The Seasonal Self-Care Survival Guide: Digital Workbook was specially created for the Fall + Winter seasons. Anaston J. Scott, J.D. wanted to create a resource for those who might be experiencing seasonal mood changes; however, this digital workbook will help anyone who wants to focus attention on their self-care practice. Your electronic PDF will be emailed to you within twenty four (24) hours of purchase.
Seasonal mood changes are definitely a “thing”, beloved. This digital workbook will help you navigate those changes + implement activities into your self-care practice that will leave you feeling well taken care of.
Anaston walks you through the steps you need to take to adequately take care of yourself this season. This digital workbook includes 30+ pages of helpful insight, therapeutic writing exercises and activities that will help you make self-care your lifestyle.
(This blog post was originally written in January of 2020, and due to a lot of life happening I did not post it on time. I decided to keep this post pretty much in original form, with a few revisions. The words still hold true, even in April.)
Now that 2019 has come to a close, I am beyond excited about the fresh start that 2020 will bring. Beginning a new year + a new decade feels like the start of something new, would you not agree? But in order to make room for the new things, you have to walk away from the old.
If you are like me, you probably had to let a lot go to close out the year. Despite whatever cliches people claim they do not follow, I always use the end of a year as an opportunity to shed things that are no longer serving me. Be it clothes, shoes, food, or even relationships, it all has to go!
2019 was a rather strange year for me in terms of my relationships with others. I suffered a lot of unexpected loss, honestly. My uncle passed in April, which set a series of events in motion that changed me tremendously and set my world on fire. You see, family has always been very important to me, but my family environment had become very toxic. (I know this is a term that has been so overwhelmingly used in 2019, so bare with me.) In addition to the usual, run of the mill family issues, we were sweeping some deep rooted issues under the rug. The rug was so lifted off the ground because of all of the chaos swept under it, that I finally reached my breaking point.
So I broke. As a result, so did a few of my non-familial relationships. During a time when I needed people the most, the ones I thought I could count on were no where to be found. And when the dust settled, I was met with a lack of empathy + a ton of dislike that had been hidden for so long.
So, I had to sit down and have a conversation with myself about how I wanted to navigate relationships moving forward. Just because things did not work out with a few people did not mean that I could risk abandoning ship and leaving friendships in the wind forever. So, I traded in my old way of doing things, and I learned what I need to do differently. I had to come to terms with the fact that I needed to let some things, and some people, go…for real this time.
The biggest lesson I have learned is that sometimes a door needs to stay closed, no matter who is knocking. I am the queen of second, and third, and fourth chances. I will forgive people and let them right back into my life no matter what wrong has been done. I try to give others the same grace I would want myself, so it is hard for me to stop letting people circle back around. The circle back does not serve me though. Nine times out of ten the relationship continues to display the same patterns as before, and someone ends up hurt. (Mostly me.) On the other hand, I too need to end the “circle back.” I will go searching for people I have not talked to in years to try to rekindle + rebuild something that is dead and gone. But why? Why do I have such a hard time letting go? I am still figuring this out, but I know sometimes I need to be left alone and leave others alone too.
If you never called, never sent a text, never showed up, would you still be friends? This is a hard pill to swallow, too. But I really do not think it’s fair to be the only person putting forth effort in any relationship. The level of effort may change, there will be give and take, but if someone is putting forth no effort at all…you know everything you need to know. Test it out. If you stop texting or calling a person first and you never hear from them again, you might want to keep it that way.
You can tell the story without tainting the characters. This one pretty much speaks for itself, right? Expressing how you feel about a person or a situation that occurred with said person does not have to diminish or defile their character. They are allowed to still be a good person, a good friend, good at what they do, etc. In the same breath, you can, in fact, tell the facts of a story without remotely getting your feelings involved. Let people decide for themselves, beloved. When you talk about a person enough, you start to influence how other people view them and feel about them. Now all of a sudden your venting session has ignited animosity within another person who has nothing to do with the situation at hand. It is hard to keep a neutral party, when only one side of the story is being told, and it is negative. Being on the receiving end of this has taught me to also be careful with who I talk to about an issue or challenge with someone else. Intermingling separate relationships like that can be a recipe for disaster. Most of the time it really is no one else’s business but you + the other person involved. So I check myself before I start telling someone a “story” and ask myself “what is your end goal?.” If I just want to be heard, I probably need to save the conversation for my therapist.
