I was born and raised in a small Ukrainian town in a poor family. My childhood was full of hardships and challenges because of poverty.

I am extremely grateful now for all those difficulties I experienced in my life in Ukraine because they shaped my character and who I am today.

But I have always been ashamed of my story and the fact that I was poor. As if it was detracting from my inherent worthiness.

When I grew up and moved to the USA following my dreams, I managed to escape poverty but I didn’t escape the shame.

Everywhere you go, you tend to take yourself with you.

There were many stories from my childhood that pulled those painful triggers even when I was an adult.

I know now my worthiness is not defined by my possessions. But when I was a child, I couldn’t understand that.

When my parents couldn’t buy me a bicycle because they couldn’t afford it, I took it personally. I thought there was something wrong with me that made me unworthy to be like other kids, who had bikes.

When I had to face mockery and humiliation from my peers at school because I was wearing poor old closing, I felt ashamed.

When kids were going on school trips and I was left behind because, yet again, my parents couldn’t afford it, I felt undeserving.

When my friends were discussing popular at that time TV series and I couldn’t participate in the conversation because we didn’t have a TV set (you guessed it, because we couldn’t afford it) I felt I wasn’t enough…

The list goes on and on…

My story was pulling me down. It made me uncomfortable even thinking about it.

But it was also a story of my self-empowerment.

I didn’t arrive at that conclusion right away. There was a long process of personal growth.

I had to work really hard on myself to find the treasure in the trash. I had to become intentional to allow that story to empower me and make me whole.

Whether it was pleasant or painful, it was part of my life, so I had to learn to accept it. The good, the bad and the ugly made me who I am today.

And it is true for all of us.

I realized we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but we have to understand our wholeness depends on the integration of all the experiences, even the ones that made us feel ashamed of ourselves.

When I started openly speaking and sharing the stories from my childhood, I gained power. Shame doesn’t survive when it is shared openly with others. It thrives when it is ignored and pushed back.

I was helping people with my vulnerability, my openness and my insights. We might have different circumstances and conditions but we all have the same desires: to be loved and be happy.

That’s impossible without owning your story. That’s the key to self-empowerment.

When I met my beloved husband, I wasn’t afraid to share everything about my background and my stories of shame.

It actually makes him feel proud to have me as his wife with such an incredible story: from poverty in Ukraine to living a dream life in the USA.

Initially, my vulnerability with my husband when we were still dating paved the way for a deep and meaningful connection that grew into marriage.

We all have an incredibly powerful story within, but its power is not always on the surface. Sometimes, it wears the mask of shame, or pain or any other form of discomfort. We have to dig deep to understand the value.

Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the key to unlock all the wonderful things we wish to have in our life.

We can never change the beginning of our story but we can control how that story unfolds. Each day presents a new opportunity to begin a new chapter, to introduce and new plot line or make a significant change in the character of the protagonist.

I completely agree with Brené Brown who said, “You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness.”

Life is quite simple: if you want to be loved, you have to love yourself. And in order to love yourself, you have to own your story. Truly, unapologetically and gratefully.