I Am Me and I Am Okay

I Am Me and I Am Okay

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

I Am Me and I Am Okay

Respect yourself and others will respect you.

~Confucius

In 1988, at the age of thirty-four, I divorced a man who had been lying and cheating on me for years. And as the old story goes, I was the last to know. I’ll never forget his hurtful remark, as I threw his sorry butt out the door, “You are what I am.” At the time I knew it wasn’t true, but his words planted a seed of doubt in my very fragile self-esteem that festered and changed me into someone I didn’t want to be.

Thank goodness two wonderful children had come out of my sixteen-year marriage, because for a very long time after the divorce they were the only light I could see from the dark emotional abyss I’d slipped into. My self-esteem had taken a nasty hit, and I encased myself in a bitter shell I vowed no man would ever break through again. My self-preservation instinct had kicked in big time.

It was a struggle raising children alone, and my ex-husband turned out to be a deadbeat father the children never saw again. During those first five years after the divorce I prayed more than ever before. I prayed for the courage to face my life and be a good mother to my children. Life was hard and there were times we didn’t have much, but we had each other and our little family circle was secure. I also prayed for the wisdom to put the bitterness in the past and leave it there.

One day in 1993 I was in the local department store, waiting in line for the cashier, and there on the shelf beside the checkout was a book titled Chicken Soup for the Soul. I picked it up and randomly opened the pages to a story called “My Declaration of Self-Esteem.” There were six or seven people ahead of me in the line and of course the one at the cashier needed a price check. So I figured I had time to read the short two-page story. And it changed my life!

The book was a luxury I really couldn’t afford on my meager salary, but I knew I had to have it. That little story made me square my shoulders and look everyone in the eye on the way home.

That night, after the children were settled in their beds, I crawled into mine and picked up my new book. I must have read “My Declaration of Self-Esteem” a dozen times or more! I read each line carefully, absorbing the wisdom in every word, and understanding how unique I was and that I was the only one who could control my destiny. The last line — “I am me and I am okay “ — was something that would reverberate in my head for years to come.

Before long, there were so many dog-eared pages in that book it ended up twice as thick as it was when I bought it. Simply oozing inspiration, the positive reinforcement on each and every page was indeed chicken soup for my soul, and I re-read the stories again and again whenever I was troubled or life just got too difficult.

My investment in that little book turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made because the stories in it helped me learn to love myself, and once that happened my life began to change for the better. I finally realized I was a good person, worthy of the best, and the past was just history!

Today I am happily married to the love of my life, and he’s a good man I trust with all my heart. He loves me unconditionally and that love is reciprocated without hesitation. I know I am where I was destined to be!

After a multitude of moves, nineteen years have come and gone since I read the original Chicken Soup for the Soul and I still have that book. From time to time I pick it up and re-read the stories; however I always come back to the one that helped me change my life and embrace a positive attitude. I would strongly recommend “My Declaration of Self-Esteem” to anyone that needs a nice warm cup of chicken soup for the soul.

~Annabel Sheila

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