A journey into my womanhood, in four parts.

Part I

By Charmaine Adetola Shaw

October 2022

Thumbnail illustration by Carole Maillard

Thumbnail illustration by Carole Maillard


“To find something or someone again after losing or forgetting about it, or them, for a long time”

“I am not yours to use as you please

I am worth more than you know or realise

Basking in the glory of my imperfections

Acknowledging my sensitivity as a blessing

My soul is old and my heart is pure

All I need is time, and like a tulip in spring, I shall bloom

When I rise from the ashes, born anew

You shall know the power that my name holds.”

There was a time, not too long ago, where I didn’t know myself. A time when the words “describe yourself in three words” was enough to induce a panic attack. Who am I? I would question. And I’d go looking for myself in others, not understanding that the answers were always within. And so, began my journey of self-love and worth.

Before I knew myself, I had such a desire to be loved and was in a constant search for someone to make me feel safe. When it came to romantic relationships I truly believed that I just had bad luck, that the people I chose to date were just deceptive. It wasn’t till I began taking a hard look at my situation that I realised I was just ignoring red flag after red flag until eventually the relationship, albeit short lived, would come to an end. I would let people talk down to me, control me, because it’s what I thought I deserved at the time. I didn’t realise I could be my own safe space.

I met someone, who taught me this vital life lesson. They were charming and we had an instant connection but as I got to know them I realise they were the human embodiment of all the downfalls of my previous relationships.

It was then that I realised that in order to feel loved and safe I would need to repair my relationship with my soul and get back to myself, instead of seeking validation in every person I had a “connection” with. And rather build and strengthen my relationship with myself. So, I began evaluating myself and my life, a daunting task for any human being.

I began by looking at what I thought were my flaws, my characteristics I’ve been criticised for and acknowledging the power within them. I have always been sensitive, and for the longest time I believed that that was something that made me weak, vulnerable. But I now recognise it as a gift, a powerful one. It means that I am empathetic, that I feel everything life has to offer (the good and the bad). I can also be stubborn, but it means I am passionate and driven, that I have a strong outlook on life and that I do not often bend to the will of others in order to conform and ‘fit in’. There is power in your flaws if you just look a little deeper. Then I started writing down what nourishes my soul? What makes me happy and what I want out of life.

And soon enough I could describe myself in three words, several words if given the chance.

I am strong

I am kind

I am passionate

It was no longer a fear of mine, but instead a reflective task that made my smile. As I realised what a joy it is, to know yourself.

Slowly, my soul started to heal, as I began being more compassionate towards myself and viewing myself as worthy. Worthy of life, worthy of love and worthy of success.

Day by day my relationship with myself strengthens, I’m still at the beginning of my journey, but I am excited to watch the woman I grow into. And I strongly believe that one day I will be myself, unapologetically.

You can find more of Charmaine’s work here.