Pontiac resident Catherine Johnson knows the value of valuing oneself.
“I realized, through my own experience, that when your self-esteem is not high, it causes you to make bad decisions sometimes and then you're not able to reach your full potential,” she says. “I’ve overcome it by reading a lot, affirmations and just by doing self-talk that I am who I was created to be and I can fulfill my purpose and that I don't have to compare myself to someone else.”
And since 2013, Johnson has been actively helping other women in her community to believe in themselves through G.I.R.D.L.E (God Is Raising Devoted Ladies For Excellence), a support group for women aged 12 and older who live in Oakland County. The groups are designed to help them see their value.
“We help women by addressing topics that let us know whether or not we have issues with self-esteem,” she says. “We talk about our thinking patterns; first you have to change your mindset and then your actions, and then your behavior will change.”
The organization takes on topics like depression and self-care, issues that are particularly important to women, according to Johnson. Currently, the organization is funded through donations and an annual fashion show, and Johnson says more is needed. She sees the need in the community for expanded services; she'd like to find a permanent physical location for the organization as well as funding staff a nurse and a counselor.
“Women tend to have more of an issue with self-esteem than men,” she says. “From a young age, usually around 10 or 11, women start having issues with self-esteem, and there is no real help for us. Because of the things that I went through in my life, I want to be able to help at least one person overcome those barriers.”
The group has helped one woman realize a dream of publishing her book, and another to face and overcome the trauma of rape. The groups meet every other month and decide what topics to cover based on their needs and interests.
Johnson says the idea for G.I.R.D.L.E. came to her during Bible study.
“There was a scripture that said, ‘Gird up your loins,’ and we know a girdle shapes and supports us and that's what G.I.R.D.L.E. wants to do,” she says. “We want to shape women and to give them the support they need, so they can reach their full potential, that they can be who they were created to be.”