When was the last time you looked in the mirror & felt a love so deep you felt like crying. –@OteniDesigns
Earlier this week, a tweet came across my timeline that made me stop in my tracks and evaluate my relationship with self. I got chills as it dawned on me that although I had received 4 handwritten cards in the mail that week telling me how incredibly amazing and inspiring I was, I had spent the past 7 days filling my head with self-limiting beliefs about myself. Self-limiting beliefs can be dangerous if they are confining you to a place in your life you don’t want to be.
An example of a self-limiting belief can be:
- “I don’t have what it takes to succeed.”
- “It needs to be perfect or I shouldn’t do it at all.”
- “Although I don’t like where I am, I’m comfortable here, change is scary.”
- “I don’t deserve to put myself first.”
Some of the self-limiting beliefs that I have dealt with recently were:
- “If I do anything that doesn’t involve entertainment news and gossip people won’t care”
- “I will never find love or a partner who understands me”
- “I don’t deserve this and I will f-ck it up (when presented with a huge career opportunity)”
Those self-limiting beliefs (like some of the statements I’ve said to myself), create artificial boundaries in our lives that block us from walking into our light and being the best versions of ourselves that we can be. They block us from attracting the love we desire and more importantly, they block us from achieving the success we deserve.
***I want to preface this by saying I don’t think I’ve ever talked about race on my personal blog ever. For a long time, I wouldn’t talk about race because I felt like if I did, I’d be acknowledging an obstacle, and to acknowledge an obstacle is to give it power. I didn’t want to give stereotypes, and some of the difficulties I’ve faced just being a black woman in America power. But for the sake of digging deeper into why I’ve come to feel the way I feel, I have to address it.
One observation I’ve made over the last few years, is that self-deprecation is really huge amongst my group of friends who are black. If you ask me, I know some of the most gorgeous, intelligent, ambitious and go-getting black women on the planet. Their resumes are packed with unbelievable achievements, their work purposeful and intentional, they give back, uplift others and give everything they have, even on the days that they feel like they have nothing. But yet, they constantly feel like they are not enough, they feel underpaid and under-appreciated, some even feel undesirable when they are the epitome of what men continue to say they want in a future life partner. And that saddens me because I know that the images that have been crafted of black women in the media has somewhat played a part in that, as well as biased reports and studies of the more educated and ambitious you are as a black woman, the least likely you are to get married.
I’ve run two platforms that had large African-American women audiences over the past 8 years and the comments I’ve read from my readers have been heartbreaking. One in particular was from a 14-year-old girl who commented under a post that featured the Lakers and their wives and she said, “I hate my skin. I hate that I was born black. Men don’t like black girls.” I scrolled up and realized she made that assumption because most of the players were celebrating with their wives that were white or of mixed race. From that day forward, I questioned what my role was as a black woman in media when it came to shaping the narrative for young black women who were reading my site every day. In a society where black women were being criticized and picked apart for everything from their hair texture, to the color of their skin, what was my role in all of this. That comment seeped deep in my conscious and it began my plight to find a way to turn my site into more of an empowering source for women of color, especially young African-American women. It was ultimately one of the reasons I eventually just closed the site down altogether.
Black women are incredibly stereotyped. People make assumptions about who we are, before allowing us the chance to prove who we are. When we speak up for ourselves we are labeled bossy, aggressive and confrontational. In relationships, when we refuse to be disrespected, cheated on or to settle for less, we are labeled “difficult.” When we work hard to provide for ourselves, we are considered “too independent.” I remember cringing inside as Tyrese told Jas Fly (in an interview for NecoleBitchie.com), “Women you are going to Independence your way into loneliness.”
There has been times I’ve attended functions with my white friends and I’ve found myself in uncomfortable situations where I should have spoken up for my people and myself as a black woman and I allowed myself to be silenced because I feared the “angry black woman” label. I’ve spent so much time dimming and dumbing myself down over the last few years, not only in dating, but in my professional life to prove I’m not some stereotype that I’ve somewhat lost myself in the process. And that’s where the root of my personal self-esteem issues lie. (Nevermind the constant work I have to do to prove to the world than I’m more than some gossip blogger, because that presents a whole other set of self-esteem issues that would be too long of a blog to address.)
Back in September, Gabrielle Union had a very in-depth interview with xoNecole, and she discussed the self-esteem issues she has encountered as a black woman. She traced the root back to never feeling completely validated for her beauty by her father:
When I was a senior at UCLA, I had just started modeling but no one was checking for me when it came to my body or my face. I have great parents, I have a great support system, I had a job, I’m educated but, at that time, I wanted nothing more than to be cast in the 2Pac “California Love” music video. I stood in line with girls I knew from USC, UCLA, Long Beach State–educated, Christian girls, we all waited in line, for our chance to dance in front of 2Pac and 25 of his closest friends because there was something about being chosen that was so intoxicating that we objectified ourselves and we were okay with it.
I always come back to that experience because my self-esteem was so low that all I wanted was to be chosen. [The thought was] if that person chooses me then I must be worthwhile.
