I’ve always heard that when you date you have to be yourself. That if someone loves you, they’ll truly love all of you. But what happens if you are too much, and all of you goes against what everyone’s ideal of love looks like? When I was growing up, I always heard that Black girls were least desired. When I got older I learned that I liked girls too, and my identity became a fetish in more than one way. As I explored my Blackness and my Sexuality, I felt as though I had so much love to give. In fact, there was so much love inside of me that I just didn’t think that love had to be contained for one person. I’ve tried to explore polyamory in my other relationships, I wasn’t jealous but they were, and then it ended. Let’s not even get on the topic of explaining to cis-men why I identify as trans. I was always expected to accept whatever religion they were, Christian, Muslim, Jewish. But my spirituality, my identity as someone who practices witchcraft was perceived as demonic.
“How am I supposed to love myself when all the world tells me that I am not desired, or worse, that I shouldn’t exist.”
I’ve spent my entire life being less of myself. Hiding in closets, yes I’m out to myself, but every time I’d date someone it felt like I’d have to come out again (no wonder I hate first dates). All my life I’ve felt as though my existence meant accepting others, but never truly feeling accepted myself. This is beyond love, this is my life. Neither of my parents know I identify as trans, and my sexuality is tolerated and at best accepted with side eyes. It’s no wonder I could never find love; people have never really had the chance to find me. I started to feel like I was cursed, every relationship would end the same. I never felt like I could be me, and even when I tried to be what I thought they wanted I still wasn’t enough. My last relationship and rebound taught me a lot about love, in fact, I think they’ve changed my life in ways they’ll never really realize. To protect their identities I’ll be using fake names for both of them.
I met John in Social Work school, we had a class together. I had such a crush on him, but I was always so scared to talk to him (or any crush for that matter). A year later I rounded up the courage to add him on Facebook, shortly after he followed me on Instagram. He messaged me first, we talked, flirted, he asked me out. I think originally I was starting to be me, but then I was under the impression that I was supposed to change to make him feel comfortable. Eventually, change became too much, there was no appeasing him, no compromise. After that relationship, I was left with a shell of myself, and that’s how I met Henry. He was awesome, the exact idea of what a stereotypical man is. I wasn’t really ready to date, after John I was recovering from feeling so abused. But, I figured why not? Everyone else thought he was great. I believe there were red flags with Henry, he in ways showed early signs of being possessive. I ignored it though. He never really had time to dedicate to me, but I ignored it because I was just happy to have someone there. Then he ghosted me.
At this point I was convinced I was cursed, every single guy I dated just left me. I consulted my friends, and even a psychic because I just felt so fixated on Henry leaving. I wanted to know what went wrong, what I could have done. I was so obsessed with believing I was the problem that I was completely blinded to the fact that anyone that just disappears isn’t someone we should aspire to be with anyway. Over time I started getting closer to a solution for my anguish. I started to accept that neither guy was as perfect as I wanted to believe they were. I started to accept that it wasn’t my job t make someone love me or to make them stay. I started to accept that it’s not my job to do all the emotional labor. Now I am accepting the fact that none of the individuals I was with were ever able to truly love me.
In order for us to be loved we must love ourselves; but how? I cast a spell on my mirror, lining it with positive affirmations, and intended it to show me how beautiful I am. I went vegan to lose weight, and I dropped 16lbs. I also decided after Henry that my body wasn’t ready to let someone in again, and committed to celibacy until my next serious relationship. All things I figured would scare the heck out of any guy I dated, but it didn’t. In fact, it just weeded out all the people who weren’t looking for the same thing as me. I started to connect with people who respected me more, I started seeing people for who they really were. I stopped looking for love in every connection, and I’ve become content with saying “no” to people who aren’t really a match for me.
