Two.

I always like to say I'm living life with no regrets, but I'm being optimistic. I have a few regrets, and the biggest regret being allowing others opinions to negatively affect my life.  My whole life I've tried to be an overachiever. Whatever I did, I wanted to be the best. Why? Because I wanted others to be proud of me. I needed validation. I never received it, so I tried harder. I need to be the cutest. I need to be the smartest. I need to be the funniest. Why? Trying to fill a void. We all have something we lack, not materialistic, but within ourselves. For whatever reason, I've always lacked confidence. When your loved ones don't believe in you, it's hard to believe in yourself. It's human nature.

Let's refer to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Right after the basics, biological/physiological needs and safety needs, there is love and belongingness. It's human nature that we need to feel cared about, loved, reassured, and a part of something. Following love and belongingness is esteem. Humans need to feel a sense of achievement, prestige, self-respect and respect from others. Somewhere along life's path, I felt as if I lacked love, support and respect from the ones I loved, supported and respected. That lack from others caused me to lack those qualities within myself. I stopped trying as hard. I stopped doing what I loved. I just stopped. I was existing...  

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The picture above is a little over 1 years progress...1 year. Look at the penmanship alone...This is what happens when you start to believe in yourself. Imagine where I'd be if I never stopped creating. Imagine where I'd be if I loved and believed in myself from the very beginning. As much as I hate the fact that I allowed myself to "lose my way", I'm blessed that I found myself. It took me 23 years to find who I truly am, to be confident in my being, to love myself wholeheartedly. Being YOU is the best feeling ever. Of course I still care about what my loved ones think of me. Of course I still want others to see in me what I see in myself. The difference now? I don't let it define me because I think highly of myself. I see greatness within myself. I know my potential and I work everyday to make sure I live it to the fullest! I can truly say I am living rather than merely existing. 

Today, May 25th, 2016, marks two years since I picked up a paintbrush and started creating. I still have moments of doubt. Every day is not easy. What I can say is, every day is truly a blessing. To be able to wake up and see beauty in the simplest of things, to find beauty in every aspect of life, and to see beauty within yourself is a blessing. To be able to express myself using art is a blessing. To be able to wake up and love life even in the hard times is a blessing. If I could overcome 23 years of doubt, self-hatred, and lack of confidence, you can too. It doesn't matter how long it takes; it matters that it happened.

Don't compare yourself to others. Life is a marathon, not a race. Stay in your lane. Go at your pace. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. If you say you can't, you've already lost. You won't know the outcome if you never try. Don't let the opinions of family, friends, strangers, social media, or anyone else dictate who you are. Know yourself. Love yourself. Trust yourself. We all have a talent. We all have a purpose. Do what you love. Perfect your craft. Live in your truth. Believe in yourself. Invest in yourself. Love yourself! 

I know this is easier said than done. Trust me, I know. I've had those moments where I no longer want to exist. I've had those moments where I thought all hope is lost. When times are hard and you don't think you can keep going, just remember you can. 

"You are fearfully and wonderfully made." - Psalms 139:14  

Pressure bursts pipes, but it also makes diamonds. You are a diamond. They can't break you!!!