Editor’s Note: Missioner, Misty Menis-Kyler, who has served in Guatemala and will be returning home in January, reflects on the importance of self-compassion and persistent personal growth.

Love doesn’t have to come from a significant other, a mother, a father, a sister, or brother
Love comes from all around and it comes from within. Once you love yourself, your growing begins.
Such was the case when I locked myself high in my tower, I hated myself and I hated my flower.
I thought I was a weed, something no one could love, my seed was mistreated and left in the mud. I was dropped in the stones to be chocked off and die,
But from somewhere inside came a whisper to “try.”
So I reached out my roots, and I dug down deep, and though the wind tried to beat me and the sun tried to wilt me and the bugs who came by tried to harm me and eat me,
I fought with all my might to grow tall.
Some tried to pull me and throw me away, but my roots were so strong I started over each day.
Now, still, some don’t like me and they try to make me feel low,
But all that matters is that I KNOW my worth, and that helps me grow.
It’s a constant battle to love myself each day, but it’s worth the fight to feel the sun’s rays.

(Original Poem by Misty Menis-Kyler)

One of the hardest things to do is to love yourself.  Self-love is a powerful thing, but not everyone knows how to do it. I spent most of my life not loving myself. I was the hardest on myself, my own worst enemy. I could rarely find something nice to say about myself. Every time I looked into the mirror I found myself disgusted with the person staring back. I lived this way for years. I would tell myself I was not good enough, I was not smart enough, I was not pretty enough, and over time I felt it more and more, that what I was thinking must be true. I was beginning to see the damage I was doing to myself and how it hurt to believe the horrible things I was saying. I would come up with all sorts of reasons why people would leave me, why I wasn’t in a relationship, why I was always alone, always invisible. It always came back to me: I was the problem. I just was not good enough.

That began to change when I came to Guatemala. For the first time in a long time, I began to see myself as beautiful. As an individual. The kids I worked with everyday made me feel so loved that it began to rub off on my own personal life. I am in no way saying I never felt loved. I have been loved all my life, but this was a special kind of love, a love that could seep into the darkest parts of the mind and plant seeds of self-love. The kids’ love for me was like seeds planted, and from there it was up to me to water and care for those seeds. It has been a struggle, but a flower cannot bloom in one day. A flower must first withstand the elements of nature and time in order to grow stronger. That is what I am doing right now. I am battling the self-doubt and self-hate, and I am becoming stronger. I look forward to the day when I bloom, when I look in the mirror and see a beautiful, worthy, young woman starting back.

Reflection Question: Does the way you see yourself align with the way Jesus sees you?