This photo is mine, taken from the balcony of our resort.
I traveled to a foreign country and found validation in a way I never thought possible.
It started with a spark of an idea between a friend and I then blossomed into an adventure I am not soon likely to forget.
A group of nine(including myself) traveled to Puerto Vallarta Mexico and then an hour south to our resort. The trip was designed to be a getaway from the stress of grad school. After a highly involved and somewhat thought provoking/stressful Ethics course, this was a welcome break. I went with little expectation but gained so much more than I could ever have thought possible.
A group of five of us spent some quality time getting to know each other in a non-pressure environment. For the first time, I found myself being validated by other people in a caring and genuine manner. I learned to love myself a little more, by seeing myself through their eyes. They encouraged me to explore, to chat, to share, to believe in myself and to know that I am an attractive person physically and mentally. They taught me to love my body a little more than I had and to see the positive things I have to offer others. I was encouraged to wear a bikini for the first time in years, without covering myself up. To look at myself with a less critical eye (that we all know we look at ourselves with) and to see past the self-judgment and criticism. We even explored how we as women are so hard on ourselves and how we see things in ourselves out of judgment, rather than acceptance. As well as how others do not see in us the items we see so visibly in ourselves as flaws or imperfections.
How fascinating and truly beautiful it was to play alongside, live, and learn from such special women. How amazing it was to feel validated and understood. To have the opportunity to feel beautiful from the inside out. To dance, drink, talk, hug and grow close to these women was an experience I will not forget. I remember so vividly a moment in time where one of my new found friends turned to someone and answered yes when we were asked if we were sisters! We had been asked several times on the trip and in that moment we took ownership, smiled, laughed and agreed….that of course we were!! If not in blood, then surely in spirit.
I have never experienced such a thing before in my life. Not so openly and honestly. How warm and wonderful the space of acceptance was. I cannot truly describe my appreciation for the experience and how it affected my heart.
It occurred to me, that as counselors and as human beings, the most we could offer someone else is acceptance and validation. Both are powerfully moving and undeniably wonderful. A true catalyst for change, if I have ever seen one.