I have become that person…but how?

I spent a lot of time with friends yesterday. A group of friends for brunch and then another friend stopped by to chat for a bit. That’s what adults do right? Eat brunch and chat? How did I get here?

Those two conversations were filled with lots of catching up and discussion of future plans as most conversations are. I’ve had similar conversations with all of these people multiple times because while I love them all dearly and am super close to them all I don’t see them frequently because of life and adulting. And that’s fine. We all are doing it and no one gets mad about it. I appreciate that about my friends.

At some point during both conversations though I realized, I have become that person. What person you ask? Well if your just a little patient I’ll tell!

In discussing some of my personal goals, the usual, weight loss, saving money, moving out (yep…I’m 30 years old and still live with my parents. That’s a blog for another day) came up. I’ve recently started to pick up on peoples responses to my saying I’m going to do these things. Let’s just say they aren’t good. Sometimes it’s met with laughter (thanks Dad), sometimes it’s met with harsh reminders (I thought you were on a diet) that only really serve to annoy me and trigger my stubbornness (thanks Mom), most times it’s met with slight side eye, sighs of “that’s great” with the undertone of “we’ve had this conversation plenty of times but yet here you still are” and encouragement with a hint of “there’s really no reason why you haven’t already done this you’re just lazy/content and used to this lifestyle” (thanks friends, family, coworkers, strangers). And I admit, since these are areas I am not happy with in my life, I probably read more into people’s slight shifts in tone, side eyes, eye rolls, and comments than they actually mean. And I put some of the stuff I’ve been already thinking into their comments too.

But, the realization that I have become that person, officially hit me after brunch, when my friend Michael stopped by and I told him my plan to move out and then my thoughts about potential life style changes for health purposes and both comments got a sarcastic slow clap with a “we’ll see.” A lot of people would be pissed at Michael for this response. I, however, have known Michael for going on 20 years (how did we get so old) and while he may be a self proclaimed ass hole, his intentions (towards me at least) are never to hurt or harm. We could all use a level headed, blunt, call it what it is friend…even if it bruises our ego a bit because on the flip side, Michael has always celebrated any of my successes with the fierceness of a loving brother.

So, what have my friends responses for several weeks/months/years and at brunch and Michael’s slow clap helped me to realize…I have become that person. Dear God lady what person?!?! I’ve become the person that no one actually takes serious when they set goals. The person that sets these goals and is super excited about them but somewhere down the line, and usually very quickly, falls off. It would not surprise me if my family secretly takes bets on how long I will keep up any dieting or healthy living practices. And I know for certain they do not believe me or even entertain my talks about moving out anymore. It’s as if everyone is just waiting to see if it happens but no one is holding their breath because they know the possibility of them dying in the process is high.

But how did I get here?

I’m not sure I’ve ever been a highly goal oriented person. I’ve always felt like most people have known since they were 6 what they wanted to do with their life. I literally decided I wanted to be a counselor one day while on campus my senior year of undergrad talking to a friend. I had about 3 months to get my application turned in take the necessary tests to apply. Then in grad school I felt everyone knew what population they wanted to work with. I have stumbled through the last five years finally finding a population that I absolutely love but even then had to step away from in order to be effective and not lose my own mind. Once a month, usually right before I start my period when I feel bloated and disgusting I go to bed and say “ok this is it. I’m going to get my life together.” Then I start my period, refuse to do anything that week because life is hard enough when your vagina is dying so I have all intentions of doing something when it’s over. My period ends, the bloating goes away, and while my body is far from perfect I usually catch a glimpse in the mirror before I shower one day and say “you know what, you good Ashley! If someone can’t love all of this then they don’t deserve you” and the cycle begins again. I can justify a lot of things and I ultimately refuse to shame myself for being human and doing things that humans need to do like eat, and rest, and enjoy life so as not to go crazy…but then I can justify doing these to excess which is where the problem begins.

It’s almost as if that slow clap Michael did made me connect all the dots and realize that while he’s the only person who did it outright, everyone else is probably doing it in their mind. My response to him was something along the lines of “don’t doubt me” to which he responded with something far less enlightening but similar too “I don’t doubt you can do it. I’m just waiting for it to happen.”