When we try so hard to be something we aren’t, we hold onto everything we don’t actually need. I was always scared that if I existed in my truth that I would be impossible to love, which is why I stayed with John for so long. He was the human manifestation of all my self-doubt. So when he told me I was “stupid” or “good look finding someone that’ll deal with you” I considered it truth, not abuse. But the moment I accepted me, in all my weirdness, I’ve been able to truly see how magnificent I am. The point of this is, we are all deserving and worthy of love. We become entitled to respect the minute we are born. We should be able to exist in our truth, from day one. But, I think for some of us we are constantly told that we belong in the closet. So much so that even when we are in places where it’s safe to just be, we become the voice that tells us that we are worth hiding.
I haven’t found external love yet, but what I have found is something I’ll never allow someone to take from me again. Radical self-acceptance is a game changer, and once we are able to achieve it’ll shift the very paradigm that we are used to existing in. We all want someone to love us, so let’s do ourselves a favor and let that right person love all of us.
“No means no.”
I’ve spent my entire life struggling to stand up for myself. I’ve always been sensitive, and thoughtful towards people’s opinions and feelings. To some extent I think I care a little too much about what others think; I’m too thoughtful towards people who don’t matter. I backbend to appease strangers, and second guess the way I word messages to people who probably won’t remember them. I think I grew up to become a “People Pleaser.” Not a “Yes man,” I’m not scared of having opinions, but I care too much about how those opinions impact people. So much so that I compromise myself so others won’t feel bad.
I don’t consider this a noble thing, in fact in ways I think it can be more cowardly than anything. Ghosting slowly after first dates, replying to messages, entertaining hope even though I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Which leads me to my second problem, I think I’ve internalized that I may not know what’s best for me. I have issues trusting my own intuition, even though it’s right more often than not. I end up dating the worst people, and being in the worst situations because I assume the little voice in my head is just me being “too sensitive.”
I won’t blame everything on race and gender, I think it’s important to take the onus of our personality traits (or at least try to). At 11-years-old I recall being in Winn-Dixie with my mother. My little black hands grasped on to the cool metal of the grocery store cart. I don’t remember what my mother was talking about exactly, not that it probably mattered. What I do remember was the feeling I had when she mentioned “White people.” I felt like all ears and eyes would be on us if she said it any louder, I was fearful of the conflict that could occur if someone was offended. At 11-years-old I was trying to preserve the comfort of all the White faces in the store that day, as well as feeling a strong desire to ensure my mother’s safety.
As the years passed I grew to understand my mother’s frustration, and would eventually inherit it with age. Isn’t it funny what we inherit? Frustration, rage, sadness. I have Brown skin, I assume my ancestors were forced to appease White people. Forced to whisper words about them, forced to wear masks so as to see another day. I won’t pretend to know exactly what that feels like, I’m oppressed but not the same type of oppressed as they were. The oppression I face is more social suicide, meets “accidental murder.” If I lash out, talk too loud, and my lips fall short of a smile, I’ll receive a label.
“Mad Black Woman,” because any woman with a working mouth must be mad. “Overly sensitive and over-analytical,” because my existence takes too long to digest. I think became a people pleaser for a lot of reasons, survival being one of the top ones. Women who scream too loud get silenced, and Black folks get killed. It’s the worst type of humbling, the type that pushes you into a “sunken place.” The type of Sunken place Black men don’t write about, because they aren’t in it. The type of sunken place that our momma warn us about “don’t be wearing that, you’ll attract the wrong type of attention.” The type of sunken place that we don’t talk about, that we can’t talk about.
I think if I were a Cis Straight White Man I would speak a lot louder, express my opinions even if they were unasked for. Spread my legs on the subway, and drive fast on the freeway. But I’m not, I’m not a Cis-Het White Man, I’m a Trans-Pan-Black Woman (gender fluid). I know nothing other than my black face, and thick lips. I am still teaching myself to say “No,” at risk of being deemed a “Mad Black Woman.” If only I were that privileged. This piece isn’t a call to action, I have no intention of stirring up a protest. This piece has no answers because the question itself is difficult to comprehend. This piece does challenge you all to really consider what sunken place you may live in, maybe your sunken place is about poverty, or physical ability, or even sexuality. Think about how often you’ve reached into the air to grasp onto words that fell on deaf ears; think about how you would describe the color and the taste of an orange to someone who’s never seen one. They might think you mad, wouldn’t they?
