How Can we Practice Self Love?

Two weeks ago I went out to dinner with an older male friend, and we spent a significant amount of time talking about love and relationships. He, due to our age difference, is at a different point of his life than I; I have a fresh pair of eyes and he carried wisdom in his. I started to confide in him about my lack of confidence to love (I’m sure I sounded like an over dramatic 20-something-year-old), I expressed to him how I was scared that I’d never figure it out (Yup, over dramatic 20-something-year-old). The more I opened up, the more I had questions:

“What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing, you’re 20-something”

“Am I unlovable?”

“From where I’m sitting you seem very lovable.”

“I don’t think he ever loved me, what even is love?”

That’s when he said something that really hit me, in ways defining love for myself never could. “I think that love is having faith.” I’d never heard love defined as that; so simplistic yet it forced me to pause and view love from a new perspective. “I don’t think he ever loved me. He spent so much time trying so change me, he never had faith in me… I don’t think I have faith in me.” At this point my friend probably felt like a guru, he had that feeling we all get when we blow someone’s mind. I think it’s fair to say that love is one of those indescribable, intangible, multi-meaning kind of concepts, but the concept of loving yourself meaning having faith in yourself hit me in a unique way.

In relationships and friendships I’ve never had issues having faith in people, I always assume the best in others. If I am slighted I like to think that people aren’t perfect, and if I speak to them then maybe positive changes will result in that. I’ve had no issues investing in those I care about, because I believed in them as well as the bond I have with them. So much so that I really started to compromise myself; I gave so much to others that I forgot to give to myself. I think I’ve always struggled with believing in myself, and having faith in things outside of my control. When I was in school I would obsessively apply for jobs because I had so little faith that I would have one post grad. In relationships I’d try to hard to adapt to the needs of my significant other that I rarely voiced the things I wanted, until the end.

I am making conscious changing to invest in myself more, and I am practicing the act of having faith in myself. I go to the gym everyday now, even if I don’t feel like it, because I do believe that I can consistently commit 30 minutes a day to the body I want to have. I created this blog and stopped posting on thought catalog, because I think it was important for me to believe I have a message and it’s worth investing in my dreams of being a writer. I am also being more mindful of the friendships I commit myself to, I wrote down a list of friends who seem like they mesh well with me and now I am going to be a better friend to them.

I think it’s easy to fall into a pattern. If most of our lives were were used to feeling like we messed things up, it will take conscious decision making to raise our self esteem. I think having faith in myself, having faith in my ability to have healthy relationships, and my ability to achieve my dreams is an act of radical self love. Failure is inevitable, but in order for my to increase my self love I think I have to view myself as someone to have faith in.

Maybe you’re struggling with the ability to love yourself. Maybe your self esteem isn’t where you’d like it to be. I challenge you to think about the one dream that you have, or one aspect of your life that you’d like to change. Thought of one?

Change it.

How Do We Fill the Empty Feeling?

One of my best friends texted me last week expressing that she was “Sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That quote resonates with me all too well, both from experience and observation. Life is hard, and when you’re young it can be so overwhelming because you’re just starting to figure things out (I don’t think we ever totally do). In high school we might be facing difficulties fitting in, and social relationships might seem intimidating. In early adulthood we are a bit more self focused, trying to chase enjoyable moments and career prospects. In young adulthood, I’ve found that now life seems to be a balancing act. I am juggling my personal health, relationships and dating, friendships and social relationships, my career, my free time, and a ton of social responsibility. Admittedly, I am still trying to figure it all out.

For most of my life I found that I seemed to be carrying this empty feeling inside of me. I felt like an ominous Black hole that was unwilling to be fed; and even if it was hungry I didn’t know what to feed it. I carried that feeling with me when I hung out with my friends; “Do they really want me here?” I had the feeling when I was with lovers; “They are all just going to leave me, right?” I think I even became familiar with that feeling when I was around family; “I’ve always felt pretty alone.” I’ve tried to fill the feeling with food, sex, money, shopping, and alcohol; “I think these things make me feel worse about myself.” I did try less dysfunctional ways of fulfilling myself, I would confide in friends, attend group therapy, individual therapy, take medication; “I still feel so f**king empty.” Depression was something I’ve faced for the majority of my life, then with age came anxiety. College and graduate school were difficult for me for a number of reasons, I felt like I wasn’t represented and I felt misunderstood. With experiences though, came the ability to put words to my frustrations. I could pinpoint what made me feel empty:

