Four years ago, Roberta Cykon, a Youngstown State University senior, was working as a life coach at a women’s prison when she became close to Tammy Brewster, one of the inmates.
“One day, she walked into our coaching session, and she was very depressed, sad and felt unworthy,” Cykon said. “We were standing in front of a two-way mirror. I stood behind her and said, ‘Tammy, look. Do you see who you are? You are God’s daughter, a princess in the reflection.’ She smiled at me, and I said, ‘Tammy, I am going to write a book and name it ‘Princess In My Reflection’ just for you.’ And so I did.”
Cykon kept her promise to Brewster, and after three and a half years, “Princess in My Reflection,” Cykon’s children’s book, was released in December by her own life-coaching business, Motivation For You, LLC.
In “Princess in My Reflection,” a teenage girl named Tammy is constantly depressed and aspires to find harmony, happiness and a stronger sense of self-esteem. After Tammy begins to pray to God, she acquires a stronger relationship with him, leading her to experience a spiritual awakening. She is then granted the ability to view herself as a princess and learns to love herself and recognize her inner beauty.
Cykon said the road to getting the book published was not easy.
“I had one person tell me that my book will never go anywhere and that the story does not make sense,” she said. “I showed one of the ambassadors at my Integrity Beauty [Women of Excellence] program for some feedback and she gave me the idea about making the book for children instead of women so that the story could benefit children and the mothers reading the book as well.”
After figuring out the details of the story, Cykon began to seek out an illustrator to help bring her book to life. While illustrators continuously dropped out of the project, Cykon did not know where to look for help until she met Amy Hermance, a graphic design major, in Kilcawley Center’s Dunkin Donuts.
“I was telling her about this vision I had about a woman who was depressed, naked and shamed and also being loved by a woman who was beautiful, whole and had a gown and tiara on her head in the form of a mirror image,” Cykon said. “Amy made exactly what I wanted, and that is when I asked her to be the illustrator. I was so blessed when she decided to help me, and she was exactly what I wanted.”
Hermance said that she also felt very blessed to have met Cykon that day in Kilcawley Center.
“What made me choose to work with her is the fact that in a day and age where so many Christians are shown to be heartless toward groups unlike their own, Roberta was instead curious, caring and encouraging of others to be who they are and love themselves as much as God might,” Hermance said. “I found that quite a worthy cause to support.”
“Princess in My Reflection” has been sold across the Youngstown area and is being sold at the Zephyr Gallery at the Tropicana Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Cykon is also offering purchases to YSU students for $10. From each sale, she will donate $1 to the YSU Social Worker Association until the end of March. “Princess in My Reflection” is also available at the YSU Bookstore.
Cykon said that she has gotten great feedback and hopes that everyone will enjoy the story.
“So many people are so troubled by the media and what others think of them that I want them to know that they are worthy right where they are in life,” Cykon said. “I speak to thousands of women a year — speaking at conferences and teaching workshops on reinventing your life and turning your pain into purpose. It is my goal to help women use their testimony to inspire others. So far, I have been blessed and that is exactly what I am doing, one women at a time.”
Hermance said she hopes “Princess in My Reflection” will help young girls learn that it is OK to think well of yourself and have a strong self-confidence.
“Thinking well of yourself is something that girls especially are not granted, as we live in a society that two-facedly claims one should love themselves and then calls it arrogant to claim yourself beautiful in the same breath,” Hermance said. “In this story, there’s the admission to finding oneself beautiful, and rather than basing this ideal on comparison, the reader is encouraged to help others find their own beauty, rather than put down others in the process.”