I think a lot of America’s problem with social issues (Race, gender, sexuality, etc) isn’t that we aren’t talking about it (in most cases), but that we aren’t understanding it. We don’t challenge ourselves to go out of our own world. We are too fixated on things that bother us, and we refuse to have empathy for other people. To actually touch on the title of this piece, I believe that the very moment that I was born as a woman I have been expected to be comfortable with my sunken place. Older men would stare at my undeveloped body, drunken men would figure they could take a grab if they wanted to. If I spoke up, I’d be a prude. My first boyfriend told me he felt like it’s a wife’s duty to make sure her husband is sexually satisfied, my grandmother taught me I need to make sure I look good for my man. When I am with men, I am expected to be the referee. “Stop, no, I said no, fuck man I said no!” Are words I’m never bold enough to express because when I am with men I’m expected to also be “polite.” Bitch is such an ugly word, and my grandma made me feel like I as a woman am supposed to be pretty. Bitch is such an ugly word, and what would if I scream too loud? What happens when a woman screams too loud, or a black person, or a Black woman even?
To be fair, on the flip side I feel like young men are conditioned to be rapists. Not only by society but because of individual interactions as well. “What the fuck? You don’t want to fuck me? You must be gay.” I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a man, that’s just not how I identify. But I have observed the irony in unpacking rape culture. I have observed in theory we encourage quotes like “No means No” and “Ask first.” But what happens when someone does want to ask about everything, are they then considered un-sexy? What of the men who find no particular interest in being sexual aggressors, are they then deemed submissive and undesirable? As a little girl, I recall being fed this idea that the man I want would be like Beast from Beauty and the Beast. That I was supposed to deal with all the horrible ways he presented himself, and it was my job to teach him how to treat me. I think we are all bounded by expectations, by roles we are told we are supposed to fulfill. I don’t think this is an issue with men or women, I think this is an issue with society. How do we deviate from society if we are still holding onto our tribalistic nature? As individuals, I think the answer is going out of our comfort zone. But as a society, maybe the answer can reveal itself with a little more understanding.
You meet someone, and they have you caught up in shock cause they are just “fione.” They smell good, they feel good, and they make you feel good. The first date has you feeling intoxicated, the sex leaves you having flashbacks at your day job. Everything seems like it’s going great, you’re on cloud nine. Flash forward, and you’re sobbing into your pillow wondering how the hell you got here. What did you miss? How do you go from feeling so amazed by a person to absolutely crushed by the reality of who they are? I’ve had this scenario play out far too many times than I’m proud to admit. As I transform in the Woman I want to be I think it’s important to grow from your mistakes, so here are the 6 things I did wrong in Dating:
- I dated people who liked me, not valued me
I think it’s easy to get caught up. To be infatuated by how easy it is to laugh with someone, and how magical it feels to fit into the small parts of their bodies. It’s so easy to feel like when someone likes you, and if you like them back then that’s special. But the feeling of liking and being liked is so fleeting. It’s sorta like music, sometimes we are ALL about “I Like it” by Cardi B, but then BAM, “Chun-Li” by Nicki Minaj comes on. It’s very possible that songs (and people) will always have a special place in our heart, but the songs (and people) we hold onto are the ones we truly value. Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” will always be classics. When you date someone I’ve learned you should keep dating them, don’t commit, at least not until you’re a classic in their book.