I know a few things about myself. One of which is that I can be really stubborn and strong willed and there is a certain level and type of negativity that I use as a driving force. It’s what caused me to give birth without an epidural, because everyone said I wouldn’t. It’s what caused me to go to college and grad school and find a career that I love, because I was afraid of becoming a teen mom statistic or being what I knew people were betting I would be…a failure.

But sometimes that backfires. And there is a moment where those negative comments become my way of fighting the system and my stubbornness becomes “oh I’ll show you that I absolutely do not have to do these things.” That’s usually surrounds any negative responses to my weight gain/loss or my still living at home.

So yes, I have become that person. I’m aware. I apologize to the people who are sick of hearing me talk about these things without seeing any action. I thank you for loving me all the same and not giving up. I’ve decided to make no promises and to also stop talking about it. Thank you Michael for that slow clap and gentle chuckle of supportive pessimism.

We shall see what happens!!

Dangerous Messages I Have Seen on Facebook

Sometime last week I started paying attention to random things people were posting and how subtle but dangerous the messages were. I started collecting them and then all of a sudden people stopped sharing them! Alas, however, I have gathered enough for a sufficient blog post. None of these messages are inherently bad (well one is). Most are just simple comments or posts that at first glance seem positive in some way but if you take a closer look, not so much. So please enjoy my random commentary as to why these messages should stop being shared…immediately.

The post:

The problem:

This post actually sparked the beginning of this blog post. I saw a few ladies that I love share it and quickly got on them about it! I know what it’s getting at. “Don’t let your feelings get the best of you. Don’t let things get you down.” There is, however, this terrible idea floating around that feelings are a bad thing. Feelings are feelings. They are neither good nor bad. They just are. We subscribe meaning and worth to them. And these posts almost always refer to feelings such as Love and connection to others. And no one can survive without connection with others. And there is almost always someone who cares. Even if it’s not someone you want to care. So posting things like this is like a slap in the face to those who do care. By all means be a boss! But don’t deny your feelings. It only leaves you bitter, lonely, sad, and angry which are surprisingly all feelings!

The post:

The problem:

First of all…what is a REAL woman?!?! I hate these posts because it usually implies that only a certain type of woman is “real.” Usually the hard working, hyper-focused, “on her shit” woman. And that’s all well and good. But the woman dealing with depression who hasn’t gotten out of bed in a week is also a real woman. The woman who doesn’t have time to exercise and meal prep and work a full time job and raise five kids under the age of three, is also a real woman. The homeless drug addicted woman having sex for money…is also a real woman. And trying to live up to people’s definition of a “real woman” usually causes way more stress and anxiety than any “real woman” should ever have to deal with. ALSO…all my friends are bad ass and they are my friends so clearly this is a lie. As mentioned earlier, no one can survive without connection, friends, a tribe of some sort. Humans naturally crave it. This message that we don’t need people is 100% false.

The post:

The problem:

This was a share by my fellow blogger (thanks Malcolm!). Here’s the thing…sometimes people just suck. Sometimes people are just terrible. Sometimes they are rude, nasty, conceited, full of them selves, evil, hateful, abusive, and dangerous. And while hate is a strong word, sometimes people hate you for those reasons. This post should have a fourth option…sometimes people hate you because you suck as a human being and have a lot of work to do!

The post:

The problem:

I have literally never done this. If I ask someone what they do it is because I actually want to know what they do. If you are someone who determines the level of respect you provide someone with based on their occupation… then you would fall into the fourth category that I mentioned in the previous section. Don’t be that person.

The post:

The problem:

Again, I get where this one was headed but it is just so dangerous a message for many reasons. What about people searching for a reason to live who are unable to have children but want them? Does God not care about them and their life? What about people who have children but don’t want them? What about people who have children but still feel suicidal? Posting things like this can be very harmful/hurtful for others who read them and may have a different experience. Just be careful.

The post:

The problem:

This is just stupid. Stop.

