Being the best version of ourselves is a movement that has been gaining popularity over the past few years. Everywhere I look there are articles and advertisements for Yoga and Meditation, reducing your screen time, and Keto diets. I’m sure you can think of a few more examples. Therapy is also becoming normalized, and I am thrilled to see my generation is breaking down this taboo in the Black community. You are not crazy because you go and talk to an unbiased professional every few weeks. In fact, we could all benefit from it. Adulthood is busy and stressful, and we all would be happier if we’d take more time to do things we enjoy. I personally love sitting down on the couch in my Snuggie with a glass of wine and tuning in to one of my favorite shows or grabbing a book. I am trying to stay away from Retail Therapy as a form of relaxation, but this is a process, don’t judge me. I’ve also been wanting to get outside more to enjoy nature. Apparently enjoying the outdoors improves short-term memory, relieves stress and eliminates fatigue, among other things. The great outdoors may not be your jam, but no matter how you choose to indulge yourself, it is important to remember that self-care also involves tough love. I mean how can you possibly take care of yourself if you also are not protecting your peace of mind? Sure, bubble baths are lit, but you can’t neglect what’s happening on the inside of you and how you are allowing yourself to be treated by the people in your life. I didn’t realize that this was a form of self love until I started to look at my life objectively. I love my family dearly, and if I saw them accepting less than they deserve, whether it be from outsiders or of their own accord, I would encourage them to do better. So why not apply this mentality to myself? I have been thinking about this a lot lately, hence this post. I wanted to throw out a few self-care tactics that are not always as carefree as a massage or Paint & Sip, but necessary and beneficial to your life over the long-term.
Dead End Friendships
Sometimes, “friends” just gotta go. Do they have to do something wrong or hurt you? Not necessarily, but they should add value to your life and not just be there hanging around. We humans tend to hold on to people and things just out of habit and comfort, not taking the time to consider whether or not these people deserve to be in our space. As we get older, I think it’s important to take the time to analyze our friendships. This is especially important to consider when you have friends you’ve known since your teens or college years. I am not the same person I was at 17, 20 or 24. Your friends may have evolved as well or remained the same, the latter being problematic. You are now more self-aware, mature and ambitious while your best friend from high school is still in the mindset you had at 21. Everyone is different and has their own journey to make in life, but you may find you just don’t relate anymore. You’re shaking the table and making moves while your bestie is still living a drama filled life with no direction. What do you even have to talk about at this point? I love laughing about Reality TV as much as the next person, but after the show is over, what’s the next topic? I want friends who posses similar interests and values as me, not just people to club and go shopping with. Do your friends hold themselves accountable, or place blame on the Big Bad World for why their life isn’t going as planned? That is probably my #1 Pet Peeve when it comes to friends. No matter where you are in life, good, bad or in-between, you are there because of YOU and YOU ALONE. This is a concept that can take awhile to sink into a lot of people’s minds. I’ve had this talk with one prior friend who constantly complained about where she is in life. As a fully grown woman, you eventually have to stop blaming your parents and that one teacher in 6th grade who told you that you would never amount to anything. The cycle continued with her:
Express desire to change —> Make more senseless decisions —> Complain about how her life sucks—> Repeat
I eventually had to distance myself. I didn’t want to because she is a good person, but I couldn’t use history as an excuse to keep someone in my life who was only using me as a sounding board and life coach. I realized the friendship was more one-sided than I wanted to admit. The majority of our conversations consisted of me listening to her recount stories of her acting a fool, followed by pep talks a few days later when she realized she was just doing the same things over again but with different people and places. There wasn’t much substance to our interactions, and we rarely spoke about what was going on in my life. Don’t become the Iyanla Vanzant in your friendships. If you want someone to help you fix your life, seek therapy. It’s not fair and friendships should be based on reciprocity, mutual support and integrity. The Bible mentions cutting off branches that bear no fruit, and that same logic applies to friendships. You’ve gotta go if you’re here serving no purpose.