- I was way too passive
I can definitely recall a significant amount of times when I’ve had sex with people when I didn’t really feel into it (completely consensual), and I agreed to committment when in the back of my head I was not ready. I think I chose more of a back seat role because I lacked faith in my ability to be right. I’d trust everyone else’s intuition instead of trusting my own. I think in a lot of relationships I compromise my beliefs and values because they deviate from the norm. I think I know exactly what I want in a person, good looking, funny, respectful, a thoughtful, and opened minded person. I wanted someone who was experimental in the bedroom, someone who was open to trying things like polyamory. Someone who got me. I think I passively accepted that my ideas and wants were “out there,” so instead of staying true to myself I fit into the box that others wanted me to fit into.
- I didn’t believe people when they told me who they were
When I was younger someone once told me “Boys will tell you EXACTLY how they will hurt you before they hurt you, you just have to listen for it.” I can definitely say that most guys I’ve dated have probably alluded to being called “assholes” or hinted to having issues they were trying to get over. I think when you like someone it’s REALLY easy to take passive hints, put them in a suitcase in the back of your mind, and never revisit them until AFTER you get hurt. But follow me for a second, after a relationship we all kinda have an idea of where we went wrong. After being in numerous relationships we have an idea of our pattern/toxic behaviors. Maybe out of guilt some people will drop passive hints to suggest what they’ll end up doing to you, but I think it’s very important to pay close attention to how people describe their past behaviors in relationships (not just romantic).
- I believed that their exes were “crazy”
Look Y’all, I do believe that some people really do be doing the AB–SO–LUTE most. That being said, you have to ask yourself two important questions: Why is this person crazy and Why did they date this crazy person? We all seek out people for a reason, and sometimes it isn’t because we ourselves are abusive (but sometimes it is). What my ex’s ex taught me was, people who have issues with themselves may go after people who make them feel better about themselves. Examples can be if someone feels like they are scared of being left they may seek out people who they feel like have abandonment issues. If a person has issues validating themselves they may seek out the person who tells them all the right things. But just because those people sought out individuals to fill their needs doesn’t mean they have any intention to fulfill the needs of the other person. In extreme situations, the person won’t just be selfish, but they could become manipulative and take their insecurities and fears out on you.
- I normalized red flags
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t see it coming.” Ok sis, but like, really? Maybe it’s just me but I have issues trusting my intuition. I’ve definitely heard some OFF the wall shit, and then I normalized it. “If you cheat on me I’ll kill you” is an OBVIOUS red flag that I’m ashamed to admit I normalized. The amount of times I’ve had a man say that to me is bothersome, not because I believed they’d do it, but because that red flag means that they don’t value me. First off, why would someone assume without reason that I would cheat (projection much?). Secondly, why would someone think that they are entitled to end my life because I hurt their feelings? A less extreme example is someone who doesn’t like any of my friends. Please feel free to argue me on this, but I feel like my friends are my friends for a reason. If someone dislikes all of my friends either I seriously have issues, and/or they don’t actually like me. Moral of the story, trust your gut.
- I saw myself as regular
I spent my entire life internalizing the expression “you have to work twice as hard as them to get half of what they got, and if you’re a Black woman you gotta work even harder.” Whenever I would have high achievements they were always brushed off as things that I was SUPPOSED to do. Perhaps I just wanted to be humble, but I really ended up under-valuing myself. I am an intelligent Black Women, with two degrees, a great career, and I’m a cutie to boot. No these things do not define me, but they tell a story of a woman who has defied odds to make her dreams come true. I am not “regular.” I actively try to go above and beyond to better my mind, body, and spirit. Yes, a person may choose to date me, but not because I am “lucky.” No, I walked through the door worthy and deserving of respect and quality. I do believe so long as you exist, regardless of your level of privilege or background, that you are deserving of kindness and respect.
Now I have A LOT more to learn, and maybe I have a few more frogs to kiss (ew). But I hope that this list of some of the mistakes I made during dating helps Y’all. I’d love to hear back from you all, so please leave a comment letting me know what you’ve learned from dating/relationships!
I’m no stranger to unwanted touch, non-desired looks, and involuntary comments. I’m used to people having the impression that my body exists for their gaze, and no longer has value when they’ve finished with it. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about sexual assault, and given the world we live in, I doubt it will be the last.
