When I was 16 years old, I was lucky enough to attend a four-week, residential, personal development programme. It completely changed my life and set me on a course of experiences and achievements, culminating in the creation of Impact in 1980.
There were many things that happened to me through that four-week experience that inspired me to do things differently - to recognise that I could be the person I really wanted to be. I learnt about humility and how to use feedback in order to find out how I am perceived, I developed the confidence to try new things and to experiment with new ways of working and being, and most of all I became hooked on the thrill of interpreting life as a journey of infinite possibilities.
I soon learned that there is as much, if not more happiness to be achieved from helping others to realise that they too could achieve what they wanted to achieve. To fulfill their true potential. In 1976 I was able to return to the place that had inspired me. To attempt to do to others what had been done to me!!! At this time I came across a poem that for me, captures the possibilities of a life well lived.
It moved me so much that I started to read it out at the end of every development programme I was involved with. It always seemed to be the perfect set of words to finish with as the participants stepped forward from an intense period of development, self reflection and positive reinforcement.
In the early days, these were typically young offenders, apprentices and graduates, but as Impact grew and we started to attract senior leaders, then I continued to read out this simple but powerful poem. There would often be a few tears, nodding heads and smiling faces as each individual related back to the experiences they had, the feedback they received and the huge potential for action that they felt as the words in the poem resonated and reinforced what had happened to them.
It seems like a long time ago now, but for me, the poem is as relevant now as it has ever been. See what you think...
My Declaration of Self-Esteem
by Virginia Satir
I AM ME
In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me
Everything that comes out of me is authentically me because I alone chose it
I own everything about me, my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice,
all my actions, whether they be to others or to myself
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears
I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes
Because I own all of me. I can become intimately acquainted with me
By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me,
and other aspects that I do not know
but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself,
I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles
And for ways to find out more about me
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel
at a given moment in time is authentically me
If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turn out to be unfitting,
I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest,
and invent something new for that which I discarded
I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do
I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive
to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me
I own me, and therefore I can engineer me
I am me and
I AM OKAY