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By Dr. Deshunna Monay Ricks

Do you really know who you are? How long did it take you to figure it out? Well, you see, it took me 35 years to figure out who I am. I really do not recall my early childhood years with my mother and father, but I do remember living with my maternal grandmother from age 5-8 because my mother had a drug addiction and my father was running the streets. I do, however, remember the day that my older brother, younger sister and I went into foster care.

I woke-up one spring morning and went to school, happy and cheerfully like any other normal day. When I arrived in my second grade class my teacher asked, “Deshunna, what happened to your eye?” I replied, “My aunt hit with a belt.” My life changed that day in both a positive and negative way. My brother, sister, and I were off to a stranger’s house because my mother was nowhere to be found and my father was in jail.

We were eventually placed with my paternal grandmother where there would be 5 other foster children who happened to be my cousins. Throughout my childhood and teenage years I heard messages like “you’re ugly,” “your mother is a crackhead,” “you’re stupid,” “that’s why your mama don’t want you,” “you’re not good enough,” “you are a failure,” and “you’re never going to be nothing.” Sadly, some of these messages came from myself.

You see, I knew who I wanted to be, I just didn’t know who I was. I allowed these messages to define who I was and it would be those messages that controlled my way of being for a long time. Some of you might be reading this who know me and ask “but you have 3 degrees, how could you think this about yourself?” It does not matter how much education you have, if you do not love yourself nothing and no one else matters.

 Those messages would eventually get worse as the years went on. I dug myself into an emotional hole with my negative thoughts. My negative thoughts and my circumstances led me to hating myself and I was no good to myself and no one else. I had lost my identity—to tell you the truth, I did not know who I was at all. I made decisions and engaged in toxic behaviors because I did not know who I was.

 In September 2018, God spoke to me and told me that I was valuable and that he loved me. Now, I had heard these things before from very close friends; however, I did not believe them. Being in foster care from age 8-18 really did a number on my self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence and I was not aware of how damaging it was until I began to look deeply inside of myself. I had to face the truth of my dark past in order to affirm, proclaim, and walk in my identity.

If you asked the teenage Deshunna who she was back then I would answer “a black girl from west Fresno, who lives with her grandma in foster care, an athlete who takes pride in academics, and one who likes to have fun.” Today if you ask me who I am I would answer, “a light to those who are in darkness, a peculiar phenomenal woman, flavorful, more than a conqueror, beautiful, a trauma survivor, a dedicated mother, intelligent…and the list goes on.” (I would add that I am impatient and judgmental but I am working on those characteristics).

The only reason why my narrative has changed because as I began to learn about the love God has for me I showed myself that same love.

I know who am I and I know why I am here. I exist to help others recognize their true identity through storytelling, self-discovery, and self-reflection so that they can live in wellness and foster wellness in others. I am able to achieve this through my business I Have Value, LLC and through other avenues. I am now living in wellness because I have done the work and will continue to work on myself.

My question to you is “are you ready to discover who you really are?” Are you ready to live well? Are you ready to truly love yourself? You are worth every bit of it.

With Love,

Dr. Deshunna Monay Ricks

CEO/Owner of I Have Value, LLC