I attended Afropunk this past August, for the second year in a row. My first year wasn’t too amazing considering that the festival over-sold tickets, and due to the high quantity of people there were numerous jams and congestion at the festival. I’m someone who has social anxiety and I do tend to have panic attacks when I’m in large crowds, so I suffered from feeling severely triggered my first year there. My second year was a lot better in regards to congestion, there weren’t as many people so I was able to actually enjoy the festival without having a mental breakdown (haha). I was also joined by friends that I don’t get to see often and new faces that I hope I will be able to get to know better over time. For the most part, my Afropunk experience was pretty amazing. Between seeing Tyler the Creator, Erykah Badu, and ACTUALLY being able to eat all the vegan food I want, I was living on cloud-9.
This year there were only really three things that made me feel uncomfortable, and I’ve spent a significant amount of time on my own trying to process it. The first being the presence of so many non-black folks. I love seeing so many people celebrating Black culture and Black joy, on the other hand, I understand Afropunk to be a festival for Punk Black folks by Punk Black folks. Afropunk to me is a festival that celebrates the Black kids who were teased for being weird, or acting too “White.” Obviously, it’s not become a festival that is for ALL Black folks (which is a conversation for another post), but I can’t help but side-eye White folks in African print and Dashikis made in India. I can’t help but wonder if they put on my culture for the weekend, and consider it unprofessional for the rest of the year. I couldn’t help but feel like it was ironic that folks were wearing tribal face paint while taking selfies next to shirts that say “No Cultural Appropriation.”
The second thing I realized out of relief actually. When I would attend other festivals I’d constantly feel uncomfortable because of all the kids running around trying to drink illegally, or asking me to buy them alcohol (awkward). Then I realized, the reason why there were more adults at Afropunk is that a lot of Black families might not be able to afford for their kids to go to a super expensive festival. Yeah, you can volunteer and get free passes, but I started to feel uncomfortable that Afropunk wasn’t really for Black people. It was becoming a festival for the Black middle/upper class. 16-year-old Monisha, no matter how much she’d be able to benefit from being there, couldn’t afford the ticket. 23-year-old Monisha gets to bask in the magic because now she has a bit more privilege to afford it. The third thing that bothered me about Afropunk was a situation I’ve had to force myself not to be numb to. A situation I’ve spent a great deal of talking about, and researching about.
At the end of the first day of Afropunk, I was rather intoxicated and exhausted. I walked away from my group of friends because I felt extremely weak, my feet were hurting because I was wearing wedges, and I wanted to find somewhere that wasn’t so crowded so I could sit down. I went to the 21+ section and found a bench to relax on until my feet could recover a bit. “Hey.” I turned to my right to see a slender, clean-cut White man with a moderately thin mustache on his face (think Porn-stache, because that’s ALL I could think of). “Hey” I replied, figuring that there was no harm in having an exchanged with this stranger. It started with small talk, he asked me how I liked the festival and I explained how I loved that there were so many diverse types of Black folks. I loved seeing LGBTQ people being able to express ourselves, and that this festival really felt like a safe space for me. He then cut me off and asked: “Do you identify as trans?” I wasn’t stupid, at this point I figured he was probably asking because he found me attractive. I do technically fall under the trans-umbrella, but I didn’t feel like I had to answer that question. I tried dancing around it and expressing avoiding the question, but he just kept asking. Eventually, I snapped and said, “If you’re asking if I have a penis, no I do not.” You’d think he’d get the hint that I was really annoyed and was no longer wanting to engage, but I guess he figured that was a pass to pursue (looking back I wish I knew how to better handle that question).