The post:

The problem:

This is one of those post that unknowingly shows support for terribly toxic relationships. Also, am I a basic bitch if I’m not “on your ass about everything”? At what point are you, as a grown adult human being, supposed to take responsibility for your own actions and goals in life. I am all for support and encouragement. I’m all for sticking through the tough times. What I’m not here for is raising someone who is already considered an adult. You need to be on your own ass about everything. I’m not your momma. I don’t even do that with my own kid!

The post:

The problem:

I really hope that I don’t have to explain why this post is a problem to anyone who reads this, but incase I do….RAPE IS NOT FUNNY. DO NOT PERPETUATE RAPE CULTURE!!! No means no means no. Don’t means don’t means don’t! Stop means stop means stop! The only time those words mean the opposite is when you put them all together and get “no don’t stop” at which point if you do stop you are a terrible human being and again belong in that fourth category I mentioned earlier. I know that all of this can be very confusing. This is why you should be able to openly and honestly communicate with your partner before, during, and after sex. If you aren’t sure…ask. If you still aren’t sure, err on the side of caution and let’s just say that if you aren’t sure if it’s rape or not…then it’s rape.

Well…that’s all I’ve got for now. Let’s hope people on my timeline stop posting dangerous messages. I’m sure what’s going to happen though is I’m going to hit publish and people are going to start posting the craziness again!!

Childish Gambino’s New Video Made Me Cry

If you haven’t seen it. Here it is, in all it’s wonderful beautiful glory

Now, why did I cry? Why did the video make me cry?

Well for one, it’s named “This is America”.  This video is full of truths about our society as a whole, and as I sat there watching it for what felt like the millionth time, I started to shed tears, because the meaning continued to weigh heavy on my heart.

The main point in this video is basically showing how distracted or little we tend to care about what’s going on in society.  As we see Gambino dancing with these school kids, as if nothing is going on.  From the opening scene we hear a chant, basically describing that we just want to have fun and that we just want to have a good life.  Starting off the song with an up-beat, African influenced chant “We just wanna party, Party just for you, We just want the money, Money just for you…” and from there things get grim when Gambino pulls out a gun and shoots a man with his head covered…and utters the words:

“This is America, Don’t catch you slippin up…”

Like…WHAT?!?!?

And the scene afterwards, which was noted by many outlets online, showed Glover handing off the gun to someone else, who had a red scarf of some sort, taking the gun off screen ever so carefully.  And what does he do after all of this commotion? Starts to dance as if nothing happened.  It’s a mirror on how society is taken aback by the sheer horrendous nature of America, but will then turn their eyes to something else as if the event that just happened never occurred.

The dancing in the video is a distraction. The lyrics, while basic in delivery, tells a simple story of our country.  “Police is trippin”, “I got a strap, I gotta carry em”, etc.  but the song alone does not make this the epic experience you should be hearing. The video is what you should pay attention to.

Gambino even goes to murdering a church choir, symbolizing the Charleston shooter from a few years back, and again the gun, which looked like and Assault Rifle, was taken away with care, which Glover, in turn, decides to start dancing again.  Symbolizing the initial shock of a tragic incident, but how we are quick to move along and forget about things again.

And while Gambino is dancing around with his crew, the background is just full of chaos.  The world around us in burning, but we’re focusing on the wrong things. And while all of these things are going on, we’re dancing, rather the Hip Hop community is dancing, and “getting their money”.  That’s what it’s all about.  As a black male in America, the chaos in the background is what we deal with on a normal basis, but society is being blinded. These things continue to happen, and people are out here just “getting their money” but not out here striving to make a change.  Obviously this is just my opinion and how I view it, but as the chaos goes on in the background, we’re just out here doing our dance. Whether that dance be “dancing for the man to ‘get that money'” and not challenge the status quo, or the dancing around people do to avoid the hard conversations.  However, there is a point where  this video screams how much America loves our art, but not our lives.  The outro goes like this:

“You just a Black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayy
You just a Black man in this world
Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy
You just a big dawg, yeah
I kenneled him in the backyard
No probably ain’t life to a dog
For a big dog”

If this doesn’t scream “we’re just loved for our entertainment” I don’t know what is.  They don’t love us, they just love our culture.

