Submitted by Felisha Crier Hosein, Founder – Keep On Learning Foundation
I grew up in a large family, and was raised by my grandparents who maintained a rather strict environment. Even family members that were not involved in my life had high expectations for us (my siblings and I). They would show their concern by being judgmental and critical. There was little to no positive reinforcement.
Instead, fear and negative words were used as a driving tool for submission and obedience. Mistakes were met with little understanding and punishment was given with no explanation. I can look back and say that our family meant well, but that type of upbringing led to fear, doubt, and rebellion. Acting out was a way to break free from the rules and confinements.
On a developmental level, I became the type of person that lacked confidence, had low self-esteem, and was always filled with fear of what others may think and say. I had an overwhelming feeling I was never good enough. What kept me going through it all was this part of me that knew I could be more. I knew I was capable of doing great things. This deeper part of me that really knew me, rebelled against the doubts of others. I wanted to prove them wrong, but more importantly I wanted to show myself that despite all the seeds of doubt and thoughts that would say otherwise, I was a good person. I knew I was.
I wanted to share this personal part of my story to say no matter what experiences you may have had growing up, no matter what was said about you or how you were made to feel, as long as you know who you are in your heart, that’s all that matters. If you have a still small voice inside that tells you that you are worth more, believe it and hold on to it, no matter what anyone else says.
That low self-esteem followed me for a long time, right up until my early twenties. This is when things started to change. One day, just for fun, my mom and I entered a modeling competition. We though it would be fun to get the makeover. They did our hair and makeup and took headshots. We thought nothing of it. However, when the results came back, I found out that I had won second place and I had got a contract with this local Edmonton modeling agency. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. Once I got involved with the agency, the owner Mary got to know me. A lot of opportunities were opened up. I got to work at the agency doing hair and make-up and doing work as an extra.
Mary saw something in me; she saw my potential and believed in me, even when I was unsure of myself. Through the agency, I went on to compete at the Miss Universe Canada Pageant in 2003. Being a delegate at such a high level competition was a life changing experience. I remember feeling unqualified when I arrived. The girls were experienced and ready for competition. I remember telling myself that being there was enough, it was a lifetime experience like no other, and I was going to enjoy it no matter what. The only person I had to compete with was myself, and I learned and grew so much because of it.
To sum up, I believe everyone has in them the ability to go beyond whatever circumstances they face in life, or whatever limits they put on themselves, or limits that were set by others. If there is something in you that tells you that you can, listen to it and nothing else. Don’t let other people’s doubts, criticisms, or negativity determine your self-worth, or how you will live the rest of your life. Develop and build yourself up. When possible, try to put yourself in environments that challenge you, by doing things you would not normally do. All experiences in life can either shape or break us. It is up to us to learn and grow from our experiences, and to make the best of it.