“Oh, I’m not a millennial you know.” I couldn’t help but rolled my eyes. “Being Trans isn’t anything new.” I can’t remember if I thought that or said it out loud; guys I was really gone. I’m the type that has one drink and I get drunk off of that, do imagine a day of day drinking under the sun. I don’t exactly remember the rest of what he was saying, but eventually, I just became more uncomfortable with him than I was my blisters. I do recall him trying to get me to stand up and spin around for him, but at that point, I was REALLY over it and told him “I’m going to go… To better watch the show.” I started to walk away, and he went in for a hug. It seemed harmless, so I returned it. He used that as an opportunity to pull me in close, to run his hands down my back, my butt. I started to push him away, and he attempted to kiss me goodbye. I didn’t want to make a scene, so I went in like I was going to give him the European/Latin American kiss on the cheek farewell. Then he held my shoulders and tried to force me to kiss his lips. It was a back and forth for about 30 seconds of him trying to force the kiss, and me trying to dodge it. Him expressing that I should take it, and then me pushing him away and quickly darting out of the 21+ section.
I didn’t consider this sexual assault when it happened. I just figured I was being groped, he was transphobic, I was uncomfortable, I didn’t want any of that, he was preying on me because I was intoxicated and alone. But I never considered it sexual assault. I originally laughed it off with my friends, joking you can’t trust those guys with Porn-Staches. I figured next year I’d just pay the extra charge to be VIP, then maybe I’d be safe from predators and anxiety attacks. It wasn’t until I started noticing other people critique Afropunk for ‘selling out.’ So many of my Black friends have expressed feeling like Afropunk is no longer for Black folks, that it’s just perpetuating the commodification of Black bodies. After enough time to process, I sorta feel that way too. I’m biased, what happened inevitably makes me look at things from a cynical perspective. But I kinda look back at Afropunk sorta feeling like it’s becoming like a zoo for Black folks and Black culture. I’m beginning to feel like it’s a place where people can oogle-oggle at the mythical “Black Magic,” and can enjoy dressing up like a Black person with cheaply made African print.
Ironically, I’ve never been assaulted, harassed, or made to feel unsafe at any other music festival until Afropunk.
I don’t blame anyone at Afropunk for the singular event, nor do I think they are responsible for vetting every person who enters the festival. I do think though, that this festival no longer serves the people that it was intended for. Afropunk was made for Black punks, it’s evolved to include all Black people. Now it’s evolved to include all people that take interested in Black people. Now it’s starting to feel like it’s becoming a festival for people who want to sample Blackness and Black people.
I’m not going to end this by undermining my opinion or excusing this. I am going to end this by pointing out that all things evolve, and by questioning what is Afropunk evolving into if it’s no longer serving the folks it was intended to serve?
A “Pick Me Ass Bitch,” by definition is the “woman” who tries too hard to be liked (Men can be pick-mes, but this ain’t for them right now). She will compromise her independence, her self-esteem, and her self-respect for the opportunity to be chosen. Some examples of Pick-Mes are Phylicia Rashad, in the case of defending Bill Cosby’s rapist ass, and Erykah Badu arguing that Teenage girls need to ‘cover up’ so as not to distract male teachers. “Pick Mes” are women who are conditioned to internalize misogyny and changes their behavior to fit the narratives of a sexist society. Growing up in the rural South, I was surrounded by religious propaganda that conditioned me to internalize self-hate. Statements like “Don’t be easy” and “Boys don’t want a woman who has been used” were the main motivation for me wanting to be a virgin till marriage. I felt as though that’s how I would gain a man who respected me, by being “worthy” of “respect.”
Then I was raped… I found that living in a world where I internalized misogyny became difficult for me; how was I supposed to heal when in the back of my head, I felt as though my value had decreased. On one hand, I believed it wasn’t my fault, I was completely covered up, I wasn’t a “whore.” But in the back of my head I remembered the details, I had “no business being intoxicated,” why was I even at a boy’s home? I faced a rude awakening that existing as a woman, as my own woman, meant existing outside of other people’s expectations of me.
