A dilemma that I have yet to figure out. Let me know if you do. I’ll write more when I know.
I’m going to share a terrible secret with you all that I’ve tried to share in 3-5 different draft posts and have not gotten far. When I try to write it, it never seems worded right and I can’t tell where I am going with it. So, it’s possible this post makes zero sense and I guess that’s ok.
I’m a really jealous person. And especially around love, but it shows up in other areas too. But when people close to me are going on dates, getting laid regularly, meeting nice men, getting flirted with – I feel devastated. Like a complete failure and I dont understand. I just don’t.
I know. This isnt what good people do. You support your friends unconditionally, you are happy for their successes, and you wait your turn, but never enviously. Thing is, I’m so tired of waiting my turn. The jealousy thing I’m sure is a by- product of being utterly tired of it. I wasn’t always this terrible of a human.
I decided to examine my jealousy, get to know her, and understand why she is present. When I get close enough to her, she tells me we are very wounded by the world and universe. Y’all. I try hard. I might be a terrible, jealous human, but I really try to be the best human I can be despite my flaws. I try to give selflessly, for many years I’ve been the supporter and cheerleader (without jealousy), I’ve worked on myself, I try to be the kind of woman someone would want to date and marry that isn’t absolutely crazy, I am extremely self aware, I put myself out there, I’ve endured being cheated on, I’ve helped exes get better, I have forgiven, I’ve made no excuses from my past and each day, I renew a commitment to myself and the world to thrive despite any trauma or abuse that has happened to me. And you know what, I still lose sometimes. Life is like that. But there are those that only of the half work, or do the same work, or no work, and they win. Every time.
They barely work out and don’t exercise – no or minimal health issues. Put in a reasonable amount of work or minimal – either way, get promotions. Treat significant others like crap – get into relationships with the most amazing people and are happy. Lie, cheat, and are wholly awful people – get rich and run an entire country. Do half the work, put themselves out one time, make stupid choices, exist – find relationships, get laid, and/or find people who aren’t insane who want to share their time. There is a meme floating around the internet that asks, “what is the hardest lesson you learned as an adult?” One answer was something to the effect that you can be a good person and do all the right things, and life still not treat you well. I cried the first I read that.
I am sure at times that my jealousy now keeps me from being or getting certain things. Part of me truly believes that… it motivates me to want to change that and then just die from the fact that it is still there. I keep doing the work though. I know I’m incredibly lucky in some ways. When I think about how unfair life is to some people, I think about those who can’t climb out of poverty, who’s governments are murdering their family & friends, who can’t catch a break, and that many of them likely have purer hearts than mine. Trust me when I say, I know my life is so charmed at times, although by no means has it been an easy life. I feel a bit ashamed, but later, I’ll see a smiling friend engaged, on a date, with their s/o, and I know I’ll be crushed. I know how stupid this sounds. This is my dirty little (not so much now) secret. I know how it sounds.
I am continuing to sit with my jealousy. Trying to figure out what she wants me to learn. It’s hard because she brings me back to the pain and I’m not exactly sure how she wants me to address that yet. The pain is connected to an underlying feeling of being inadequate, not as good as everyone else, and that I am broken in some way. I’ve been working on that – it’s tied to some deep shit. As I write that, it makes me think – maybe I just have to go through these feelings. Endure them. Check them. Try not let them ruin me, but instead build me. I don’t know.
But what I do know, is now you all know, my dirty little secret. I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you, but I hope someone else doesn’t feel so alone. I think we can figure this out. We can be better and ok.
*** Disclaimer: There is so much wrong going on in the world and my heart aches. I debated not writing a lighter post, because with children being torn from their parents’ arms, political disaster and silliness on all sides, and people dying, it seemed trivial. However, in times like this, it is sometimes good to remember that isn’t all of life. I also think there are plenty of folks who comment on these things better than I can. What I’ve learned is that as these things happen, we still eat, laugh, have heartbreak, go to work, and continue to live. And so today, I’m writing about dating. I just want you to know, we here at “A Tale…” are not oblivious and our hearts go out to the world.***
Dating is hard. Dating is hard when you live in a rural area. Online dating is also hard. Dating is extra hard when apparently no one has given you dos and don’ts of your dating profile and responding to people (in this case hetereosexual men responding to women). But never fear – I’m here to help you. So now you can’t say you were never warned.
1. Please stop taking pictures with your money fanned out on your bed or held literally as a fan. Also, taking the picture with your daughter or son having money fanned out is equally a “no.” I thought we left that on Black Planet in 2001? I can’t believe I have to say this.
