‘I’d be so reckless,’ she says regretfully, ‘that I would put myself in danger in a number of occasions. I wanted to hang around people who were loud, the life of the party and even some who carried weapons.
‘Inside, I felt rotten. I was still the insecure girl who didn’t think she was pretty enough or good enough. I did a good job of imitating the people around me to fit in, but I could never mask away the emptiness I felt inside.’
Naomi Boketsu smiles and assures us that she is no longer that girl. In almost the same breath she also chirps that taking off her mask and learning to love herself wasn’t an easy task.
‘I looked at the other young people of the VYG (Victory Youth Group—the Youth Ministry of the Universal Church) jumping around all happy; not caring about image or what others thought of them made me want that. It was a friend from school who invited me to the Youth Group and it seemed fun but I never thought that it would be the beginning of a new me.
‘It was a natural progression for me to start attending the meetings at the church, also because I wanted to hear more. It was positive, supportive and encouraging. When I was there, I felt like I could be or do anything. ‘It was refreshing to speak to advisers who were willing to help me without passing any judgement. They really believed in me. I just needed to believe in myself too!
“I did a good job of imitating people”
‘The meetings at the Universal Church helped me fight my internal battles. At first, I was procrastinating for change, however within two months I finally made a decision and I saw a drastic change within me. I didn’t just wish to be different, I was ready to really work at it. That’s when I really opened up.
‘I was honest with myself and with God and I didn’t allow my pride or doubts to get in the way of my change. I chose to believe that I could change and let go of the fear of the unknown. Through this process I learnt to trust in God. Many times, I felt like giving up but God helped me be strong. I found confidence and encouragement through the Bible. The way God sees me has brought a value inside me that I’ve never known anywhere.’
So, we ask: who is Naomi Boketsu? Beaming, excitement in her eyes she answers:
‘Naomi is happy!’ she smiles a big smile. ‘I’m at peace with myself and I’m working; I’m chasing my dreams. I now have the determination and confidence that I once lacked. The voids I struggled to fill over the years have gone and I’m happy to be just me.
‘When you really want something and believe it to be of high importance, you will go out of your way to make it happen. For me back then, finding myself was that thing of high importance. So, to anyone going through something similar I would say: don’t run away from great opportunities. Be determined and don’t give up.’ She smiles.