Ria Benedict, Superwoman. This is the description Ria uses when discussing the person that she used to be and, perhaps surprisingly, the one she didn't like. Most people think being a superwoman would be something to be sought after and in today's society, is often something that most of us strive for. Many women think that this is what is expected of them, to be that superwoman for their families, their partners, their children, even their friends. To be the perfect mom, the perfect spouse, the perfect employee, the perfect listener, the list goes on. But that constant striving to be a superwoman takes a toll on a person. Ria learned this the hard way.
Growing up, Ria was the oldest child to teenage parents who eventually split up, which left her with a strained relationship with her father and a conflicted one with her mother. Ria's mother was only 17 when she gave birth to Ria and as a result they were often mistaken for sisters rather than mother and daughter. While this was more advantageous for Ria's mother, who called Ria her “ace number 1 pal”, it put added pressure on Ria growing up. With a working single parent and a younger brother who looked up to her, responsibility came early for Ria and she learned that she would have to take matters into her own hands if she wanted to achieve the things that were important to her, things like applying for college. And Ria did apply to college and even financed her own way through The University of Virginia and the George Washington School of Law, with the aid of scholarships, grants and student loans that she received thanks to her hard work. This superwoman seemed to be making it in the world, an accomplished self-starter who knew what she wanted and got it.
But long hours at work and a difficult marital relationship left Ria with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Her husband, who suffered from Crohn's Disease himself, was of little help to Ria who had made it her role to ensure that he was doing all right and taking care of himself while neglecting her own needs in the process. Ria recalls that there were days when it was hard to breathe and she couldn't get out of bed. The stress of her life was taking a physical toll on her body and as a result Ria gained weight and felt increasingly unhappy within her own skin.
Meanwhile, her situation at home didn't help her to manage her CFS. After 5 years in what she felt was an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship with her husband, things finally came to a head when it got physical. She remembers the 'maniacal rage' on her husband's face when he grabbed her and shook her. After he left in handcuffs, Ria realized that something had to change. “One day I looked and saw my self-esteem on the floor,” she recalls. “I remember thinking to myself, 'I don't understand how I got here'.” An attractive, accomplished, and all around superwoman now found herself in a life that did not seem like her own.
That was when Ria decided to make a change. She knew it was time to focus on herself and not try to be what others wanted her to be. Her first step was to separate from her husband. Amazingly, they divorced amicably and the separation process was much easier than she could have imagined. They have even managed to remain friends because she was able to forgive him for the person he was when they were married and to forgive herself for the role she played in their downward spiraling relationship. Ria also began to focus on her health. With some of the stress of her relationship gone, she began working with a doctor to relieve her Chronic Fatigue symptoms. His concept centered on working with the brain to bring it back to a point where it was before the person became ill. This neurological focus gave Ria increased energy, allowing her to begin an exercise program accompanied by healthier eating habits.
A ruptured disc in her neck left Ria with 4 months off of work. During that time, she found that the only thing that relieved her pain was exercise. All of this newly discovered energy and healthier lifestyle was melting Ria's weight off and making her feel much better than she had before. Yet, she still did not think that she was doing all that she could. Always one to research and keep working toward her goals, Ria went to see another holistic doctor who did a blood work-up and found that she was extremely nutritionally deficient. This led Ria on a path of learning about digestive health and to more of a focus on cleansing her body rather than just losing the weight. She began to schedule appointments for colonics on a regular basis and to eat more alkaline foods, like vegetables and cereal grains, in order to keep her body in a better state of health and nutrition. Today Ria manages her own health by continuing along this program and no longer has CFS, is able to manage her irritable bowel and rosacea, things that used to plague this superwoman and now are a thing of the past. Yet, this is only one small aspect of the changes that Ria made for herself.
“Ria Benedict, Superwoman. This is the description Ria uses when discussing the person that she used to be and, perhaps surprisingly, the one she didn't like.”
Shortly after her separation from her husband, as she went about rebuilding her self-esteem and sense of who she really was, Ria purchased a red enamel ring with a diamond heart in the center of it to replace her wedding band. She says it was “to remind me that I have to love me first, so that this doesn't happen to me again.” Ria was determined never to lose herself in another relationship, whether that relationship was with a man, a friend, or a family member. This mantra has become the passion in her life as well as her new business venture. Ria began the i-love-me collection at the end of 2007 and it has become her life's work as well as her outlet to share her experience with the world. Her mantra now is “what would love do?” and she asks herself this in all her interactions with others as well as with herself.
The i-love-me collection is a story of empowerment. The logo is a butterfly with a heart in the center, to symbolize transformation and rebirth within a foundation of unconditional love. Ria puts her logo on shirts, mugs, jewelry, candles and stationery, to remind women of their strength but also of the need to be gentle with themselves.
While her current focus is on the women of the world, Ria has plans to expand to collections for men and children because her story appeals to everyone, and because 'a number of men have asked where their collection is!'. Take heart, Ria says it's coming guys! But Ria's focus has been on women because they can relate most to her story. And as she went through her transformation of learning to truly love herself, it was mainly her female friends who would remark on her 'new glow' and ask her 'what did you do, you're so different'. It seemed she had found what many women are still searching for, which is not how to be the superwoman who is perfect at everything she does, but rather, how to be the super woman who knows her value and loves herself and feels it with every fiber of her being regardless of what she does.
Ria takes her message to workshops where she shares her message of empowerment and strives to encourage others to be happy within themselves. She does not engage in 'male-bashing' as a way to empower women, but rather recognizes that it takes an understanding of the male psyche and of a woman's role in a relationship in order to make it work. She is planning to offer workshops on Spiritual Divorce that she hopes will alleviate the blaming that often comes with such a separation and instead, will allow a couple to take individual responsibility, which will also help them grow and learn about themselves.
Ria feels rewarded by the i-love-me collection in profound ways. She has received feedback from people that they visit her website (www.ilovemecollection.com) every day because of the strength that they gain from it. She got a clear idea of the impact that her message has when she recently emailed a woman for information regarding an Active Girlz expo for girls age 8-18. Ria wanted to bring her message to these girls but unfortunately the event was rather expensive and wouldn't be cost effective for her small business. The organizer of the event visited Ria's website and told her she “had to be there!” and that they would find a way to make it work. Her message is simple and yet essential and powerful. It is something that is so easy to forget as we get caught up in our lives and our obligations. Yet Ria wants to remind us all that our first responsibility is to ourselves, to love ourselves unconditionally and to spread that love to those around us through everything that we do. This is the meaning of the i-love-me collection and this is Ria's message for the world.
Thank you Ria, for sharing your Story with us.
Our Stories and pictures are the sole copyright of their Authors and may not be reprinted or used without their permission.