For so many of us, we chase that and it isn’t necessarily just girls that weren’t raised with a father–my dad was there every day. Woke up, he was there, went to sleep, he was there. He told me positive affirmations but my dad never said I was pretty. ‘That’s a great crossover’, ‘Nice jump shot’, ‘You’re so smart,’ but I was never validated for my looks. My parents thought that was the best route because you don’t validate young black girls for their looks; you validate them for their achievements. Cut to me standing in a three-hour line waiting for my chance to objectify myself hoping to be chosen by 2Pac. And I see that played out every day. That longing for someone to validate you is exemplified all the time in reality TV, through social media, in schools and even in corporate America.
When I look back at the personal relationship I had with my parents, she’s absolutely right. Growing up I was never told I was beautiful. I can not recall one time my parents told me I was pretty or beautiful. I was told I was smart and talented, but never beautiful. The first time I heard the words “I love you,” I was 15 and it came from a guy. The first time I heard I was beautiful, it wasn’t from my parents or anyone in my family, it was from a man. So when you are a young woman and the first “I love you,” and “You are beautiful” comes from the opposite sex, you can find yourself on a path of looking for love and validation in the wrong places.
Recently, I date a man and it wasn’t until his childhood friends came into town that I found out that I was the first black girl they’d ever seen him with. The entire day, I heard them making comments such as, “Wait until I tell your mama! She’s going to be so proud,” and so forth. I finally got up the guts to addressing their reactions to me by asking him during a date night, “When is the last time you dated a black woman?” His response was, “I dated one in high school.” I said, “You are a 28-year-old black man, with a Master’s degree and are well into your career, you haven’t dated any black girls since then?” His response was, “Where I’m from, I just wasn’t attracted to them like that. They didn’t appeal to me.”
I didn’t even bother to ask, “why me, why now,” because in that moment I knew I was an exception. And I didn’t want to be anyone’s exception. In that moment, I realized that if I was to marry and reproduce with this guy, that it would be possible that we would have a black daughter, and I wasn’t confident that he was capable of telling our future child she was beautiful and that he loved her. It’s very important for women and men who become parents of young black girls, to remember to continue to remind them of how beautiful they are. Because if it doesn’t start at home, when she goes out in the world, it is very possible she is going to be told otherwise. That is why it’s more important than ever to protect, uplift and empower our young black girls, and the responsibility doesn’t just fall on parents and teachers, but also content creators, influencers and people in media who have the power to shift the narrative as well.
I know from that point forward, I made a vow to myself that I couldn’t date any man that made those type of comments about black women. I made the decision that I would never be the exception and that there had to be a more thorough vetting process to make sure that that man (no matter what race) absolutely had a love, admiration and respect for who I am not only as “Necole,” but as a black woman.
That is a non-negotiable.
To wrap this up, and go back to my self-deprecation point….I’m very aware of the moments when my self-love isn’t the strongest. I’m aware of the causes, the root and I’m currently working to fix them. It was very important on my journey of being my best self to learn to be mindful of the messages I tell myself daily, and if they are negative, I immediately work towards replacing them with positive affirmations.
“You are loved.”
“You are beautiful.”
“You are deserving of every opportunity that comes your way.”
I am also mindful of the messages I allow myself to consume. I currently avoid clicking on headlines that make hurtful, damaging assumptions about black women or women in general. I avoid following, retweeting, commenting or engaging with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts that promote that type of dialogue. I make sure the music I listen to, the books I read, and podcasts I download are all uplifting, and forward-thinking. I make sure my friends are positive and uplifting, and I hold them accountable when I hear them making the same excuses for themselves that are holding them back as I sometimes make for myself.
It’s a continuous process. Self-love and appreciating all of our beautiful and unique qualities that make us who we are as black women is a continuous process. I just hope that in dating, I can find someone that is patient and understanding enough to get to know me; my fears, my concerns, my desires versus some idea of me that they’ve fallen in love with just by watching me in an interview, reading a few articles on my blog or captions on my Instagram posts.
To even admit this in a blog is very big for me, because I’ve swept it under the rug for a long time. But it’s also part of me healing and wanting to be real to the people who look at me and may see some exceptionally confident and successful girl who has it altogether and the world at her finger tips. I looked at Gabrielle Union the same way, and to hear from her that she had similar self-esteem issues that she dealt with, it was confirmation to me that yes, it’s okay to feel this way, but you can’t let this define you. You also can’t allow labels, stereotypes, skin tones and all those boxes that people try to pigeon-hole you in to confine you. It’s suffocating, and you deserve more.
If you are a woman who deals with similar issues, remember to each day, take a little time to love on yourself. It’s very important. You have to learn to love all the bits and pieces of yourself that may be different and unique before someone else does. You have to also confront those weak parts of yourself, find out what the cause or underlying issues are, and work on those things in order to be stronger.
I’m most definitely on that journey now.
Files under: Work In Progress.
P.S. Sorry if my thoughts were all over the place. This is a random thoughts post.