My name is Shara and I am a 36 year old woman with a neurological disorder called Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT). I was diagnosed with CMT when I was six years old and a recent immigrant to the United States. My condition is progressive; I started out with leg braces, and at nineteen, when I got my first job, I decided that using a wheelchair full-time would better suit my needs. CMT also affects my hands, causing progressive and severe weakness.
Dealing with a debilitating condition is tough, and loving myself despite of it is my life challenge. I come from a Caribbean background where people with disabilities are viewed as unable to contribute to society, which is unlike more developed countries, such as the United States. Growing up, I would often hear, “You’re worthless” or “You would be so beautiful if you weren’t disabled”(talk about a back handed compliment!), and as a result, for most of my life, I required the validation of others. In my eyes, I was worthless unless someone acknowledged something positive about me.
When the outside affirmations weren’t coming in as much anymore, I was devastated. It took me having to hit rock bottom emotionally to realize something very profound: Deep down inside of all of us, there is a light, it may be just a flicker of a flame, but it’s still there. That light is love, the worth we have for ourselves. Learning to cultivate that light has been the most difficult yet rewarding journey of my life.
One way I found really helpful to nourish that light is practicing self-care. Every night, after a warm shower, I put on some relaxing music, and I start a 6 step skin care routine. In doing this, I feel reconnected to myself and my glowing skin is an added benefit that I love! Changing the way I speak to myself has also been critical in my self love journey. To me, self love means speaking positive, kind and compassionate things but also checking myself in a way that is firm yet loving.
These are just a few of the ways that I practice self love, and it’s something that I will practice for the rest of my life. Of course, there are still some days when I feel low and without purpose, and on those days I remind myself: It’s a bonus when other people love you but the true prize is to love yourself wholly and completely. I am enough..and you are too.