"I was not a monster, just queer" - Mell's journey through pain, hate, and finding self-confidence
Updated: Jul 20
Mell Pollman is an LGBTQ+activist and soon-to-be I/O psychologist. Mell is also a poet, a writer, and a Young Innovator at the innovation and experiential marketing agency, International Connector. In time for Pride month, Mell honors us with continuing our "Self-confidence" series, with some glimpses of her story alongside some heartfelt advice.
“I was a victim of emotional abuse for many years.
I allowed myself to be consumed
by all the hatred
the abusers reflected on me.
I allowed it to shape my identity
to the mess I was told was me.
Even so, I was not the monster,
that the perpetrators of my pain painted me to be.
I was just queer
but in my world, there is no difference between queer and evil.
There are many reasons to be bitter, spiteful, and even actionably malicious.
But I did nothing more than exist.
That’s life - at least when you're queer.
With any kind of discrimination there comes a time where it becomes normal and the pain becomes a sense of identity. You are lost. But if you get lost, society loses too.
Because we’ll look around and all we’ll see is anger, hatred, and suicide. We’ll ask ourselves: how did we get here? We forget that hatred can break people just as much as pain can."
"With any kind of discrimination there comes a time where the discrimination becomes normal and the pain becomes a sense of identity"
Reading these beautifully written words of Mell Pollman, an inspiring poet and youth leader from Kenya, I was deeply moved. We had been communicating regularly to put together a piece on how to boost your self-esteem and I encouraged Mell to share their story. It’s interesting how when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. And when you ask them about self-esteem they'll tell you about feeling worthless.
“Whenever I looked at someone who reminded me of myself, I’d cringe at their fake smile and sarcastic aura. In them, I recognized the person I tried so hard to stop being and I hated that others reminded me that was still like them.
I had little to my name at least in regard to positivity. Like many, I couldn’t have a good self-image because I couldn’t be positive. I couldn’t be confident. But don’t let anybody tell you that you are your negativity, the pain and the humiliation you have suffered. The day I realized this, I realized how much power I had. If the negativity was separate from me, I could get rid of it.”
What Mell subtly but very effectively touches on here is how our own insecurity easily becomes part of our identity. More dangerously so, it becomes part of how we communicate and the energy we send out into the world. In fact, whenever I can think of times that I have treated people with contempt or disgust, it has been times that I have been most insecure myself. Insecurity breeds insecurity in other people. And that’s why, in order to remove hate in others, we have to remove the hate in ourselves. Mell continues:
“People can hurt. But people can also encourage, inspire, motivate, and change lives. It’s all in how you see the person in the mirror! The moment you realize you are perfect in all the imperfection, you will show people what you see in yourself. And by showing people how self-love can inspire confidence and elimination of hate, we create peace.
So here is how I can help you. I can share my story but it will only be worth anything if it inspires you to embrace yourself! If you can take charge of who you are, you can, in fact, change the world.
But then again, positive self-regard is hard. I wish we could all just "abrakaboo" - do some magic - and everything would be alright. No mental health problems, no sadness. But that’s not how it works. We have to take responsibility for our own happiness. At some point in my life, I had to stand up for myself. That took courage. But it made me who I am today. And every day I am still shaping my identity. And like yours, mine is and will continue to be beautiful.”
Mell’s gift to you is not only her powerful words of encouragement but also a list of things you can do to boost your self-esteem and thus remove a little bit of hate from the world: By replacing the hate you have for yourself by unconditional acceptance of your imperfection. Just wait and see how much more can come from that!
1. Treat yourself
Nobody can love you better than you can love yourself. Learn to treat yourself once in a while. It is healthy and studies show that treating yourself boosts morale and motivates you to keep doing whatever you do. Reminding yourself that you are worthy of great things is beautiful and fundamental to boosting your self-confidence.
2. Let go of the unforgivable
Many of us have horrible things locked up behind us that plague every part of our growth. Learning to let go of things that are destructive and disabling is a necessary initiative. It will create room for better versions of yourself and boost your self-confidence. This is because there will be no baggage to hold you down and make you feel even worse on the days you need to feel the strongest.