This is America, where people want to believe it or not.  And this is why I cried.  Because while we are enjoying our lives, there will always be a next time, and a time after that, unless something is done about it.  Being a black man in America only amplifies the hurt, due to injustices that we have to worry about on a daily basis when it comes to police brutality and racism.  And that reality just breaks my heart…

Donald Glover, you are a genius and most of America doesn’t deserve you.

The Number

***

The number those asterisks represent that had me almost in tears. The number of failure for me this morning. The number I avoid purposely (I’ve thrown out all scales in my home). The number that brought to this page, to my pen. The number that made me feel defeated. The number that isn’t that much different than it was 3 months ago, but enough different that it feels like a knife shearing through my heart. The number that represents my relationship with gravity. The largest relationship I’ve ever had with gravity. The number that I’m not even sure I can share with you all.

Today is a bad body love day. Today may even be a bad self-love day.

I consider myself a body positive advocate. I no longer post pictures about my workouts, runs, weight loss, before and after pics, or dieting plans. I think this is damaging. It makes women, young, old, accomplished, and everything in between, doubt who they are, think themselves less, and wonder why not me. It is also is quite boring to me. I’m tired of talking about diets, exercises, thighs, fat blasters and all in between. If that is your thing, go ahead! I don’t care what you do. Just don’t do it with me please. I also suffer from a history of disordered eating patterns, distorted body image, and likely undiagnosed body dysmorphia and an exercise addiction in the past (and I can diagnose myself because I’m a licensed counselor J). So, participating in those conversations are triggers for me and bring about serious self-doubt and pain. Like you have no ideas how many hours I can spend dedicated to speaking about that. According to my past therapists and researchers on ACES (adverse childhood experiences survey), it is also all likely a symptom of PTSD. Isn’t that bitch? Haunted by things that are not my fault and yet I still try to find it ways to make it my fault – enter all of the distorted images of self. Well, fuck. Either way, because of my experiences and experiences of my clients, I’ve realized that for some people, these images and talk are highly damaging, or at the very least demoralizing. It’s made me feel like a personal failure many times (me: why can he/she/they lose so much weight, and I can’t? brain: Must be a person defect.) So, I usually don’t any more.

Today is different. I took this picture below of me because I was disgusted and disgusted I was disgusted and needed evidence for this blog. I needed everyone to see an unflattering picture of me. I needed you to see some of the blooper reels. And then I needed to post it because I needed proof that I’m still human and loveable and all those things. And that fat people work out too, to be perfectly honest.

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And after that picture here is a running reel of things going on in my head as I worked out:

  • Your belly, do you see and feel how full it is? That’s probably why he disappeared after making out with you; he was probably disgusted.
  • Your doctor is going to poke at you on Monday and you’re going to feel awful.
  • Speaking of which, no need to bring in the concerns of your digestive system or any other ailments – it’s all your fault anyway.
  • You look awful in that t-shirt. Remember when it was loose?
  • When you go home, everyone will notice your weight and realize what a failure you are.
  • Two months ago, things were fitting looser. You’ve failed.
  • You are not pretty
  • You will never find love.
  • Some people are larger when they are younger, they are allowed to occupy bodies and look amazing in whatever size; You are not allowed that, because this isn’t your body type.
  • Why can everyone else lose weight so much easily? Did you see all those summer bodies online last night? HA, not you.
  • Why are you reading this book on radical self-love? Do you really think you are allowed that?
  • Your walks around the park aren’t enough twice a week. You know better. You know you need multiple days of intense exercise for 2 hours to lose weight. We have been here before.
  • The wine. It’s the wine. Also, the birthday fun. Nope.
  • You’re not worthy.
  • You’re not sexy.
  • You will be alone forever.
  • You should be embarrassed.
  • You are not enough.