Everyone has their version of the same story, but the truth will always come to light. I am learning to stop defending myself when it comes to the things other people have to say about me, and man, this is hard. Although I am far from perfect and find myself making mistakes, it bothers me when people try to paint a false narrative about me. I honestly think it would bother anyone who is human. After defending myself and my character over so many years, it has become exhausting. People are going to believe what they want to anyways, so why waste the time trying to convince them otherwise?
Ask for what you need. As great of a communicator that I think I am, I have realized that I tend to hold a lot inside. This is mostly because I process things emotionally a lot quicker than others, and it is often hard for me to communicate with people who choose not to address their own emotions. I will let many small things turn into big things and eventually air out all of my grievances, leaving the other person confused. I have adopted some passive aggressive behaviors that I am beginning to notice and address. In order to receive what I require of the relationships in my life, I have to express those needs.
Learn your people’s love languages. I started sending my friends the quiz to find out what their love languages are. I know that I can be a great friend, but if I am not loving someone how they need, it really does not matter how great I think I am. I want to make sure that I really am living up to the “great friend” standard, so I am working on paying more attention to what others say they need from me and being okay with doing just that. I think I try to love people how I want to be loved or how I think they should be loved, and over time I have realized this is quite counter productive.
Speaking of love languages and needs, it is okay to teach people. I have talked about this concept on both Twitter and Instagram—society has convinced us that we are above teaching people how to love us and how to be there for us. This train of thinking destructs relationships before they even begin. People do not have the blueprint for you when the first meet you. They do not know what you need. You have to show them and give them the opportunity to rise to the occasion. This also means that you have to know what you need, but that is a conversation for a later time…
Forfeit the battle to win the war. Sometimes it just is not worth it, okay? I have had many minor issues with friends that caused the end of a relationship when things could have gone differently. You have to decide what is important—the relationship itself or being right? It may be better to agree to disagree than throw away a forever friend over a temporary situation or disagreement. Losing my uncle affirmed for me that life really is short, and some things just do not matter in the grand scheme of things.
So I am sitting down with myself + the people (figuratively) who have to go. I am being honest, vulnerable, and direct. I am taking ownership for my mistakes and wrong doings and I am saying goodbye. Because the truth is, although I let a lot of the wrong people get too comfortable with me in 2019, I really got too comfortable with myself. I am making those necessary corrections now, shout out to Rob Hill Sr.
What, or who, are you sitting down with? Part II of this blog post will discuss the habits + lifestyle practices that I assessed closing out the year and the changes I needed to make. It is healthy to check in with yourself + your relationships when entering into a new phase of life. While you can use the fresh start as a chance to do things differently, do not be afraid to make those changes at any time. A fresh start can be a new hour, new year, new decade.
So it’s almost the end of 2019, & we are still riding the self-care wave. When I first started writing about self-care back in 2016, I was hoping taking care of yourSELF would become more than just a trend–deep down, I wanted to start a movement. I wanted to inspire others to end self-neglect and start taking care of their “Star Player.”
I’m not sure where we have landed, but I feel like an update on my self-care sentiments is necessary.
Before we start to dig deep though, let’s clear one thing up—self-care is anything that you do to take care of yourSELF. It is that simple, beloved. Whatever refuels you, makes you feel good, tends to your needs, is self-care. Self-care is, quite simply, what you make it.
With that being said, it is also important to note that self-care is not always going to look the same. Think of self-care as a journey and not a specific destination. On Monday you might need one thing, and by the end of the week you might need something else. That is okay. The only “finish line” is to maintain a healthy self-care routine–you should always be well taken care of.