  • Lack of representation
  • Lack of community
  • Being around toxic people
  • Not making enough time for myself

Then I learned the importance of self awareness, understanding self, and expressing self. I realized that yes I may not have control over the circumstances I am under, nor may I have control over the events that unfold before me. But what I do have control over is my ability to exist in the present, and my attempts to plan for the future. I realized that a lack of representation and community went hand and hand, so I decided to intentionally befriend more Black women around me. Being around toxic people in many cases is inevitable; “Sometimes you just have to grin and bare it at work.” But other times you can either cut those people out of your life even if it’s difficult; “Call it radical self love.” Which led me to not making enough time for myself, this was something I could control. I’ve been filling my space with plants, which requires me to take time out of my day to care for them. I find it peaceful, when I give to them it feels like I give to myself. I am also learning not to make solid plans on weekends, and I am forcing myself 30 minutes every day (sometimes I skip) to exercise. Even though it seems like a small amount of time, the time we allot for ourselves adds up, and I think that pieces of our self esteem do as well.

It’s been 3 months that I’ve made changes for myself, and I don’t feel so empty anymore. I don’t feel so depressed, and I don’t have such high levels of anxiety. Mental health and wellness isn’t an easy, and I’d argue it’s a life long effort (as we change the way we love ourselves may have to as well). There are going to be days where you’re going to be rocking it with mental health; “I’m so happy for you!” Then there are going to be days where you’re just too tired to heal yourself; “That’s ok, there’s tomorrow.” But I hope that you start to see yourself as worth putting other aspects of your life on hold, and deserving of treating yourself with the love you are seeking to receive.

I welcome you to comment ways you can exercise loving yourself; “what’s worked for you?”

 

Why Monogamy?

As of lately the concept of monogamy has been making me feel extremely uncomfortable. The thought of “belonging” to someone just doesn’t sound as romantic as it used to. The feeling of “jealous” never hit me in the way that it hits others, but now I don’t even want to have anything to do with it. I don’t have a fear of commitment, and I definitely still imagine what my wedding day will look like (Vera Wang can I get a discount or nah?). But the idea that there’s only one right way to have a romantic relationship with someone seems a bit outdated to me. It’s worth mentioning that I’m still pretty knee high to a grasshopper in regards to my years of dating experience, however I hope that my perspective can at the very least start a conversation.

All of my relationships have been monogamous, not necessarily because I wanted it (I was indifferent). In those relationships one of the major issues that I have encountered was the inability to adapt to change and find balance (this is on both sides). Two of my most serious relationships were abusive (the first and the most recent), and the two in the middle I acknowledge I either hold a significant amount of fault. The two abusive relationships were riddled with jealousy and insecurity, I was constantly being punished for the following reasons:

  • If I went out with my friends (to a bar or a club)
  • If I posted on social media
  • Having an instagram
  • Having male friends
  • Etc.

Now, I don’t blame monogamy for those relationships failing (those men were the problem not monogamy). But I can’t help but notice insecurity and jealousy being reoccurring issues, regardless of if the relationship was toxic or not. Moving into my healthier relationships with men, I chalk a lot of the issues up with my immaturity. I was expressive about my concerns and I was really honest, however I should have left when I realized I wasn’t satisfied (we live and we learn). Towards the end of those relationships Polyamory was attempted (and failed), but it did teach me that I was capable of caring about multiple people at once.

My only healthy experiences with Polyamory have been while I am dating around, because I don’t date just one person until it’s verbally agreed upon to enter a relationship. Before I get into a relationship I find that dating for me is fine for both parties, and the concept of monogamy is something that ends up freaking me out rather than exciting me. I’ve found that once monogamy happens people’s expectations change along with their motivation. You begin to “belong” to someone, they begin to act as those they are entitled to authority over your life. Slowly we all regress into childlike states, and basically become like toddlers in relationships. I think we start to objectify our partners unknowingly, and our expectations become unrealistic. Some of us want unreasonable amounts of time, unfair amounts of physical touch, unrealistic acts of service.

