gave up hope of finding it.
Worthless was just what I resigned myself to be. Yet, since I was first told to "get that look off your face," I learned how to master the look of my mask!
The facade of strength and courage prevailed. Smiling on the outside yet oftentimes in the throes of depression.
So bad during a period of my life those around me had no idea I was a patient of Saint Margaret's Hospital Outpatient Psychiatric Program; checking in every morning for extensive eight-hour therapy, Monday through Friday for two months.
It was also during this time in my life that I was engulfed in the biggest fight of my life.
I worked for Ford Motor Co., and was smack dab in the middle of a Class Action Sexual Harassment lawsuit. And boy was I taking heat. Ford was looking for any reason they could find to fire me, men AND women at the plant spread ugly and untrue rumors about me, and I had very little support from other female employees (outside of my Co-Plaintiffs). It was A LOT to endure.
This battle waged on for 3 years, and I wanted to quit every step of the way!
Yet, I had a daughter watching, a son that although young, would one day know this story.
How could I let them see me quit? I couldn't.
Fast forward 5 years. The lawsuit settled. Life had some normalcy. My family unit was solid. Two-parent household, (me: a stay-at-home mom; him: still working at Ford), with our three children and a dog.
Although I didn't work outside of the home I stayed busy; doing things that fulfilled me, primarily taking care of my immediate and close family.
But that self-love...was still nonexistent. There was no time for that anyway. The family routine was in full swing and I mostly thought of them.
Until one unsuspecting day, I was sitting in my home office going over bills, organizing things for the kids and the family... and out of NOWHERE--it seems as if God parted the clouds for me--I glanced up at a picture of me I had stuck on my bulletin board that was published in the Chicago Tribune. The caption read: "Suzette Wright demanded - and got - an apology at the Ford-EEOC Conference."
And I thought "Wow, whoever did that is a pretty awesome chick!"
You see when I started that lawsuit, the only thing I was after was an apology. I felt strongly that it was OWED TO ME for what I had went through. Yet everyone from lawyers, family, friends and co-plaintiffs told me it would never happen because "Ford might as well admit guilt and they're not going to do that."
Yet I never gave up on the idea.
So two years in, I saw an opportunity and I TOOK IT!
I showed up to a conference I wasn't invited to, interrupted it while every major television network camera rolled and asked for what I WAS OWED! Vindicated!!
Back at home in my office, I stared at the picture and its caption and the voice in my head said "THAT'S YOU!" My head immediately fell into the palms of my hand and I wept!
A cathartic cry that released every feeling of self-doubt and unworthiness!
THAT WAS ME!! I AM THAT CHICK!! And it hit me like a ton of bricks! "THAT'S IT!!! THIS is how you love yourself! YOU give YOURSELF reasons to be proud of YOURSELF!"
It was THE day that changed my life FOREVER!
I didn't need someone to tell me to "love yourself" any longer, I had given myself reason to do so!
Suddenly my perception of myself shifted! And suddenly what other people thought of me didn't matter. I liked what I thought of me! I had reason! And while everyone's life might not present such a grandstand, everyone's life has a trial to overcome, and a reason to be proud.
A reason to self-love!
I now understand FULLY that as long as I'm happy with myself it doesn't matter who else is happy with me.
I'm the barometer in my own life.
My self-love is greater than any other love could ever be.
I'm out to make ME proud of me!
This is freedom... beauty and SELF-LOVE!
As host of the popular Urban Dialog unscripted show, Suzette Wright is a media powerhouse and Chicago influencer. Photos: Ven Sherrod
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