"I’VE LEARNED THAT YOU’RE ALLOWED TO BE HAPPY."
—STEPHANIE, TORONTO, CANADA
Where to start… I’ve been through a lot, for sure.

I had a distrust of society. I was a child of poverty. I grew up very poor and had a mother that would never ask for help. As I grew up, I suffered from addiction. Cocaine. Crack. Narcotics. I had a lot of depression and anxiety. I was really not put together and I had chronically low self-esteem. I was kind of a textbook case for someone who grows up in poverty with a single parent. So there was that. I couldn’t see a way out. It was hard. I hit my low. I just didn’t feel in charge of my life. It was a pretty colorful story.

I started feeling like my clothes and my appearance were just conveying that low self-esteem. A friend told me that there are places you could go to get clothing, like a charity. I was really upset and offended that he said that because I had this perception that I was capable and that I could make it on my own. It was a really emotional point for me—I just could not accept help. I got really angry at him for thinking that I needed charity, and so I kicked him out of my place, like, ‘Get out!’ I’m not usually that kind of a person.

A few days later, I had an appointment with my social worker and in her office I saw a poster for Dress for Success. I asked her about it and she set up an appointment for me immediately. It was just a really cool thing that happened. I saw the sign, literally.

People are quick to judge you by your appearance. I didn’t care. I always thought that what matters is on the inside. There’s a balance to that. I had this perception of women who dress nicely. Like that they were just mean. But when I went to Dress for Success, they were all just so lovely and so nice. And they took me to a boutique and they were so giddy about dressing me up. We were having so much fun. It was a really cool, new experience for me to be in that type of situation. I hadn’t had a positive female relationship or experience like that before.

Now, I’ve learned that you’re allowed to be happy. You’re allowed to experience joys. Sometimes, when you come from a tougher place, you have this feeling of unworthiness, that you’re undeserving.

But at the end of that day, you’re allowed to be happy.

WHAT INSPIRES ME
I have this little piece of ceramic that has a tree on it. I found it when I went to do my yoga therapy training in Vermont. There was a river there and I was by myself. I was kind of scared, but it was a really hot day in June so I decided to get into the river. I just lied down in the rocks and the water washed over me. When I got up, I felt like I had gotten over my fears and come out on the other side of this experience. As I got out, I looked down and saw this little piece of china that had a tree on it. Out of all the millions of rocks, I found this one little piece of a cup. I wear that around my neck now as a symbol of how, whatever you’re going through, there’s always another side.