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Gratitude As a Love Language

Jun 12, 2023

The Author, Life Coach and Motivational Speaker Chats About Motherhood, Overcoming Trauma and Speaking An Attitude of Gratitude

In a world that tried to define her by statistics, Christina Johnson emerged as a force to be reckoned with. Born into a lineage of strength and resilience, she inherited a tenacity that defied the odds. Growing up as a teen mom, Christina refused to let her circumstances dictate her destiny. With every challenge she faced, Christina's strength grew, transforming her into a force capable of moving mountains. Her journey, which included a marriage to Superstar Cee-Lo Green, marked by resilience and an unyielding spirit, she serves as an inspiration to all who encounter her story. Christina Johnson, a name synonymous with power and determination, continues to rise, defying the limits imposed by society, and leaving an indelible mark on the world around her.

I would like to begin by discussing your childhood because one aspect of the self-love journey involves healing the wounds from our earlier years. Many adult women, including ourselves, carry the scars of the little girls we once were. Therefore, I would like to start by asking you about your childhood and upbringing. I am aware that you have experienced some powerful events as a teen mother. I read that you were a teen mom yourself, which makes me curious about the growth you have undergone. How did those experiences shape you in the beginning?

Well, okay. So, as you mentioned, my mother was 16 when she got pregnant with me, and I was 16 when I got pregnant with my daughter. I don't consider it a curse because my daughter was truly a gift to me. However, there are generational curses and patterns that we inherit from our ancestors, including our grandparents and great-grandparents. Both my mom and I were teen moms. I had my oldest daughter at 16 and my second daughter at 19. We practically grew up together. Unfortunately, I grew up in a household where domestic violence was prevalent. It was not a nurturing environment, and I didn't have a strong sense of self-love. Honestly, I believed I was unattractive. I had no understanding of self-esteem or how to love myself. In our household, the concept of self-love was never encouraged or fostered. Additionally, my dad didn't acknowledge me as his child because my mom chose not to be with him due to his involvement in other relationships. To get back at her, he decided not to be present in my life. I think he only considered his revenge on her without considering the impact it would have on me. As a result, I often sought male attention and what I thought was love from unhealthy sources. I was promiscuous, felt misunderstood, and lacked a sense of being loved. Although I knew my parents loved me, their love was not healthy because they didn't love themselves. They, too, grew up in toxic environments and carried their own generational curses and unhealthy habits. Unfortunately, we pass on these fears and conditioning to our own children, perpetuating the cycle.

That's a lot to process, and you bring up several important points. Especially when you mentioned self-esteem and feeling hideous, it resonates with many women of color. I want to clarify that I'm not dismissing the experiences of women of other ethnicities, but there is a shared understanding among women of color. We often grow up without even considering ourselves beautiful, which may seem insignificant to others. However, carrying that belief impacts our sense of worthiness and deservingness. We begin to see ourselves through a distorted and cracked lens.

It's a painful journey when we look at ourselves as young girls and hold onto the belief that we are ugly or not beautiful. It sets off a trail of heartache. I know you mentioned that you have two daughters. How was it for you to navigate motherhood while also trying to heal yourself? It must have been a challenging experience, balancing the desire to provide love and healing for your children while not burdening them with your past pain.

Now I have two daughters and a son, with my son being the youngest. Initially, raising my girls was driven by fear. I didn't want them to repeat the same mistakes I made, and I wanted to raise them differently from how I was raised. I became a disciplinarian because that's what I witnessed growing up. It took me some time to realize that they are human beings who make their own choices, so I didn't have to be perfect in their eyes. I let go of the pressure to be flawless and started keeping it real with them as they grew older.

As they entered their tween years, I realized the importance of open communication. I discovered that they were aware of many things discussed in school that surprised me. Just like we witnessed and overheard things as children, they also pick up on more than we think. Raising girls, my primary goal was to prevent them from getting pregnant at 16. Breaking that cycle was crucial to me. My oldest daughter and I used to say, "We're not generational curse makers; we're generational curse breakers." I did my best to create an environment where they could be open with me, something I didn't have. When I was younger, I experienced molestation but had no one to talk to about it. I felt trapped, fearing my mother would blame me or my stepdad would harm the perpetrator.

With my own children, I wanted them to feel comfortable discussing anything with me. I emphasized that if anyone ever acted inappropriately towards them or made them feel uncomfortable, they should come to me. I would do whatever it took to protect them. Listening to an interview with Oprah and the creator of the #MeToo movement, I was struck by a beautiful statement: "No matter what happens, my love for you won't change." This contrasted with my earlier approach of telling them that no one could hurt them because I would protect them. It made me realize the importance of assuring them that my love is unwavering, regardless of the circumstances.

