“You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself,” said Erin Woods, explaining the purpose and organizations behind Tuesday’s event, Defining Your Worth.
Woods, a senior human services major from Hoover, is president of M.I.S.S. Elite and founder of Project Embrace, the two groups that ran the event, which was the first of Project Embrace’s events aimed at college-aged women.
Woods created Project Embrace to help local teens as a sophomore at Troy involved in the Civic Scholars program.
“I wanted to do this because I learned that the graduation rate at Troy is the lowest in the state,” she said. “It stands for empowering many beautiful, ready, achieving women to control their environment.”
Woods said that Project Embrace usually focuses on educating the adolescent girls in issues such as making a good first impression and self-esteem. This year, however, she decided to host an event for college-aged girls as well based on what she was observing on campus.
“We just want to empower them since we don’t see that a lot on campus,” Woods said. “We see more tearing down than building up.”
Woods said that the Defining Your Worth night, which was held at the arboretum at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, was more “dynamic” than simply a lecture-style talk.
It began with a moment of quiet in order to allow each woman to reflect on her goals. It was then time for a group of panelists, made up of women from around the local community, to answer questions such as “How do you define self-love?”
“I enjoyed all the speakers!” Woods said. “They all had great points, but to sum up all of them, I would say to know that your worth comes from something greater than you, that you have to dig deep and know that your worth and love comes from God.
“To always remember that we are a daughters of the King which makes us princesses, but we have to take it further and know that we are queens!”
The night began to wrap up with an activity. Each woman was instructed to write down everything “she never forgave herself for” and to then speak to herself in a mirror, finally forgiving herself and letting it go.
“My favorite part would have been the dear-self mirror activity,” she said.
Woods concluded the night with a talk about defining one’s worth.
“I want to break the stereotype that women can’t work together,” she said. “You need to encourage your fellow woman.”
Woods said that she has enjoyed her time in M.I.S.S. Elite as a member for three years, as well as in Project Embrace, “being able to mentor the local youth and being able to network with the local community.”
“I didn’t think they had a good influence,” Woods said of the girls she mentors. “Your past doesn’t matter — where you’re going, your future, does.”
Woods said that since creating Project Embrace, she has received a lot of positive feedback and hopes to continue her involvement in nonprofits as she goes to graduate school to become a counselor.
“I think that the ladies will take away that we have similar stories and it’s time for us to come together to share our stories and to support each other,” Woods said of the attendees of Defining Your Worth. “Because once we love ourselves we can love other women as well.”
Ashley Snell, a senior exercise science major from Dothan, said that she enjoyed her time at the conference.
“I would tell a woman who is searching for self-worth to first love herself,” Snell said.
“If you don’t love yourself first, then you won’t know how to love others or know how others should love you.”
“You are your biggest critic,” Snell said.