Posts Tagged ‘self-worth’

I was sure I hadn’t heard her right. Surely after all this time, hopefully she had learned something. Anything.

My voice was harsher and louder than I had intended. I looked down at her.

“Oh shit! Teach is pissed!” Suzanne said and looked up at me. She had a slight smile on her face.

I was amusing her. Suzanne was easily amused by others. I often admired that quality in her, but not right now.

Right now she needed to harness her talent for knowing when to shut-up.

“No, that’s not what I said…” Amber said. “I meant…what I wanted to say…I was asking you…”

I picked-up my pad of paper and slammed it down on the table.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. The room was quiet. Even Suzanne had stopped talking.

After all this time, Amber still wasn’t understanding the whole point of the program.

I was failing her somehow.

I opened my eyes and looked at her for a long time. She couldn’t look at me. She was trying to fall through the floor and disappear.

“Amber, you just asked me if I liked what you were doing. You weren’t telling me about your progress because you are proud of yourself. You are telling me because you want my approval. You just asked me if thought it was a good idea…”

“That’s because I care what you think of me!” she said.

“Why?” I asked. “Who died and made me in charge of you?”

I heard Rita murmur “Amen” and chuckle. Suzanne started to say something, but the words never came out of her mouth because she saw the look I shot her.

Amber was young and had virtually no sense of worth or value. She looked to others for it.

She was easy for the pimp to turn out. As long as he approved, she would do what he asked. She was another “throw away” child who had ended up in my class because James had a soft-spot for first time felony offenders.

Amber sat up straighter. “I’m in charge of me!” she said and smiled.

The smile of a hooker. Empty, as insincere as you can get and the epitome of desperation and despair.

And people say it’s a victimless crime.

She was full of shit and we all knew it.

“Oh really? How’s that working out for you?” I said. “Did you forget where you are?” I said and stepped back. I folded my arms across my chest and waited.

I watched her struggle with trying to figure out what to say. All she knew to do was to repeat back what she had been taught to say. “Yes, you’re very attractive.” “No, that feels great.” “Whatever you want is fine with me.”

This list was endless and nauseating.

“No, I know where I am…”

“Then take a moment and tell me what YOU think and not what you think I want to hear.”

She blinked several times and looked around. She gave pleading looks to each and every woman in the class to help her. They all shook their heads and looked away.

She was on her own and no one was going to help her.

“I’m not sure what you want me to say,” she said. A slight panic was settling in.

“I want you to tell me what you think about yourself. Honestly what you think.”

She flashed her hooker smile at me. “I think I’m great!”

“Liar,” I said.

Back and forth we went. Every answer that she gave me, I called her out on it if I didn’t believe her.

When our time was up, I dismissed the class. Amber was still trying to figure out what to say that would get me off her back. She was frustrated and angry with me. The other women had kept quiet the entire time.

She was back the next week and we continued.

“I think…” she said and then burst into tears.


I waited.

She wiped her eyes and bit her lower lip. She started to stand-up and then collapsed back in her chair and put her head in her hands and sobbed.

We all waited. Lucy started to get up to comfort her and I motioned for her to sit back down and be quiet. She did.

Amber took a deep breath and looked up at me.

“I think I am lower than pond scum and nothing more than a worthless piece of shit. I don’t have any value at all except my looks. That’s what I think about me. Happy now?”

“Yes,” I said and smiled. “Thank you for being honest.”

“You’re welcome,” she said.

And then she laughed. Her words were out of the mouths of babes and when she heard herself say them and fly out of her mouth, they took with them the power they had over her.

For the first time in her life, she had been honest and no one yelled at her or hit her or told her she was wrong.

“I am partial to worthless pieces of shit,” I said.

“Welcome to the club,” Suzanne said.

Amber jumped up, ran over to me and gave me a bear hug. I held her tight and let her laughter turn to tears and then back to laughter.

“Amber, I am going to give you some homework. I want you to spend the next week writing down what you think about anything and everything. It doesn’t matter what as long as you are honest with what YOU think. That’s the assignment.”

The next week she gave me 10 pages. She beamed as she handed it to me.

“I didn’t know I had all these ideas and opinions that were my own,” she said.

“I did,” I said.

“Yeah, but I don’t care what you think.”

“Excellent,” I said.

This is a letter that an inmate had sent us.

Thought you might like knowing there is much hope and our work continues regardless of those who say people cannot change.

In her own words:

“I had been incarcerated nearly three months when I was first introduced to the program. At that time I was depressed and angry, hopeless. All there was to lose, I had lost – or so I thought.

“As I completed the program, I began to realize what was important to me. I have now learned a healthier, more productive way of viewing life and in doing so, my priorities have shifted.

“I no longer sleep all day, survive on junk food and caffeine, or react with violence and suspicion. As I began applying the things I’ve learned from these courses, my entire world changed. I had been very unhappy in my own skin, so I was treated as such.

“Now, although I still occupy the same 8 x 12 cell twenty-two hours a day with little sunlight or human contact. I treat each day as an opportunity to grow instead of a trial to be endured. I keep a schedule – wake-up and make my bed, clean my cell, study. I work-out and have completely changed my eating habits. I’ve stopped cursing and feeling bad for myself. Essentially, I have made the choice to begin living in the solution. This course encouraged me to realize I have made some mistakes – BUT I AM NOT A MISTAKE.

“I have worth and ability and I can become anything I put my mind to.

“I believe my life has changed and that this course has brought me confidence and self-worth.”

If you would like more information on what we do, feel free to contact me and I’ll steer you in the right direction.