Sometimes I become so nostalgic of the point before monogamy happened. I spent more time focused on impressing the person and bonding with them. Knowing that I wasn’t owed their time and accepted that I might not have all of them didn’t bother me. I found it complimentary that they found me significant to see on a recurring basis (even though there’s the rest of the world). Before monogamy kicked in I felt as though the expectations were fair, and requirements of time were responsible. Before monogamy interactions felt fluid, they’d adapt and change as needed. Which isn’t to say Polyamory is a-ok either, there are definitely people who masquerade as “poly” when in reality they are just non-monogamous. But what I’ve found in a lot of my poly friends is there are many more conversations, there’s a lot more questions, and there’s a bit more compromise.

I’m not really sure if Polyamory is any better than monogamy, I guess I’ll write about it if I ever try it. But I do think we have to begin having more fair conversations about what works and what doesn’t work in relationships. Times are changing, and so are our situations. I don’t think monogamy is for everyone, just like I don’t think being polygamous is our final solution. I do think that in order for us to drop the 40-50% divorce rate in America, we have to be open to change.

This Is Why I HATE The ‘Body Positive’ Movement

We live in a day and age where “body positive” is more of a buzzword, and less of authentic belief. Yes, we see an increase of “plus-size” models, the word “curvy” being celebrated, and body acceptance being preached to the masses. But let’s be honest:

It’s a bunch of bullshit.

Not that we shouldn’t look at ourselves and love who we see in the mirror, that isn’t the issue. The issue is that while we are preaching body positivity, we still only hire“pretty models.” For every pound of fat you have, it is expected that you add an extra pound of makeup. For each stretch mark that is added to your body, means an extra love handle you should subtract. Yes, I appreciate the notion that we should accept our bodies. I celebrate it, I tell my friends to internalize it. But even I, someone who’s considered fairly conventionally attractive, still have a difficult time actually believing the message I’m signing onto. I can’t believe the message when a company’s attempt at being edgy consistent of showing body hair on shaving commercials, yet they still use models with perfect skin. Not when companies try to be controversial by not editing a model’s pictures, while still using girls who were never really told by society that there was much need to edit.

Maybe I’m just being over analytical, but how is it revolutionary to defy societal expectations while only straying a little to the left? How are we really supposed to raise our self-esteem when we are checking our bodies to make sure we are still ok; “I gained a lot of weight but at least I have a conventionally attractive face.”

I want to internalize body positivity, I really do. But I don’t think body positivity should equate to telling people that they are perfect just the way they are, but then very obviously only celebrating people who are still considered beautiful by society’s standards. I want to see more than just Plain Janes with stretch marks. I need more than Instagram models with a scar or two. I need more than plus size models who are otherwise JUST AS PERFECT as “regular” models. I want to see girls who make me feel like if I have a day where I feel fat that I don’t have to put on more makeup to make up for my body. I want to see more guys with bodies bigger than dad bods, and faces that are considered average. I want representation from people who fall under the trans umbrella who aren’t always passing and drenched in rainbows and fashionable attire.

I want my body positive movement to be controversial because we’ve turned society on its head. I want my body positive movement to be hard to look at because we aren’t used to seeing anything like it before.

I want my body positive movement to be ugly.

I want my body positive movement to be raw, I need it to be authentic, and more than anything…

I need my body positive movement to be, real. 

An Ode To Black Kids Who Had To Be Black In UnBlack Spaces

For most of my life, and even now, I’ve lived in very White spaces. My early memories are seeing cartoons that reflected faces of my friends, and I having to explain the purpose of the Proud Family existing and being so Black with only one White girl. I’ve been told not to color in the lines of paintings with black skin, pink, purple, and polka-dotted would have to do. I remember how hard it’s always been to find products for my hair; so I’ve learned to make them. I remember how difficult it was to celebrate my skin; so now I gravitate to other melanin-ated beings like myself.

From childhood to adulthood it hasn’t gotten much easier, it’s the same issues but different language. I’d have to explain my existence on White campuses, arguing that I did go there; No I don’t play any sports (nor am I extremely smart). I’ve learned to hold my tongue, to code switch, to identify fake friends and fake people. I’ve memorized exactly why you ain’t about to say the “n” word if you ain’t lived an “n” word life and a rebuttal for every lame retort back in the book. I’ve found Black joy with Black bodies who were having the same Black experience as me. I’ve found “Moonlight”, “Dear White People”, “Get Out”, and “She’s Gotta Have It.” When White Kids say “Frank Sinatra” I scream “DIANA ROSS BBY!”When White kids take “YASSS,” I’ve already moved to “Okay ____,” and “I see you ____,” with a little “YOU BETTA,” and let us not forget “F*** IT UP!!” Needless to say, I didn’t have double-dutch as a child, but I sure as hell have dominos (someone please teach me spades).

