By Patricia Seidel
Leaving home wasn’t hard. I would miss them, but I wasn’t sorry to leave my family or friends, I wasn’t scared of the future, I was simply focused on my goal, my dream. I had been watching everyone around change and now, it was my turn, and failure was not an option. I would not let myself, or anyone else, down.
I was moving to France to become an Au Pair and with all the excitement I never suspected was that I would end up being ‘Cinderella’ to one of the wealthiest families in Paris. Almost immediately, I was working 65-hour weeks, sleeping 5 hours a night, and constantly drowning myself with self-doubt under their scornful judgmental looks. I considered it a good day if I didn’t hide in the second kitchen, away from the paranoia of the hundreds of cameras, and burst into hot, angry tears at what a nightmare my dream had become.
I lied to everyone. After all, how did I have the right to be miserable when I had worked so hard to get here? What did I have to cry about when I was living in a villa in a luxurious Parisian suburb? I didn’t dare utter the words: “I am miserable.”
I thought of quitting many times, but one thing always stopped me. If I quit, the family’s indifference would turn into hate. I knew they would manipulate the situation to (somehow) be my fault, by calling me spoiled, ungrateful or just: selfish. The thought of them thinking that about me made me sick and I began to ask myself why?
As I reflected on my dilemma, I realized it was because whatever they said to me, I believed it to be a true reflection of myself.
This has been true my whole life; I claimed to have worth when I was only living through the opinions of others. If someone told me I was beautiful, I believed them and felt beautiful. If someone told me I was stupid, I believed that also. I put my self-worth in everyone else’s hands but by own. A power no one should have, but is frequently given away. After all, I never thought to tell them they were wrong, because I didn’t believe them to be. I counted on the opinion of strangers to become whole again.
The day came where I had finally had enough, I had enough of feeling miserable, of dreading going to sleep because I knew I would have to wake up and start all over again. The day I walked out the door of my job was when my world shifted. For this moment of liberation I will be forever grateful.
For the first time in my life, I was ready to fight for myself.
I think this is a monumental moment for every woman in her life, regardless of if she arrives there through anger, fear, joy or despair. The moment she’s able to let go of everyone else’s opinions, the day she realizes that peoples actions are a reflection of themselves and not of her, the day she realizes that she is the only one who can allow someone to make her feel inferior, is the day she finds out how much she is worth.
When we don’t know our worth we spend a lot of our time “being” for other people. Choosing our clothes based on what perfect strangers will find us attractive in, acting the way other people find agreeable or kind — it’s exhausting. When we know our worth, we do things for ourselves. We know what we like and stand by it. This does not mean living selfishly or greedily; disregarding anyone else’s feelings but, it does mean taking care of ourselves first. It’s empowering.
We allow so many things to define us that aren’t necessarily helpful to our mental health. Likes, re-tweets, reblogs, comments (positive or otherwise), and even the people we choose as our partners, best friends or coworkers. We hide behind them and list off our achievements like we’re presenting a résumé to strangers we meet to make ourselves feel worthy of their company. To make ourselves feel worthy at all.
The eternal question: worthy of what?
I think that depends on the person. If we’re lucky, we will never stop discovering ourselves; we will continue to grow and change, adapting and learning with every day that passes. Maybe one year you discover your worth for self-love, worth of intelligence, worth of romantic love, respect or professionalism. If we’re lucky, we will find we are worthy of everything that comes our way. If we’re lucky, we will accept whatever comes to us with grace and gratefulness.
While my self-discoveries were not instant, and are very much still in progress, I can say with confidence that while the future is uncertain, I do know that discovering this part of myself has unleashed a fire in me that is unmatched…
And I certainly plan on using it.
Living in Paris, Patricia Seidel is a recent university graduate working for the Women’s Worldwide Web (W4) — Europe’s first crowd funding platform for women’s empowerment — as a writer, translator and editorial assistant. Soon to be starting her master’s degree in Humanitarian Action, Patricia has spoken at several research conferences on the subject of women’s rights mainly pertaining to maternity, women in literature and the history of women’s rights. As well as working with W4, Patricia is also teaching courses in Business English, English/American literature, Conversational Fluency, and offering free language exchanges to refugees. After her master’s degree, Patricia seeks to continue her journey in the field of women’s rights by working with victims of Female Genital Mutilation and sexual violence.