I have an issue with posts that tell people that self-care is not “this” or “that”, when whatever aforementioned activity actually could be self-care for that person, at that time.
For example, I always see quotes, memes, etc. on social media that say “self-care is not bubble baths, massages, shopping trips…” Who came up with that rule? Why are bubble baths not self-care? You mean to tell me a massage is not taking care of myself? A shopping trip cannot make me feel better? Eh, I have to disagree with that one.
I recently became a homeowner and have spent the last few weeks moving items from my apartment to my new home. Eek! Outside of the mental stress I experienced during the home buying process, my body has been under a lot of physical stress from the move. I have been lifting heavy objects, organizing, spending a lot of time sitting down or on my feet, etc. My body is tired. Since I am in a brand new home, where no one has ever been in the bathtubs, I decided that I would take a bubble bath for the first time in years. Here’s what that bubble bath taught me:
Bubble baths are, in fact, self-care.
1. There are mental + physical benefits of taking a bubble bath.
Bubble baths are a great way to relax. Studies show that bubble baths promote muscle relaxation, release tension, and increase blood flow. This relaxation combined with the warm water is a recipe for a great night’s sleep. Because our bodies decrease in temperature while we sleep, a warm bath helps increase that drop in temperature. This helps produce melatonin and should make resting a lot easier. Speaking of warm water, bubble baths can make you sweat. If you need a detox, why not use your body’s own natural process? If you soak in hot enough water, your body will begin to sweat, which happens to be great for your lymphatic system. Bubble baths produce serotonin, which is the brain chemical associated with happiness. A nice soak allows your brain to decompress and relax after a long, thought-filled day.
If you’re looking for more information on the health benefits a bubble bath can provide, check out this article I read from Shape here.
2. You only get one body + eventually she will get tired.
I did not realize how depleted I was until I laid back in that bathtub. My body was aching and I had little to no energy. All I could do was just sit there. When I first started the moving process, I thought I was Super Woman. I was lifting + carrying some of the heaviest items, making multiple trips up and down the hallway and stairs (multiple flights of stairs, and multiple trips thanks to the crappy elevator at the apartment complex where I lived. That is another story for a different day though), and sleeping on an air mattress (I wanted to move all of the small things first and then had to wait two weeks to move my bed, thanks to that same crappy elevator). Eventually, all of this caught up to my body. My back was hurting, my legs + arms were sore, and I was exhausted. In hind sight, I should have taken more time to rest. I should have soaked in the bathtub more and allowed my body to recuperate after putting so much pressure on it. I am happy that I was able to physically do all that I did though, my body really made me proud.
3. Just breathe.
While taking the first bubble bath in my new bathtub, I almost passed out…I am being a bit dramatic, but the water was literally so hot that I could not breathe. I had to get out of the tub and grab my water bottle just to be able to enjoy the bubble bath.
If I could count how many melt downs and crying spells I had during the home buying + moving process, I would not have enough fingers to count on. This was an extremely emotional, stressful, nerve-wrecking process. There were so many moments where I felt defeated, was angry, and wanted to give up. I literally had to tell myself to breathe just to move through whatever challenge I was facing. This experience served as a lesson that I just need to breathe + trust God. It all works out in the end.
Still think bubble baths are not self-care? Then don’t take my word for it, try it for yourSELF. My bubble bath recipe includes my favorite bubble bath soap/body wash + epsom salt + a candle lit bathroom + a glass of water + some meditative music. Combine all of that and you will have the ultimate self-care practice.
What is your favorite self-care practice? I challenge you to spend some time doing that today. Think about whatever makes you feel the best, and do it. Simple as that.
“If you’re committed to being your best self, being in tune with your body, your mind, & your spirit, then it’s time you start your own self-care journey.” x Anaston Jeni
I have been working on a self-care activity for my coaching clients called “the emotional suitcase.” I was first introduced to this concept by Alex Elle and decided to adapt it not only for my clients, but also for myself.