I’ve learned to survive micro-aggression, cultural appropriation, police brutality, racial fetishization, and the gaslighting of my Black feelings. I’ve learned how to swing my Black hips, and let Ebonics and patios flow off my Black lips. Loving myself, all of myself, Blackness included, has been the most difficult thing for me in a world that taught me that I shouldn’t point out race. In a world that tried to be colorblind to my existence, that tried the White out my life.

Loving myself, loving my Blackness, as where it is still a struggle together, has been the most revolutionary act of defiance.

As where people try to understand my struggle, our struggle, the Black struggle, I found solidarity. I found AfroPunk, Poetry Slams, and Black Lives Matter. I’ve found myself in spaces and people who get it (or are a lot more likely to). So with that, I leave a message to my younger self:

“You are out there, you exist, give it time, and you’ll see yourself.”

When You Want To Leave, But You Just Can’t Let Go

If you sit at your desk and constantly imagine a world without them, is it really a redeeming factor that you don’t want to think of life without them? Or is it saddening that you’re too distracted with thoughts of what happiness could look that you can’t focus on work; you have these thoughts regularly. 

When you’re constantly feeling beaten down by friends who call you stupid for staying, or tell you that you deserve much better. When you constantly want to spend time alone or disassociate when you listen to people speak. It’s not that you don’t care what they have to say, it’s that you’re constantly beating yourself up inside already.

When you try to look for reasons why you stay, and the fact that you can’t think of any leaves you feeling low. When there are a thousand reasons why you should leave, and you can’t find a single reason other than “I love them” to stay. As if you even felt confident saying the word love; I’d like to believe that love feels better than this.

When your body is falling apart, when stress manifests itself inside and outside of you, when the very thought of what you’re in can ultimately suck the life from you. How do you find the energy to leave if you already feel so beaten down? How do you find the esteem to love yourself?

I’ve never been good at breaking up, I think I’ve just grown accustomed to trying to fight for things until they no longer want to fight for me. I’m used to comprising and bargaining until acceptance flashes across their faces. I’m used to being left, and I think being in that position has left me feeling incapable (and unwilling) to let go. I like to imagine the best in people, I like to imagine that in the end love trumps all. It’s not that I believe that there’s only one love out there for me, rather it’s that when I love someone they are that one for me.

That’s the complicated part about feelings, though. To you, someone could mean the world, moon, and stars. They could be the person you want to start your day seeing, and the person who you feel like you need to end your nights with. They could be the one who you imagine seeing the world with, saying “I do” with, and ultimately having a family with. That’s the complicated part about feelings though; those are just your feelings.

Not that they haven’t felt feelings similar to yours, but I can promise you, they’ll never be identical. They won’t fall for you exactly when you fall for them, not the exact second (and rarely ever the same way). I think love often looks like two ships passing each other in the sea, sometimes we cross paths, and sometimes we just don’t. So what do you do when you want to leave? When there’s nothing more for you at the shore? When every time you pass by the same ship, cannons are flying, you are falling?

Maybe, it’s time for you to try a new means of transportation.

When Things Get “Complicated.”

I would hold onto my favorite romance movies, and use google as my personal bible. I can tell you exactly what oxytocin is, how it works on your body, and exactly when I am feeling it. I write down poems about ex-lovers, like prisoners writing down thoughts. I feel trapped by the concept of love; why can’t I attain it? Why do I forgive people who won’t forgive me? Why do I love people who replay my mistakes like broken records? As if I was the only one with the aux cord, as if I were the only one picking out the mixtape songs. Love is an undefinable concept, one that I have spent too many hours trying to define and understand.