As, I listen to India Arie as the soundtrack to this blog post, and reflect on the words and thoughts I had today, I feel even more ashamed but then it moves to sadness. Timely, she is is currently singing “Just let it go. Set yourself free. Healing is in your hands.” If I reflect on the past few months, this has been the first time in maybe 3-4 months that these voices have been this strong. I suppose that’s progress, although they have transformed into other lies about my incompetence (my work, friendship abilities, partnership abilities, and my intelligence). Even so it demonstrates that I have the capability to heal, I just need to create the capacity.

Speaking of capacity, I haven’t had much of that lately. I have been traveling a lot for work for a few months now, spending the majority of most weeks out of town. In fact, I am writing this from a hotel room in Lansing, MI. I can’t say that it has been fun. It’s been difficult to find food that makes me feel nourished and is nutritious. Workouts are hard to come by. I’m exhausted and not sleeping well. And I’m so very bloated all the time or gastritis is flaring up all over the place. I have had little time for reflection, painting my nails, a social life, or just play. I don’t feel like myself. I’m moody, my patience is low, and I miss my “me time.” On top of this, I’m making some major life changes right now and managing feelings of inadequacy and incompetence isn’t easy. But it’s familiar. It’s my limbic system’s way of dealing with threatening or stressful situations. I’ve started drinking more ginger tea (stomach issues) and my favorite is the Yogi teas. The Yogi teas come with inspirational messages on them, and every single one has been about compassion. Reflecting now, I think that this is the universe’s way of telling me that the person who needs my compassion most right now, is myself.

“I am not the voices in my head. I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside. I am light.” –India Arie, I Am Light

Rain, Rain go Away…Or Stay. That’s Fine Too.

The weather out here in North Carolina has been all over the place the last week or two, but that’s pretty normal. I have literally experienced a tornado, sunshine, heat, and rain in the last two weeks. I also saw some left over snow while traveling for work. Currently we are on hour 10473729202840727 of steady rain. Ok that’s an exaggeration but we are approaching 48 hours. There is currently flooding in parts of the city.

I really enjoy a good storm. It’s soothing and I get some really good sleep. But after a while, I start to wonder if it’s ever going to stop and if I’ll survive. I also despise driving in the rain so there’s that reason why I get a little antsy when it just keeps raining

Today, while driving in the rain funnily enough, I started making a list of reasons why we need a good storm every now and then. Some literal. Some metaphorical. Most are both. Enjoy.

1. Growth. Everything needs water to grow. Part of me is really sad my garden isn’t planted yet because this would be the most amazing watering ever. I really hate dragging the hose across the yard and back again so I am always thankful for a good rain to water things for me. Every once in a while a good storm comes along and while it may be scary while your in the midst of it, afterwards you can definitely see how the downpour helped creat abundance, beauty and growth. (That’s the metaphor part if you didn’t catch it)

2. Cleansing: have you bathed lately? Not just your physical being but other areas as well. A good soul cleansing scrub is sometimes needed. A good soak in a tub is good for the soul and one of my favorite forms of self care. When was the last time you just stood in the rain? One day in grad school I was so stressed and overwhelmed and I had parked my car on the opposite side of campus and it was raining. I walked to my car with my umbrella but when I got there I closed it and put it in the car. I stayed outside and just let the rain wash over me a little bit. A tear or two may have mixed in with the rain drops. I don’t know. But I do know it was cathartic. If I hadn’t just spend $90 on my hair I would consider going outside right now for a few minutes.

3. Healing: A good storm can be therapeutic I think. Healing for the heart, mind and soul. And for one instance for me, the body. I used to have really bad TMJ issues. For 10 years my jaw popped out of place every time I opened my mouth wide. It hurt constantly and was made worse by a lot of talking or excessive smiling. I couldn’t chew gum. The only good thing that ever came out of my TMJ issues is that I learned the joys of medium cooked steaks as anything above that irritated my jaw. I went to the doctor, I took ibuprofen for pain, I had a $200 mouth guard made by the dentist, I had a $5 bite guard from Walmart. I even had a chiropractor punch me in the jaw repeatedly with some tool. Nothing helped. One day, after a few days of rain, and some pretty serious thunder and lightening, I came home in serious pain, took some ibuprofen and put in the $5 mouth guard. I went to sleep so as not to feel anything. I woke up the next day and immediately knew something was different. My jaw has only popped when I yawn unexpectedly or open my mouth funny since then. I WAS HEALED!! I will never be angry about rainy days ever again because one literally healed my body.

