Esmé Hunt (Ngāti Mutunga) was bullied as a high school student for years and the depression and anxiety she suffered later in life was a result of that.
Hunt was a key speaker at Real Talk, an event in New Plymouth where influential Māori speakers shared their stories, to inspire and empower others.
“I shared how I had to find myself after believing what the bullies would tell me, that I was worthless and all that kind of stuff. I didn’t actually realise that I was internalising all those comments.”
Hunt says the abuse continued after leaving school. She was physically assaulted by another teenage girl.
“It’s been a journey to peel back the layers of that mamae (hurt) and step into my truer self and it’s brought me to my purpose. It was a horrible experience but it’s really enlightened me to what the world needs more of which is empowering women to prioritise their wellbeing because no healthy person will tear down others,” she says.
“No healthy person who has their needs met has any desire to seek out other people they can humiliate or hurt, whether or not its hurt from their own whānau at home or they have their own inner insecurities that they haven’t quite processed,” says Hunt.
Esmé Hunt speaking at Real Talk in New Plymouth. Source: Real Talk
Road to recovery
Hunt says getting therapy, returning to her whenua and spending more time surrounded by nature helped her heal spiritually.
“I had to unlearn all these beliefs and re-learn who I am and that I whakapapa through a strong whānau and that I am so much more than what these bullies would say.”
Yet Hunt still has empathy for bullies.
“It doesn’t justify their actions but we can only lead with love and compassion to truly neutralise all the hate that is out there. We can only bring light to the shadow.”
Esmé at her graduation with her partner and baby. Source: Instagram
Hunt is now a mother of two and businesswoman. She owns two businesses including a beauty studio offering eye lash and eye brow services. She recently started Wren and Ruby selling self-care products for women candles with evocative themes aimed at women including Take Care, Higher Vibration and Divine Feminine.
“It’s so often that we find ourselves in these dark places where we’re seeking āwhina and I’ve created these candles with the intention that when you light it, it’s almost like the ritualistic energy … lifting your vibration to wherever it is you want to find yourself.”
In the future Hunt hopes to create soaps, care packages and self-care journals.
She and her partner Morehu also want to provide a strong foundation for their tamariki.
“I want to meet all their needs as best as I can. I know as a parent we make mistakes almost every day and I meet that with grace and just doing our best, hopefully leading by example … following their purpose in whatever it is they want to achieve.”
If you need help or are concerned about someone who may need help, contact lifeline 0800 543 354, or the suicide crisis helpline 0508 TAUTOKO.