The Other Side of Self-Care

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

maxresdefault

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.

tumblr_piji27bej41rsj4bw_400

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

tenor

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.

tenor-1

Maybe It’s You

I am sure we are all acquainted with the Golden Rule: “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” Our good friend Jesus spoke often on doing unto others as you want them to do unto you. Whether you are spiritual, religious, or neither, no one wants to be treated badly. You could be the guy who cuts people off on the highway, fails to use turn signals and drives recklessly, but as soon as someone rides your bumper, you’re furious. Humans have a tendency to be hypocritical when it comes to how we expect to be treated vs. how we treat others. For years now, I have been watching Kirk do Rasheeda wrong on Love and Hip Hop Atlanta (one of my guilty pleasures, don’t judge me), yet now he wants to fix his lips to be butthurt at the thought of her even considering entertaining another man. Why is it that we can never stomach the taste of our own medicine? So many of us subject others to pain that we would go to great lengths to avoid experiencing. To put it lightly, people suck. We use, abuse and manipulate those we claim to love and care for. This world would be all rainbows and butterflies if we could just abide by the simple logic of not being an a**hole. I remember in elementary we did a lengthy lesson on the Golden Rule, but if I could go back in time, I would have my teacher revise the lesson: “People are not going to treat you the way you would treat them.” It is unrealistic to expect everyone to have the same heart and moral compass as you. After all, we can’t control others; we are only in control of ourselves. When you allow yourself to be continually stepped on by trash people, you become at fault. Eventually, you have to stop complaining about people being mean to you and doing you wrong if you are going to keep giving them a free pass to do so. You’re not killing them with kindness, you’re just killing yourself.

tumblr_ooisgpjoah1uxm94to1_500

How About Some Accountability?

One of the easiest things to do is point the finger at other people when we need to be holding a mirror up to ourselves. We have already established that people are trash, but once you figure out that a new person in your life did not enter with good intentions, why do you keep them around? Are you waiting to see what lengths they will go to to make you miserable? Most people aren’t sadistic. They don’t purposely seek out weaklings to enact their evil plan upon. After all, most of the hurtful things people do to you do not have anything to do with you. People are selfish, and they do things that will bring them pleasure; you being hurt in the mix of it all is just emotional collateral damage. That doesn’t make the wound they’ve inflicted upon you hurt any less, that’s just the way it is. When people show you who they are, you have to believe tumblr_mqi3bjhmeb1qezwmho1_500them the first time. Sayings like that become cliche because they prove themselves to be true time and time again. If you choose to be Helen Keller to the b.s., you can’t get mad when your “best friend” keeps throwing shade at you behind your back or the new guy you’ve been dating pokes fun at your insecurities under the guise of a joke. Character flaws like that aren’t isolated incidents. They will only get worse, but your “good heart” always wants to see the best in people. When I was in college, I dated a guy who had two children.¬†Much to my dislike, he brought them over to my apartment with him one evening and left them there while he went on a “food run.” I was 19; spending my night with two young kids was not my idea of a good time. He stayed gone a good 3-4 hours. What did I say upon his return? Nothing! I’m sure you can guess what followed: this happened again and again until I put my foot down. We eventually broke up due to other reasons, but this is just an example of how if you let somebody slide once, they’ll start figure skating. I was getting mad at him when I should have been mentally slapping myself. Nothing will continue unless YOU allow it to. He took advantage of me because I would often just ignore things that would bother me or make empty threats. He knew I was all bark and no bite. Was it right for him to use me as a babysitter while he was running through the 206 with his woes? Absolutely not, but it was my responsibility to advocate for myself. You can’t hope for the best with people, then just shrug your shoulders when they don’t act how you had envisaged. If you remove yourself from the situations that cause you strife, guess what will happen? Life will improve! It isn’t magic, it’s common sense.