(In case you were wondering how your jaw works)

4. Rest: I think a good storm causes us all to slow down a little bit. Whether it’s slowing down while driving or just choosing to stay in for the day, rest is needed. Also, waterbeds weren’t all the rage back in the day for no reason! Water is soothing to the soul. No matter what anyone says, sleep is not the cousin of death. You have to sleep to live. If anything, if you don’t sleep you will die sooner! So if you too are experiencing a stormy day (of any kind) consider using it to take a good nap.

So there you have it. I know it’s a much shorter list than I normally make but I hope you have enjoyed it all the same. I also hope, if you are currently experiencing any sort of storm in your life, literal or otherwise, that you take a few moments to find and appreciate just a little of the beauty that there may be in the midst of it.

Thank You!

Never in my life did I ever think that I would be an inspiration to someone, ANYONE.

Over that past 7 months I’ve written a lot of content here about my life and learning to love who I am and becoming more comfortable with my sexuality.  Basically, I’ve mostly written about how I never really embraced what I’ve felt in my soul for the longest time. At no point did I even think that my stories would encourage others to live their truth and be confident in being who they knew they were for so long.

You’re probably saying “duh” in your head right now, but I’ve never thought of myself to be someone who could encourage this.  I’m not necessarily a great writer or story teller, but over the time since we’ve started this blog, it’s become easier to tell my story.  So, throughout this time, every once in a while after some of my posts, I’ve been approached about what I’ve written; How it was very real; How it was refreshing; How I’ve inspired some people; How they have expressed how they felt after going through the same struggles that I’ve been through; And basically how I am someone who they feel they can talk to about these things.  And I know I’ve said this multiple times to these individuals but…

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

When I first decided to write about my experience with my sexuality, I gave it a lot of thought.  I spoke with my co-bloggers about posting my National Coming Out Day post, and was unsure if that was a burden I was ready to bare.  I wrote it about 3 days prior, because I thought I was ready.  Then I wasn’t.  Then I was.  Then I wasn’t again.  I was nervous, scared, and unsure of myself.  I’ve been living my life as such for years at this point so why now, you know?  But then I realized that this post, on Oct 11, 2017, was not just about me, but about others as well.  About being done not completely living my life.  About how I was finally able to SHOW that I wasn’t scared to be who I was, even though I didn’t feel like I needed to “come out”. And no, you don’t have to.  But I’ve decided to, to let the world know that there’s nothing wrong with being who you are, out loud.  Just know that I’ll always be here to be your friend.  Your support.  Your ally.

So, for those who have; Thank you for feeling so comfortable sharing your stories with me.  Thank you for trusting me.  Thank you for reading and being open to me sharing my stories with you! Even to those who don’t identify as LGBTQ who have shared with me their thoughts, thank you!  You never really realize how much of an impact you have on someone until they tell you and I’m honored, honestly.  I just want to be here as a voice (in text) for the ones who went through the struggle in similar, and maybe even different, ways. Just know, that I am here for you! I will always be here to listen to someone share their feelings, their emotions, and their thoughts about not only sexuality, but racial identity, and whatever else that you want to talk about, because we are in this together.

Again, thank you all for being so comfortable with me and sharing with me your thoughts and feelings and emotions and tears and hugs and everything!  Please know that you will always have an ally in me, both as a member of the LGBTQ community AND as a friend.

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Why Telling Black and Brown people (especially women) “You Must Work Twice As Hard” is Damaging, No Matter How True

I am a self proclaimed (and proclaimed by others) perfectionist. Not perfect, far from it, but perfectionistic. You know her, the inner bitch that kills you slowly and deliberately by your own doing, fed by shame, fear, and personal & historical trauma? The one that amplifies every failure and mistake to equal your worth, and cripples you with her harshness?