2. Stop writing a long list of things you hate. This makes you seem like a terrible person.
3. Proofread. It doesn’t have to be perfect but if I’m scratching my head trying to piece a sentence into something vaguely resembling a complete thought, it’s not slang. It’s just mumble jumble.
4. Dick imprint profile pics are a “no.” Also, yes, it was me. I reported your picture.
5. When you respond, do not talk about lips or any other part of the other’s body touching yours in the first 5 messages. Actually, not in the first few days unless we mutually agreed upon that is happening/happened. But definitely not in the first 5 messages. No, I do not want to envision myself kissing you.
6. Don’t go from “hey” directly to “when am I going to meet you?” The answer is likely never at that point.
7. You should probably not have all 50 pictures in the same pose in different shirts. It’s just weird.
8. Don’t ask someone to immediately send you more pics. You legit have a whole damn catalog of pics. You’ve only said hello, I dont owe you shit.
9. If you spend the first 5 messages describing all of a person’s physical features, they begin to wonder what are your intentions. I’m just saying. Also, creepy.
10. If it is stated someone is looking for something long term, stop pretending you didn’t know that. And if you didn’t, read the profile.
11. If someone doesn’t answer you immediately, it is not ok to go off on them and how they’re ignoring you for a pretty boy, and that they’re missing out because you have a job, car, house, and you go on vacations. You obviously also have high levels of. insecurity, a temper, and crazy. *unmatch*
12. While asking questions is a great way to get to know someone, asking someone back to back to back questions, unrelated to the previous answer, and not following up, commenting, and finding common ground with answers (aka having a conversation) is jarring and feels like I’m under interrogation until you feel you’ve done enough to ask for my number.
13. Which brings me to if you ask for my number or to continue the conversation off the site and I say I’m not yet ready, you dont have the right to angrily rant at me and that doesn’t mean to do #12 in an attempt to appease me.
14. Say “hi” and then ask me “truth or dare.” I hate this with all of my soul and it causes me anxiety. Just ask me how I’m doing, what I do for work, etc.
15. Respond to all of my questions with something about meeting me today. It gets annoying. For example, Me: what was the most exciting thing today?
You: Matching with you.
Me: So sweet of you. What are you doing this holiday?
You: hopefully you are coming to see me
Me: Lol. Hmmm… idk I’d like to get to know you better first, plus I have plans.
You: You wouldn’t drop your plans for me?
Me: No. Hell no. Fuck no. I don’t know you!!!!
Ok, ok, I never say that. I usually unmatch, but you get my drift.
16. Similarly please don’t respond to my statements with completely unrelated statements.
Me: So, that about sums up what I do at work. I told you it was a little complicated.
You: I’m just thinking about how it would be to see those lips in person.
17. Send me emojis over and over as responses. Especially looking eyes. 👀 THOSE. I love a good emoji but it is annoying when you use it in this way.
18. “Good morning/evening beautiful” has become synonymous with fuck boy when you barely know me. I didn’t write the rule. It just happened. Usually to follow is violation of several of the above.
To end on a positive note, I thought I’d end with a list of “do’s.”
1. Do put up a wide range of pics and look like you enjoy life. I love smiling pics. You’re still a man if you smile, I promise. And you’re sexier immediately to me.
2. Do fill in a bio area. I read every single one. Make it about you and what you like and not what you hate (see above).
3. I am definitely ok with a “hey, how are you?” I don’t need creative pick up lines. I don’t know when it became a crime to just say that.
4. Ask questions about things I wrote in my bio, follow up on common threads, and share info about you.
5. Write more than one word messages.
6. Compliment other parts of me that aren’t physical, i.e. “I can tell you’re really bright or caring.”
7. Talk about a passion of yours. Passion is the key to opening my heart.
8. Make appropriately placed references about Wakanda. I’ll love that.
9. If we have been going back and forth for awhile, we are both sharing info and it doesn’t seem antagonistic, whether for 20 min or 2 days, ask for my number then.
10. Ask me if it’s too late and should we continue in the morning.
11. Continue in the morning if I say yes.
12. Tell me you’re smiling as we’re talking about something non sexual, but interesting. That will make me think you really are into what I’m saying.
13. Use humor, not sarcasm.
What about you all? Have you encountered these things? Agree or disagree? Love to hear from you!
Dear New York City,
The time has come for us to say our good byes. I think we both knew we were never destined to be long term lovers, but we gave it our best shot, and year is nothing to frown upon. You have taught me so much and I wanted to make sure you understood the value you had in my life. So many times we do not get to properly have closure to the most important relationships in our life. Moving gives us that gift. I want to share it with you .