Check Your Energy

There is no harder pill to swallow than admitting you are the problem when it comes to the negative experiences that plague your life. It does not mean there is something wrong with you or that you need to change who you are. Everyone has flaws and we are all damaged in some way. Childhood traumas, adult traumas and unhealthy coping skills have an insidious way of clouding our positive energy. If you are not aware of your thinking, these traumatic experiences manifest into negative self-talk and negative views of ourselves. It is incredibly easy to put yourself down without even realizing you are doing it. A couple of years ago, I downloaded a book called “The Untethered Soul” (I highly recommend this piece of work). Until I picked up this godsend of a book, I did not realize how often I put myself down. I would call myself names, judge myself and dwell on negative thoughts. If I would go against my instincts and suffer the consequences because of it, I would think to myself “duh dummy” or “well that’s what you get for being stupid.” We truly are our own toughest critics. I finally realized I kept attracting and entertaining toxic people because I was marinating in my own toxic thoughts. giphy3
Science teaches us that like attracts like. If you are vibrating at a low frequency, you are going to attract others who are on a similar level. Everything is energy. It is not a coincidence that when you are happy, everyone else seems happier as well. It’s simple, really. Why would a man who is happy, secure and confident be attracted to someone who emits bad vibes? I didn’t understand why I couldn’t find anyone of quality. I was independent, college educated, attractive and doing quite well for my age. I looked good on paper, but inside I was a mess. Too much time was spent going into my outward appearance but I was neglecting my insides. Awareness is the only way out of a miserable mindset. The interesting thing was at the time, I did not feel totally miserable, but looking back, I was full of self-doubt. It is now in hindsight that I realize I was not all that happy. Like most people, I have had an array of bad experiences steal my joy. I am naturally a private person, so I just kept all my feelings to myself and went on with life. Avoidance is definitely not a healthy coping technique Pretending a problem does not exist will not make it go away, and not dealing with your issues jut causes them to fester, not diminish. Happiness is out there for you, but you can’t claim to want a joyous life yet spend all day ruminating in your self-inflicted sunken place. You’re confusing the universe. If you want to grow as a person, it is so important to take the time to become aware of how you view yourself.

Level Up

When people think of self-care, they think of massages, solo vacations and treating themselves to new clothes or other things to decorate the outer self. The harder part of self-care that people don’t often mention is having the discipline to do what’s best for yourself, even when it’s hard. You are specially made, and only those who appreciate your value deserve a place in your life. Once you tap into your reserve of inner power, it will become second nature to toss people to the curb who don’t live up to your expectations. What is most important is believing you are worthy. Whenever you catch yourself putting yourself down, pretend you have a little Viola Davis from The Help on your shoulder reminding you that you are kind, smart and important. Tell yourself this everyday. Look in the mirror and repeat that you love yourself 15x a day if that’s what you need to do. You will eventually start to believe it and you will begin to wonder why you allowed people to A-Town Stomp all over you for so long. Don’t be afraid to say no. giphy4Don’t be afraid to tell people to Beat It. Why are you scared to be without people you have only known for a small fraction of your life? In the wise words of Drake, you gotta be nice for what? I promise you the sun will rise tomorrow and you will continue to breathe. There have been men I really liked and I hated to show them the door, but I knew it was for the best. Those yellow flags would have quickly turned red, and it is much harder to cut ties from people once you’ve allowed dick and time to have you more invested than you should have ever been. People are going to be mean. They are going to be inconsiderate and a multitude of other undesirable things, but it is your responsibility to keep yourself safe from their nastiness. You can’t protect yourself if you are not solid in who you are. If you keep getting mixed up in bad friendships and relationships, take some time alone to figure out who is the common denominator in all of the chaos. You can’t grow if you are never taking time to be with you and only you. Growth comes from self-reflection and taking accountability for your decisions, good and bad. Treating other people well is great, but don’t let it come at such a price that you fail to treat yourself how you deserve to be treated, and a large part of self-care is being selective with who you grant a seat at your table.