Now as a grown ass woman living in New York, surrounded by people who are “sex-positive,” I feel as though I am still unpacking my pick-me ways. Yes, my environment has changed, the narrative has changed, but I still found myself performing the same song & dance. For most of my life, I’ve had issues with my self-esteem, and finding “self-validation.” For as long as I could remember I would talk to my friends about every single thought, feeling, emotion, and response. I’d look at them as my stamp of approval, the people to prove I wasn’t crazy. When I dated men, I tried so hard to not fit into the “crazy” or “jaded” archetype.
In my last relationship, I think I went in with the subconscious thought that it was my job to compromise who I was. I had committed to him, so I had to be comfortable with the fact that he wasn’t comfortable with me showing too much flesh. I had made a commitment to him, so I get why he wouldn’t want me to be friends with males I’ve had sex with. He was my man, so I had to be understanding of why he was uncomfortable with my sex worker past. I felt like I owed him countless explanations, I owed him undeserved vulnerability, and that I owed it to him to shrink myself. But damn Y’all, I gave that man an inch and he took a WHOLE mile. When I cut my hair, he told me I looked like a man and expressed an issue with the fact that I didn’t “consult” him first. When I had sex with someone else after he broke up with me, he expressed he didn’t understand how I could be so ‘easy’ if I had been raped. The micromanagement only increased over time, and I was punished for standing up for myself or confiding in my friends and family.
Now, I’m at a very similar place as I was when I was 18, trying to figure out how to heal. After I left him I internalize his messages: “Good luck finding someone that will deal with you.” He made me feel like because of who I am and who I was that I had something to be ashamed of. The next guy I dated I found myself trying to do everything to appease him. He was surprised when I wore a crop top, so I changed it (even though he said it was fine). I kept my past hidden from him, “He doesn’t need to know the ‘dirty’ parts of you that made you who you are.” Eventually, when it came time to commit, I truly don’t think I was ready. But so many of my friends seemed happy with him, and I figured that I was stupid for dating so many “bad guys” that why shouldn’t I give a “nice guy” a chance? Then very shortly after he asked me for a relationship, he ghosted me. Immediately I blamed myself. I figured it was because of the times I was too annoying, too affectionate, too attentive, too me.
I felt destroyed, I felt like my ex was right. I wasn’t able to keep him, and I wasn’t able to keep the next guy. I didn’t begin to snap out of my funk until I realized that it’s really hard to mess up the “right thing.” That no guy who REALLY likes you sits at home and thinks: “Damn, shawty type bad and I deadass like her, but, she was too affectionate, so I ghosted.” Maybe men don’t prefer the affectionate type, but a person who is invested in and values you won’t just ghost you. Once I accepted that I realized that being ghosted hurt not because I really liked him, but because just like he was probably using me to validate himself, I was doing the same. I allowed myself to commit when I wasn’t ready and almost agreed to a situation I felt tricked into
(that’s another story) because I was seeking validation that I could keep a man. I wanted to feel worthy, and I wanted to believe that I was able to pick a “good guy.”
Y’all, just like 18-year-old Monisha had to do, 23-year old Monisha is working to undo her pick-me programming. Very shortly after I was raped, a man told me that if I had a dominant man in my life that I probably wouldn’t have been in that situation. I don’t think I’ve talked about how I internalized that things that happened to me were my fault. I don’t think I’ve owned up to the fact that in some cases I date men who are more “traditional” because I lack the self-esteem to combat my internal feelings of incompetence. I think I still have a lot of “pick-me” in me because I’m scared Y’all. I’m scared of being alone, I’m scared that I won’t have to protect myself, I’m scared that I’ll always have to be a “Strong Black Woman.”
When I have daughters, I hope I can raise them to have more faith in themselves than I did. Cause nothing for nothing, I don’t want to raise daughters, I need to raise women. I need to raise girls who don’t internalize that they are incapable of being their own person, I need to raise myself to internalize that I am cable of being my own person. It’s a process, I am healing, I am transforming.