I wish I had some profound thought to give you all, or some answer to the exact scenario that you’re experiencing. I don’t know if what you did was forgivable or if they really have broken up with you for good. I can only hope for the best for you, and hope that you receive the outcome you were intended to have. But isn’t that the sucky thing about people? We don’t know anything for sure (or at least I don’t). Our lives, our decisions, our moves are all based on assumptions on past outcomes. But every situation is unique, right? Or maybe we are all playing the same sad love song on a broken record, hoping that maybe this time around the record won’t ski—-

I have no answers for you or any solutions. But what I can leave you with is a little advice I’ve learned from failed relationships:

1. It’s cliche, but try to enjoy the moment.

As to where my relationships didn’t always work out, when they were working, that’s what mattered. There’s no promise as to what’s going to happen, or what’s not going to happen. There will be people you meet that you fall head over heels for, and then somehow you’re left picking up your shoes from their place. But I want you to focus on before that happens. Focus on the way their teeth line up whenever you see them smile or the wrinkles that crease up on their face when they speak. Capture every “I love you” and “I miss you” on pieces of paper, and keep them in a jar for safe keeping. Take a deep breath during the fights, hold your tongue, and think about the next thing you’re going to say. If all else goes bad, go to your safe space, reach for the jar, and remember how many times someone saw something beautiful in you.

2. Find a balance between happily alone and happily together.

Some of us are naturally introverted, and others are naturally extroverted. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we shouldn’t try to force people to be things that they aren’t. But what we should do is challenge ourselves to push outside of what’s “comfortable” for us. When you’re in a relationship, it isn’t about just keeping yourself safe, or making sure you’re the most comfortable. There will be times when your partner needs you to break out of your habits, and it probably will be best to make that sacrifice for them. At the end of the day, we just want to feel special, and doing something you don’t normally do could be what makes that person feel that way.

3. Love is not a competition, focus on winning each other.

Sometimes in love, we compare and contrast. After hurt and heartbreak, mistakes get thrown around like snowballs in the middle of December. That’s normal, we are human, and whatever we are feeling is real. But love isn’t about drowning each other in frozen water, love isn’t about doing things to make each other sick. In any relationship, may it be with family, friends, or your significant other, hurt is inevitable. There are things I’ve done and said to my mother that I wish I could take back, as I’m sure she feels the same. I’d never bring those things up in future encounters with her, because to me, there’s no point. When we inflict hurt onto our loved ones, we are not directly impacted by that pain, but cold words still send chills through us. We are forced to sit with the reality that they might not trust us anymore, or they may think they we love them less. But that’s not true, life is never that simple.

4. Breaks aren’t always breakups.

So many people have accepted this notion that breaks are breakups. Not that I don’t understand it, it’s easier to just accept something is over than to have hope. Sometimes, breaks are just easier to have, easier to leave from, easier to accept. But there are occasions when we are in relationships and everything just starts getting overwhelming. Little fights become monstrous, and answers standing right in front of us can be seen past the cloud of smoke. In those occasions, I think it’s perfectly fine to accept the thought “If it was meant to be, it will be.” I think it’s perfectly fine to accept that sometimes some wounds need a little inaction so they have time to heal, time to breathe, time to be. I don’t know exactly what a break should look like for you, but don’t we all just need one every once and awhile?

5. Be patient, give it time.

I have to be the most impatient person in the entire world, really? I used to watch the clock at school, now I watch the clock at work. I’d spend so much watching the clock that it felt like time was moving backward, and by the time it was actually time to leave, I didn’t have anything positive to show for it. Now at work when there isn’t anything to do, I draw, and I’m pretty decent at it. When I am in my room and I wish I had something to do, I just listen to music and sing to myself. In a relationship, you’ll have to learn patience. You have to learn how to play the waiting game. But instead of sitting and waiting for answers, why not fill the time with something else? I promise it’ll make everything go by a lot faster.

I wish I had more inspiring words to give you. Or a solve all book that you’d only pay $9.99 to read. But I will neither pretend to know your problems nor can I pretend to understand what you’re going through. But that’s okay. My biology professor once wrote in our textbook that, “We as humans try so hard to make sense of the world around us, so we label and categorize everything in order to understand it.” When we understand things, we may start to feel like they are less scary, like we have some control over them. If I’ve learned anything from love, it’s that we have to start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. We have to stop using labels to find security, and categorizing actions to reach understanding. People are not, have not, and will not be simple. So stop seeking simple answers, and treating situations like they can be generalized.

We are individuals, our love is personalized for us. Treat it that way.

"For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf." -Ntozake Shange