I tell her the reason is not that people don’t want to see her. No. People don’t want to see themselves.

I tell her humans are complex. We all have multiple layers to our stories. People who call her experience of the world “nonsense” are people who actively avoid introspection.


I tell her introspection is hard. Hearing that she is surviving anxiety or grief or depression or shame is the same, for them, as looking in the mirror.

The people who turn her away with words like “suck it up,” “take a pill,” “you’re a liar” –these are the humans in the most pain. These are the humans who find themselves the ugliest, loathe themselves the most. These are the humans afraid of humanity because humanity requires vulnerability. These are the humans who will deny they are denying themselves, who will outright attack her, who will lambast and rage and burn her with fire and never realize the anger and disdain are reflections of their inner turmoil. I remind her that she knows this; she used to be one of these humans.

I remind her they are seeing just one piece of her self puzzle. They believe they are seeing her all. What they are is in error. I tell her it is not her job to correct them.

In the mirror, I tell her she is beautiful. Truly beautiful. Because, in the mirror, I see how whole she is. How healed, how hurt, how loving, how loved, how strong, how vulnerable, how brave, how afraid, how confused, how concerned and how joyful.

In the mirror, I remind her they are monochrome. Their life has beautiful, messy graffiti, but they don’t see their colors. They have blinded themselves to see only their brightness. But she knows brightness is dull without darkness to offset it. And, while they are not dull or bad or loathsome, they are neither bright nor great nor fully loved.

I remind her that she knows this because she was never fully loved until she could love herself. And she could never love herself until she also loved her vulnerabilities and darknesses.

I remind her they are hurting just as much as she is. They simply choose not to know it.

I remind her so she can keep her heart open without being hurt. So she can survive their rejection. So she can be proud of what she has done.

I remind her, and she smiles. She breathes deeply. She continues surviving.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

16 Discussion to this post

  1. Michael T Heath says:

    Shawna Ayoub Ainslie catches me in the heart with this poignant prayer to herself. It’s not easy to contend with the doubts seeded by those closest – to “survive their rejection.” But she does, she does. Thank the spirits.

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  2. Nysja says:

    Wow beautiful! Such a great message!!

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  3. Nysja says:

    I’d love for you to check out my blog saying we both stress similar topics and I would love your feedback!! I am new to blogging, it would be much appreciated (:

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  4. […] *Note: If you are coming here via HuffPo, welcome! This piece is linked because it provides a partial origin story to my anxiety. If this doesn’t quite resonate, feel free to check out “Confessions of an Almost-Abuser” as it more directly addresses PTSD and its source. If you are looking for something more positive, check out “She Could Love Herself.” […]

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  5. […] wrote She Could Love Herself as a positive followup to my open letter after receiving several barbed comments and much open […]

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  6. elainemansfield says:

    Beautiful and wise. Our wholeness has to include the dark side, the “imperfections,” “flaws,” “rejected” parts, and vulnerability. Without loving all of it, there is no depth, no trust, and no true grounded place to stand. Thanks for reminding me, Shawna.

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  7. Rica@ Yoga Mat Monkey says:

    This is beyond beautiful! I’m learning to be an observer rather than a judge of myself and of others. With judgement comes suffering.

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  8. Kimmie says:

    This is an incredibly beautiful piece, Shawna. Inspirational. I want to hug you and high-five you all at the same time. x

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  9. Shannon says:

    Found your blog on the Mostly Blogging Linkup. Beautiful post!


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