I’ve touched on the body positive movement before, in a way that strongly critiqued the mainstream trend (see here). Now I’m all for think pieces and opinions, but after you tear something apart it’s important to suggest solutions. When I wrote that piece I was extremely unhappy with myself, and my body. I constantly compared myself to my other friends, and spent hours obsessing over my weight (and how to lose it). In many ways I think I was trying to disappear, to take up less space, to have less of me that could be critiqued. I knew the importance of loving and accepting your body, but I was so impatient to gain results; “why?”
Self harm isn’t limited to physically harming yourself; self harm is also allowing your head-speak to hurt you. What I mean by that is, sometimes we (myself included) will tear ourselves down before we give anyone the importunity to. We become our worst enemies, so maybe it doesn’t hurt so much when we perceive threats. “What does this mean?” Using myself as an example, I used to have someone in my life who was constantly belittling me. They’d attack my intelligence, life decisions, friendships, and even past traumas. I felt broken down in every direction. The issue wasn’t that I was internalizing these messages as true, but I think I became obsessive about attacking my actual insecurities before they could. Which as a result doubled down on the toxicity, and poisoned the air I was taking in.
I say all this to say, self love is NOT achieved all by ourselves (contrary to popular belief). As touched on my previously mentioned post, the environment we live in and the messages we receive highly impact our ability to internal positive feelings about ourselves. That means, who we hang out with, who we live with, where we live, the things we watch, and who we have close relationships with have an impact on our ability to love ourselves. “Why?” Because, humans are inherently social creatures! Which means we seek approval for others, we want to fit in, we care about what others think of us. Now do you understand why it’s important ensure that the people in our life are on our team? Do you understand why when we have people in our life we have to ensure:
- They advocate for you.
- They build you up.
- They are thoughtful towards you.
- They are considerate towards you.
- They are patient with you.
- They have faith in you.
- They are understanding towards you.
- They love you in a way that does not make you question it’s validity.
There are always going to be people who want something from you, or simply just want to be in your life. But on our quest for self love it’s important to reflect on how people impact you, and what you end up doing with that impact. I told my mother recently: “People in your life will either build you up or break you down, there’s no in-between.” That might be a bit radical, but the older we get, the less time we have for ourselves. We must be selfish with who we let into our lives, we must ensure that people are building us up. Because even if we allow toxic people into our lives, just because they can’t literally break us down doesn’t mean we won’t start helping them.
“So how do we internalize self love?” Simply put, look at the quest for self love from a Micro (You), Mezzo (People in your Life), Macro (Society) perspective. On a micro-level are you doing what you can to internalize self love:
- Are you feeding yourself?
- Are you drinking enough water?
- Are you moisturizing your kinky curls?
- Are you putting yourself first within reason?
Then on a mezzo-level, are the people in your life aiding to your ability to internalize self love:
- Are the people in your life kind to you?
- Are the people in your life present through the good and the bad?
- Are the people in your life supportive of your decision?
- Are the people in your life jealous of you?
Lastly, the level we have the least amount of control over (but one we should still consider) is the macro-level:
- Are the shows you watch providing you with positive representation?
- Are you in an environment where you felt seen and heard?
- Are you in an area where you have access to products you need?
- Are you in an environment where you feel safe to be your true self?
The more or less privilege you have will impact how much you’re able to do to support yourself. However, I still think it’s mindful to be considerate of these questions, even if you’re unable to change them. This is because we must be kind with ourselves.
“Some days I’m not able to wake up and go to the gym, because i’m tired. Some days I will keep toxic people in our life, because I don’t know where else to get support from. Some days I will continue to live in environments where I feel unsafe, because I don’t have the access/ability to live anywhere else.”
We can not allow our lack of privilege or energy to be an excuse to belittle ourselves; “Be understanding and forgiving of yourself.” Sometimes self love means accepting what we can not change and control, and celebrating ourselves for what we did have the ability to do.
So let me ask you this, what have you done on a micro, mezzo, and macro level that showcases you do love yourself?