3. Tell yourself how perfect you are
Lisa Nichols said it best when she told her story. She talked about the power of positive self-affirmation rituals and how it drove her out of depression. This is not to say that you may only need to instill "some positive rituals" and you will be "healed" from a mental illness. Depression can be chronic but that's even more reason not to lose hope and why we should do all we can to boost our confidence. Positive affirmation rituals changed my life. In fact, they continue to change my life. I dare you, try it!
4. Dress in brightly colored clothes
It is funny how the human mind works. The environment will always influence you! Did you know that in psychiatric hospitals, the colors used on the wall, the arrangement of chairs in the consultancy rooms, etc. are all carefully done to create a positive atmosphere for patients to feel comfortable and confident about the care they are receiving?
Bright colors bring a sense of vibrancy into any room and any situation. Once you surround yourself with positive energy it starts to rub off on you and you start to feel good and you become more confident.
5. Exercise and eat foods rich in energy
Any blog post written on the benefits of exercise and proper diet will tell you that it'll increase in self-confidence. Exercise is key to a healthy body and mind and a healthy mind can think more clearly, be more focused and committed and a healthy body will get the job done well and look good while doing it. Exercise will also make you radiate confidence because of the feel-good hormones (endorphins!) that you release. Eating foods rich in energy will give you more zeal and stamina to go for the things you have always wanted to do. It will make you more productive, creative, innovative and in the long run you will stand out from the crowd!
6. Celebrate the small stuff
There is nothing more powerful than being able to recognize your potential and therefore your power. Recognizing this gives you strength and eliminates negative and doubtful self-talk. Moreover, it'll give you the opportunity to shine the colors you’ve been designed to share with the world. Then you need to realize that every part of your journey is special because it all leads to the final goal. The falling and the rising, the tears, and the laughter, everything leads to who you were made to be. So rejoice in all the small things because they have to be for you to become. – “You got up on time this morning. Tick. You poached your eggs to perfection. Winning. Celebrating small victories is a great way to build confidence and start feeling better about yourself.
7. Reflect well on others
If you really want to feel valuable, you’ve got to share your gifts with others—be it your interpersonal qualities or your talents. How much time every day and every week do you spend adding value to the people around you? Do you serve through a volunteer organization? Do you mentor people? Do you give assistance to others less fortunate than yourself? If you aren’t doing so already, find a way to serve others by utilizing your strengths. If you’re already serving, then do more. It’s the best way to improve your self-image, which is the surest way to improve others’ images of you.
Never ever allow yourself to become used to feelings of mediocrity. When you look into the mirror, you should see someone who matters, and —someone you believe in.
8. Stop being a perfectionist.
Accept that nothing in life is perfect. Mistakes will be made and that is all a part of growth. When you make a mistake, accept it and learn from it. It requires humility, and faith that you will do better next time.
9. Control Your Thoughts
We have this inner critic inside our heads that we sometimes take too seriously. It whispers constructive or destructive thoughts inside our heads. Listen to your inner critic, but take its opinions with a grain of salt. Don’t believe its judgment readily. When you hear destructive thoughts snowballing, say STOP, and steer your thoughts into a productive path."
On June 9th, 3-5 pm Indian Standard Time, Mell will be a panelist at "Proud to be Pride" - an open discussion on gender sensitivity, organized by EUNOIA. The participation fee is Rs.100 (approximately 1.33 USD), which will go to support migrant workers during COVID-19.
Mell will be speaking about her experiences alongside other eminent LGBTQ+ such as activists, Alex Mathe aka Maya the Drag Queen, and Sagar Pandey, Life Coach, Public Speaker, Poet, Content Strategist & Developer.
Message us if you would like to join us @generateimpact on Instagram or on Facebook!
Maxwell, J. (2018). 3 Ways to Improve Your Self-Image | SUCCESS. Retrieved 27 May 2020, from https://www.success.com/3-ways-to-improve-your-self-image/
10 tips for improving your self-esteem. (2020). Retrieved 27 May 2020, from https://au.reachout.com/articles/10-tips-for-improving-your-self-esteem
The World Counts. (2020). Retrieved 27 May 2020, from https://www.theworldcounts.com/happiness/how-to-improve-self-image