Today I want to focus on the historical and generational trauma impact of perfectionism. For many of us Black and Brown people, this impact is killing us very deliberately. For many years, as people of color, we have had to work harder. We have and are seen often as less than our counterparts, it’s been demanded we work harder to prove our worth and value, and honestly, it sometimes still never feels like enough. Put the identity of “woman” on top of that and it’s a double whammy. It’s a lot to endure.

What has been a peculiar strategy, one born of group preservation and desire for growth, is that we as Black women impose these same standards and pressures onto one another. We regularly tell one another “to work twice as hard, look better, act better, anticipate mistakes. Be better. Be better.” We model this. Long hours with no reprieve, neglecting our own needs, being a martyr at the expense of our own self preservation, taking on every single task under the sun, and being particularly harsh when our humanity kicks in. And we look at our fellow sisters and tell them, be the best too, sometimes putting down the ones that fall into this form of self hatred that was passed down to us, with things like you don’t dress well enough, not enough degrees, not articulate enough, not enough. Never enough – a direct reflection of what we think of ourselves.

One time, I attended a conference. As for most of us in higher ed, I work(ed) in a very white space and was so excited to connect with other Black women and men of color. I attended as many sessions as I could to learn and grow, to feel connected to my culture, to feel renewed. I left instead feeling heavy. That I had so much to do to even be perceived as worthy by most of society. There were ample messages around you have to get more degrees (a master’s degree isn’t good enough), you need to work longer hours (I was regularly working 60 hours already), create, innovate, and find all the Black businesses and support them today. All while nicely dressed, perfect brows (all the women did), and in high heels. I was overwhelmed and spent many days warring with myself, anxious, and exhausted. To be fair, these messages had been passed down to me since I was young. I think it was just I need affirmation I was on the right path. And instead received a very condensed and intense version of “be better” and it confirmed my worst fears – I’m really not doing enough, or at least it will never be enough due to my identity. Later, I broke into tears.

I’m a pretty high achiever (most perfectionists are), but by definition of my perfectionism, imperfection or lackluster achievement (which means a B+ instead of A) are not tolerated. And any messages about that, fuel me to action and often burnout. And then I had these thoughts:

Why are we perpetuating a message handed down to us meant to keep us inferior and assimilate to a culture that wasn’t created for us? Why are we killing ourselves with a perfectionistic ideal that says that we will still never be good enough? Why are we, Black women, denying, and frankly, obliterating, our humanity in the name of being the best? Will respectability politics actually get us respect? Is this all we are?

The outcomes are clear, racism, especially when internalized, are killing us – quite literally. Racism is strongly correlated with higher blood pressure, chronic disease, and the silent and hidden ailments like depression and anxiety in Black people. We have got to change this narrative.

Listen. I’m not saying that we should be lazy and not work hard or reach our dreams. I’m saying that we should not make that work ethic dependent on proving our worth and at the detriment of our health, soul, and spirit. It should not be the first priority. We should be that first priority.

Today, as I cried in a meeting with a superior (and then feeling ashamed for showing weakness, but that’s another post, for another day), and confessed that I have to prove that I’m good enough, successful enough, especially because I’m one of few Black women in the room, metaphorically and physically, I realized perfectionism is getting me more C’s in life and less happiness. Realizing how deeply I’ve come to see failures as the only confirmations of my worth, and hearing how loudly the voices of “be better, twice as better,” and feeling twice as worse, I realized I’m doing what the oppressors always sought to do to me – destroy. It hurts.

I still want to be better and still am dealing with the shame of not being as fearless, wonderful, and perfect as my sisters around the world and my ancestors were. But perhaps, maybe, just perhaps, my ancestors can be proud of me being good enough. Not twice as good, but just as good, and trying my damn hardest. Maybe they will smile when I give myself a break and say, this is what we worked for. Maybe they can still think I’m beyond their wildest dreams, without the self-hatred of a historical perfectionism not meant to make me soar anyway, and taking breaks to refill my cup.

I dont know. Maybe I’ll find out someday when I disengage from perfectionism.