1) You taught me how to be tough. You taught me how to not give into men and their advances, put on a hard shell when necessary, and be strong. You taught me that nothing is too scary for me. That subways at night are absolutely conquerable, streets are meant for crossing at all times, and gave me a bit of NYC sass and arrogance to go along with it. I like that part of me you’ve helped me develop. I feel tough.
2) You taught me the value of a dollar and resilience. You took me back to my roots and reminded how easily you can lose it all, struggle, and be back at the bottom. This was not a fun lesson, but necessary for humility.
3) You taught me Black and Brown comes in 500 different shades and languages and reinforced my sense of pride of belonging to a diverse group of people across the African diaspora. I desperately needed to see that after many years without that validation. When people ask me about my favorite thing about NYC, Harlem, and the Black and Brown people are always my top answer. I can feel the spirits of my ancestors here and see the seeds of their labor.
4) You reminded me that I can ride a bike. I got on my first bike in years when I moved here and it reminded me to always play and that some things are as easy and simple as remembering. Those were some of my favorite moments.
5) You taught me all that glimmers isn’t gold and isn’t for me. NYC glitters and glimmers; NYC is far from gold. It is a hard place to live and be yourself. You showed me that although I may aspire or think something is wonderful, I must really look carefully and consider all parts. I’m so appreciative of this lesson.
6) You allowed me to live a childhood dream of living in the Big Apple. It felt nice to say I’ve done it. My inner child appreciates the adventure.
7) You tested my patience, which I suppose begets patience. From lines, to delayed trains, to spending hours searching for a parking space, to jobs not for me, and a terrible dating scene, you really tried me. I hope I learned patience and not irritation. 🙂
8) Bodegas make the best sandwiches. There is nothing else to say.
9) You rescued me. I have so many mixed feelings as I leave here. This wasn’t a place of warmth, love, or friendship for me, which was foreign. But I cannot forget that you rescued me from despair and a low place. You were a wonderful oasis at a time that I needed it. I’m sorry that I dont always thank you for it, but I’m grateful.
10) You made me remember what is important to me. That I don’t need a fancy city, expensive apartment, or hectic lifestyle. That family, friendship, passion, and a career that lights me on fire are what I value most. We weren’t good matches because of these things, but thank you for showing me what I really need.
11) That in spite of everything, I can do anything. BUT that doesn’t mean I should. Thank you for that valuable lesson.
I think today, as I walked my last walk home from the one place I could feel comfort, I felt you offering peace as our relationship closes tomorrow. You gave me a gift of a breezy evening, a lovely sunset, children laughing, no slow people in front of me, and the ability to help one last lost tourist find their way to Central Park. This was certainly not a lot of our evenings spent together, but I’m sure you wanted to end this on high note. I wanted that as well, and gave a gift of kindness to a stranger in the subway. I hope you take that as an offering of my gratitude.
I want to thank you. Thank you for making me a tough, bodega loving, fast walking, and incredibly humble woman one year later. I’ll be back as a familiar and indebted visitor, but the depth of our relationship ends here. I’m not sorry to say good bye. It’s the right thing to do. Instead, I’m glad we got the time to influence one another. Thank you for letting me call you home for this short time.
With all the love in my heart,
Yesterday, I broke down in tears as I considered my newest part of my journey- moving upstate on Wednesday and starting a new position as a director of a cultural center. I thought about my past failures, the past attempts to break my spirit, the heaviness of the weight of being a Black woman in position such as this in the current climate, and how I even ended up in this position to begin with. I cried.
Do not misunderstand me. I am beyond the moon to be starting this role. It is a honor. This position speaks to my calling – to serve my black and brown sisters and brothers, to educate, to be an activist, and give voices to the voiceless. It also represents a major promotion for me. It is much more exciting and challenging than my current job. But I am afraid and anxious.
The past two years have been rough on a sister. I spent a year in a job that was not healthy for me. I spent that year listening to others tell me I wasnt good enough, I shined too brightly, I was too joyful, I didn’t belong, and dismantling all of the good things I once believed in myself. I spent that same year battling racial battle fatigue, fighting invisible, yet omnipresent, systems of oppression which often left me thinking, “am I the crazy one?”
After some intense therapy sessions and 9 months, I began to realize that I could not stay, nor did I need to. My trauma past (personal and racial) had led me to believe, albeit erroneously, that enduring pain and fighting through it is how I prove my worth, and that I must do that. It leads to staying in painful situations way too long as I think to myself, “I must prove to everyone that I dont give up and that I am good enough.” It also reinforces to myself that I am not good enough, because it sends a message that “I will not protect you through pain because you must be better. Your trauma is your fault. You aren’t good enough and/or this is how you earn worth. And everyone’s needs are far more important than yours.” I told myself we could not do this anymore. I job searched and took the first job that I landed.