Raising my girls involved being vocal, keeping it real with them, and creating a safe environment. I wanted them to feel secure in expressing themselves, something I never had. Even if it meant hearing things I didn't want to hear, I preferred knowing what was going on in their lives. It was challenging because I wanted them to surpass me and viewed their lives as being in my hands. I placed significant pressure on myself, constantly worrying about not disappointing God in how I raised them. Looking back, I often tell parents that if I knew then what I know now, I would advise them not to worry as much. Their children came into this world to embark on their own journeys and learn their own lessons. They will be just fine. Instead of imposing restrictions on every aspect of their lives, I wanted my girls to have the freedom to be themselves. By the time my son arrived, I simply wanted to see him embrace his genuine self. It took me a while to reach this perspective.

I can understand the additional anxiety and pressure that comes from experiencing a violation as a young person. It compounds the existing issues with self-esteem, where you feel unworthy and not beautiful. It's a constant feeling of looking down on oneself and being violated adds embarrassment and further diminishes any sense of selfworth. As a mother, this extra anxiety transfers to wanting to protect your children from everything and everyone, like seeing everyone as the boogeyman. It leads to a hyper-vigilance where you want to shield them from any potential harm or danger. We tend to be overly cautious, constantly saying "no" and limiting their exploration, fearing the consequences. It can be overwhelming at times.

Growing up, we were surrounded by rules and restrictions. Don't touch this, don't do that, don't sit on anyone's lap. It's like playing the floor is lava, constantly trying to avoid making mistakes. When something did happen, we felt guilty and responsible, even though we were just young kids. Parents need to give their children the freedom to be themselves, while still providing guidance and correction when needed. It's important to allow them to have a voice, something we often didn't have growing up. I was always told to hush, not to talk back or express myself freely. This lack of freedom to speak had a lasting impact, even leading me to apologize for speaking too much. It takes patience to navigate through these challenges.

Experiencing violation and victimization reinforces the negative perception we already have of ourselves. The little girl within us tries to protect us, even in situations where it's unnecessary. We have to go through a lot and learn how to handle life, accepting that it's okay not to be okay. Sometimes, we were raised to be seen and not heard, which makes it difficult to trust and communicate as adults. This lack of trust can sabotage relationships, as we struggle to believe in loyalty or feel safe with others. The healing journey is challenging, especially when raising other little girls while trying to heal ourselves.

In the past, I would isolate myself by creating an invisible bubble as a form of protection. But I realized that by blocking pain, I also prevented love from entering and leaving freely. Guarding our hearts is important, but blocking it completely prevents any connections. Traumas and conditioning from our past can hold us back, making it difficult to move past the pain. We often carry the belief that our parents should have been perfect and provided us with flawless experiences, but that's not the purpose of our journey. We came here to learn and grow, and sometimes imperfections serve as valuable lessons. It can be tough, and at times we may feel overwhelmed, but we are capable of handling it.

As a life coach, my passion for helping others stems from the pain, disappointment, and betrayal I've experienced in my own life. I never want anyone else to feel that way. As a result, I developed a tendency to people please, to fix, pay for, save, and protect others. It's a lot of pressure to constantly be the superhero for everyone.

We should share our stories with the intention of helping others heal, but we must also speak life and share the positive aspects. It's not enough to dwell on our miserable experiences without offering hope and the "pot of gold" at the end. Passing on negative energy is selfish and unproductive. We should let go of negative energy and focus on the powerful message of our story. We all have our own struggles, but we need to uplift others by sharing the positive outcomes. The pain is temporary, and we should be mindful of that when sharing our stories.

Over time, having grown up in abuse and experiencing sexual assault, I've learned that despite the challenges, I can speak victory over myself. It doesn't matter what the doctors say; God has the final word. Our perspective and how we think about things are crucial. It's important to speak life and not fall into clichés or negative patterns of speech. What you say shapes your reality.

Your intention matters. As Oprah said recently, the intention you put out is what you receive. In writing my book, my intention is to heal and allow God to work through me. I aim to show love and focus on the pot of gold on the other side, not just the storms we face. While storms are real, we must speak life over them. It won't rain forever, and we need sunshine for growth. Be mindful of your words, as they create your tomorrow. Instead of speaking down to ourselves, let's uplift and find the positive. Even when we're not at our best, we can still acknowledge our strengths and worth. We're life-givers, capable of nurturing and supporting others. Choose love, peace, faith, and gratitude. Our choices shape our experiences. Being thankful for who we are and where we are at this moment can lead us to beautiful places. Gratitude has the power to transform our lives.

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