Being Grateful For The Little Things
No matter how good or bad your life is, always be thankful. You would be surprised at how expressing gratitude for the little things in your life can make you happy. We tend to focus on where we wish we were or the things we wish we had and take for granted what we currently do have. I’ve read so many snippets of things that say no matter what you’re doing, take just a moment to name what you are grateful for. I did this and reminded myself that I may not own a home, have a fancy car or a loaded bank account, but I do have a strong support system, a place to call home, a comfortable bed to sleep in, even toothpaste to brush my teeth. Remembering that there are people out there who would love to drive what you call a hoopty is humbling. I complain about waking up early for work when I should be happy I am awake to see another day with a great job to go to. I noticed when I started listing what I am grateful for, one thing started branching out to another. After I said I was happy to have an apartment, it snowballed into having a great roommate in my little sister, to having electricity and running water, to a comfortable couch and a refrigerator full of food. I could have gone on and on. By the end of this exercise, I realized how unappreciative and entitled I act.
It may sound cliche to mention how there are people starving in the world and cold every night, but it really does put things in perspective. Having a bad day? Refuse to allow yourself to wallow in it. Negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts, and before you know it, you’re feeling worse. Choose differently next time. It isn’t second nature, but with effort you can train your brain to see the good in even the worst days or situations. Your life may not be where you want it to be, you may have failed countless times or are just generally unhappy, and being told to “be grateful” may sound insensitive and devoid of empathy. This isn’t an attempt to be dismissive, but instead a reminder that if you cannot appreciate the small but positive things in your life, chances are that you may be unable to appreciate the big ones as well. If you’re living in a negative state of mind, take just a few minutes each day to write down the things you are grateful for. I guarantee you will see a change.
Say ‘NO’ More Often
‘No‘ may be the most important word in the English language. It is a word of power. The ability to choose what is right for us gives us autonomy, yet people everyday compromise their own wants and needs to appease others. As social creatures, we don’t want to risk breaking bonds by being displeasing and denying people what they ask of us. We all have numerous stories of times we would have rather eaten glass than attended that work function or get together, but trudged along anyway. Or better yet, we say ‘Yes’ in the moment, knowing fully well we want to say absolutely not, then flake later. Why do we make life harder for ourselves? One of my goals for 2019 is to cut out this toxic behavior. I deserve better. When it comes to work, friends, and acquaintances, if my spirit isn’t feeling it, I will be declining. All this boils down to is creating boundaries for yourself. Sure, I can make a few allowances for family and whomever else I feel deserves it, but I am no longer being a slave to my fear of letting people down. The world won’t stop spinning because you said no to that baby shower invitation. You don’t have to be rude or even give a reason, it’s none of their business why you said you can’t make it. People may get pushy, but you have to stand your ground. I used to be that person who was afraid of hurting people’s feelings, so I would usually cave in to their pleads. Who ended up being the one mentally suffering? Me. Life is stressful enough due to the things outside our control, so why add to your already overflowing plate? Take your power back. Choosing what is right for you is arguably the most important form of self care. You can’t neglect your happiness to please others. Just find the fine line between being a selfish jerk and doing what is right for you in the moment. By being honest about what you will and will not do or tolerate, you teach people what they can expect from you. If you are unsure how you want to proceed when first asked, tell the individual you need time to consider and will get back to them. It is equally important to follow up when saying no as it is when saying yes. Now you’ve acted with integrity and made the choice that is right for you. The first time I was honest and direct about saying no, I realized it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and I felt absolutely zero guilt. I was invited to a birthday gathering for a co-worker. It was one of those situations where you feel like you’re low key expected to be there, but it wasn’t a requirement. I personally hate these types of situations, but in the past I would grin and bear it or fake some type of emergency the day of, my anxiety building as the event got closer and closer. That’s just silly. It’s my life, and I can spend my time any way I choose to. No more flaking and no more faking. Take care of yourself. If you don’t want to attend, participate, allow yourself to be overworked, etc., say No! Your mind and body will thank you for it later.