It was a smart move to leave. I don’t regret it. But the next year, I spent my time trying to fit into a puzzle they wasn’t even my box. And you know what they say – a fish will think it’s stupid if its measure of intelligence is climbing a tree. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why it wasn’t working, even though in my head it seemed easy enough (I’m sure the fish felt this way looking at monkeys climbing a tree). I felt utterly useless and incompetent as I watched others soar. I was already a bit wounded from my past year, not fully healed (nor did I recognize my need for healing as legitimate) and this was salt to injury. And I did what I always do – I overworked to prove my worth. And once again, it did not help. Jamming a puzzle piece into a wrong puzzle does not make a puzzle come together. It creates a very ugly, mismatched picture.
In the meantime, I was suffering in other ways – socially, financially, and health wise. I had no friends within a close, “I am stopping by and having a meal” or “let’s go shopping” kind of way for a year. And building those friendships was near impossible in a place like NYC. I struggled to maintain a decent lifestyle in the city, and my health suffered. I developed illnesses, blood pressure would not lower, and I have developed all kinds of gastrointestinal issues alongside chronic hives (these are the worst). All of these things aren’t from my job alone, but I had a moment where I had to stop and think, “what is really going on, LeAnna?” I realized that I wasn’t fulfilled. And I realized how much I was allowing the past two years, along with a complicated trauma history, dictate my worth.
I remember being told by a friend that I wasn’t being fulfilled professionally, because I was playing it too small and safe. I kept taking positions that were easy and I knew I could do, only to find myself in those roles bored, unchallenged, or not using my greatest skills. I told myself in a stern “talking to” that I knew what my skills were and that I needed to use my strengths to feel like I was giving my talents to the world. And so I started a much more targeted, selective, and intentional job search. And within a matter of two months (and many rejection letters), I landed my newly anticipated role.
And I am so afraid and anxious.
I am afraid I will fail, that they made a mistake, that I am inherently unlikable, that I will bear the burden of representing all people of color, that I will be too loud, that I will have to job search again in a year, that all those things people said about me are true, that I can’t be authentic, that I will again become a shell of who I am.
The anxiety is real y’all.
So yesterday, at a conference, I took all that into a Black Woman healing sister circle. The divine energy in that room was powerful. I cried within 2 min of being in there, and although I planned to remain silent, within 10 minutes was sharing my load with 55 sisters I’ve never met. I was a bit ashamed, but also relieved. I was met with love, celebration, and understanding. And wisdom, so much wisdom.
I think as Black women we understand the heavy weight we pick up and rarely set down. We do not take our lives lightly. We understand what it means when we take on new roles – mother, sister, daughter, lover, friend, wife, even director. I think what we must understand more, is that we can lay that weight down in order to rejuvenate every once in awhile, and we can ask our sisters to help us carry it when they are stronger. I leaned into that yesterday. I felt some shame, not going to lie, but it was necessary.
“When you feel anxious, you also feel excitement. It’s two sides of the same coin. It’s all mixed in there,” the facilitator softly, but affirmatively, said into the mic. This was after my wise older sister pulled out an article about change and showed me that change, no matter how good, isn’t easy or without weight or some not so good feelings. “It’s all normal. Everything you’re feeling is normal,” she said.
This is something I know. But it was a timely and gracious reminder for me. I am anxious because I understand the magnitude of this accomplishment and its ability to transform my life. That I have an opportunity to impact lives, use my strengths, and be fulfilled. And because of very real reasons, I’m afraid and scared. I’m also overwhelmed and so maybe I can’t always feel the excitment, not because I’m not aware, but because I am rightfully so experiencing everything I should be experiencing (and trust me, telling me to think positive or be grateful is not helpful – just please don’t. It is very frustrating and I am aware of the other side of the coin). I am allowed to feel both positive and negative emotions about ultimately, a wonderful thing. It’s the same coin. Those two statements were gifts for me. They were the gift of me being ok and permission to feel what I felt.
My last note is this. My life hasn’t been easy for all kinds of reasons. And the past two years have been tough. And it’s so easy to say, “don’t let you past define you.” But as a therapist, I call bullshit. Of course, it will define you. You are constantly shaped by your past. I think for me, I’d offer to myself, allow your past to teach you, shape you, but never bound you. For myself, this is more doable. I can apply and do well in a director position in spite of that, because I can be afraid and do things anyway. I can love myself in spite of messages saying I shouldn’t, even if it is harder than if that wasn’t my past. I can feel everything and still find joy and peace. Things can define who I am today without being the sole person that I am. I can make lemons out of lemonade. And that makes life a little easier for me, at least today.
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.
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
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.