Lately I’ve been listening to my “R & B Favorites” playlist as opposed to my usual “turn up” tunes (sometimes you just have to switch it up a bit). I listen to music when I shower in the mornings and I’ve had this song by Lianne La Havas, “Lost & Found”, for about two years now. I’ve listened to it several times before and even sang along with it – almost every word. But the other morning I heard it differently from any other time before. This time I felt something; before it was just a nice song. I had downloaded it after hearing it on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
“You broke me and taught me to truly hate myself. Unfold me and teach me how to be like someone else” ( see video below)
It was these words in particular that struck a nerve. I jumped out of the shower mid scrub to hit the repeat button. I wanted to listen a few more times to really reflect on where I had been and thank God for delivering me from relationships that did just that. I had allowed my spirit to be broken at the hands of infidelity, lies, deception, and stealing. But what has been most difficult to come back from are the messages that cut deeper than a knife ever could. I wasn’t fun enough. I didn’t drink enough. I didn’t smoke enough. My clothes weren’t tight enough. I thought I had to become someone else. After a couple of years of that, I took my brokenness to one who I thought would lick my wounds and nurse me to health. That thought in itself was sick, but anyway….in this new chapter, my accent was too southern or sometimes I was too “black” or “ghetto”. My body wasn’t fit enough. I was too emotional. I wasn’t smart enough. I just wasn’t quite enough. So, again, I learned to how to be someone else.
For a while I blamed and resented these friends of mine for “what they did to poor little me”. But in retrospect, I realize that I didn’t think much of myself before either of these guys came into my life. My self-esteem was already at an all-time low. I didn’t think I was smart enough or pretty enough. I was ashamed of what I did and didn’t have. Society has always had a way of telling us how we should be, what we should have, and how we should look. There were other factors that played a role, so I’m not blaming society or the media 100%. I had been [figuratively] self-mutilating for years – since I was about 13 years of age, by telling myself these things and internalizing everything that was going on in the world around me. I was doomed from the start. It was never about who these gentlemen were, but how I perceived myself. This kind of thinking led me to believe that I didn’t deserve better so I subjected myself to emotional torture and self-hate. Long before I met them I had learned to hate myself and I became a chameleon, meaning whatever I needed to be in a given situation. I was just putting that kind of energy out and I attracted people like myself.
I’ve learned to take responsibility for my part in things that affect me. I could write for days about all of the things they did or didn’t do, but then it would be about them – and I’m not responsible for them. After engaging for so long in self-hate, self-pity, self-will, and self-destruction, a time came when enough was enough. I needed to take action.
Last week I wrote The Worthless Black Woman ; I guess I could express myself so passionately on the issue because when I watch these women – Mimi Faust, Joseline Hernandez, Tahiry, K. Michelle, Erica Dixon, & others- I see a little piece of Dre’ in every single one. I have fantasized about cosmetic surgeries and other things that I believed would make me “better” or more competitive as well. So to address some of the backlash regarding my self-righteous stance on the media and black women, here I offer another perspective. I do not judge these women. I suffer with them and other women around the world who can relate. Today I thank God that I can see it all for what it is – vanity, and separate what’s real from what isn’t.
I’ve reached a level in my relationship with God that allows me to see my true value and worth more and more every day. I no longer live in fear of not being “good enough”. I am learning to no longer depend on self and others to “fill the void”, or dictate and validate who I am. I catch myself from time to time in such a relapse – wanting to please and prove to others that I am worthy and that I can be whoever they want me to be. This spiritual sickness only progresses if we do not take action.
If you have read anything about yourself and you want to join me in this journey by taking responsibility for your life, see the 10 suggestions below to get started:
1. Forgive yourself – we have all done things that we regret or allowed things to happen in our lives because we were living in fear (fear of losing love; fear of neglect; fear of abuse; fear of being alone; fear of ___________.) Forgive yourself for whatever it is and begin a new chapter. You are the author; you can start a new book if you want.
2. Set yourself free from the hurt and resentments of the past – It happened. You cannot change it. Give the person who hurt you the benefit of the doubt – is it possible that he or she did what they thought was best at the time? If not, maybe that person is/was spiritually sick and needs compassion rather than your wrath – which hurts you far more that it will ever hurt them.
3. You MUST determine your own worth and value – because if you don’t someone else will.
4. Do not get into a new relationship until you have done #1 and #2
5. Continue to focus on yourself in relationships – because when you stop, YOUR value goes down. Why? Because you stop doing what it takes to keep yourself up mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.
6. Know the signs of stagnation or regression (dying) – for me, it’s the little things like not keeping my apartment tidy (making up my bed or dishes in the sink); not going to the gym like I should; my body starts nudging me with stress-related symptoms such as tightness in my jaw and tension headaches; I stop praying and can’t remember the last time I did; my attitude changes and I am easily agitated. This may look different for you.
7. Know that expectations are premeditated resentments – Often times I expect others to think, feel, and do as I would. That is not fair to the person of whom I have these expectations, especially if I haven’t told them what my expectations of them are. It also sets myself up to be hurt when they do not meet my expectations. Resentment and anger are deadly. One of my favorite quotes is: “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”.
8. Check yourself -remind yourself daily (maybe a few times a day) that are the only person responsible for your emotional state and well-being.
9. Live and Let Live – know that you can’t control another person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. You shouldn’t want to; it’s too much work. You are not God.
10. Pray daily – for strength, courage, direction, redirection, and that HIS will be done. When we operate solely on self-will, we will find ourselves feeling like fish out of water – desperate for what we need to survive. Turn it over to him daily. I take back my will often and every time the things I shared in #6 become my reality and my life is unmanageable.