If you were unaware, I am here to tell you: life can be challenging. As we journey through our own personal experiences, trauma and emotions tend to follow. We start to carry “things” around with us that shape who we are, how we feel, and how we navigate being. These emotions get stuffed into our emotional suitcase and start to take up room. Unless we intentionally unpack and evaluate what we are carrying around, we end up not having room for other emotions that we may need to carry. Before you know it, your suitcase is full. Maybe you have added another suitcase, and another suitcase, and now you are carrying around all this “stuff.”
Think of this concept like this–when you travel, you pack items according to where you are going and maybe who you are going with. When you return from your trip, you unpack so your suitcase is ready for the next adventure. So why not unpack emotions the same way? In order to live life as the best version of yourself, you have to consistently unpack & pack the suitcase.
While working on this activity and reflecting on my own suitcase, I realized that sometimes other people try to pack my suitcase for me. This is not healthy, by the way. If you let someone else pack for you before you go on a trip, is it not likely that they will forget something you need or pack the wrong items altogether?
In life, when other people try to pack your suitcase for you this often looks like someone trying to influence how you feel. They may try to explicitly tell you how you should feel or express how they feel so much that now their energy has spilled over into yours.
For example, there may be a shared experience that I am not stressed or worried about, but after talking to a person about the same experience, I am now stressed and worried just because they are. They have now packed an emotion in my suitcase, and I am stuck carrying it.
Moment of transparency: I have opened my emotional suitcase and am looking at all the emotions I have been carrying around. The biggest, and heaviest, is resentment. Resentment is defined as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.” Now, do not get me wrong, I am not a bitter person; however, I do recognize that there are some bitter feelings regarding some of the relationships in my life. This prevents me from moving forward with people at times, despite having worked through whatever issues we had previously faced. It also makes it hard for me to see them in a different light, because I am reminded of how I was treated. I recognize that I need to work on this, though, because I do not want anyone harboring resentment against me. But more importantly, I do not want to be bitter in any form or fashion.
Not every emotion in your suitcase has to be negative. There are positive emotions that can be packed, and it is imperative that you make room for these as well. That is why the consistent unpacking process is so valuable. Once you unpack everything you need to be able to pack emotions that will better serve you.
Personally, peace is an example of a positive emotion that has been tucked away in my suitcase. I say tucked away because it is not something that I have always packed and it took me time to recognize that it was even there. Even though I still experience anxiety and stress, it is a lot easier for me to have peace because I am making an effort to remain calm. Things always work out according to God’s plan in the end, so it does help the journey if I am not as worried or fearful.
What is in your emotional suitcase? Stress, anxiety, grief, or anger may be taking up space. You might be surprised and find love, joy, and understanding in there too. If this concept is new to you, it is time to do some work. Set some time in your schedule so that you can truly pay attention to this activity. You owe it to yourself. Life will always have ups and downs, but if you pack what you need, you will always be prepared for the ride.
“Bag lady, you gon’ hurt your back, dragging all them bags like that…One day, all them bags gon’ get in your way.” x Erykah Badu
I have been working on my morning routine for at least the last three years. Why? Because I loathe having a routine, and I am absolutely not a morning person.
Sure, we do the same, basic tasks every morning–wash our face, brush our teeth, get dressed, etc. This is, at the most basic level, a morning routine. So, I figured it would be easy to create a morning routine for myself; however, I wanted to choose activities that would actually make an impact on my day. For most of us, our day starts bright and early, so it is important to spend those first couple of hours after you wake to set the tone for a quality day.
To keep my morning routine simple, I have chosen three activities that I need to practice in order to start my day the right way.
1. Make my bed
I am sure you have heard that completing this simple task can have a positive affect on your day. Our parents made sure we made our beds daily as children, but I wonder did they know how beneficial this task truly is. Naval Admiral William McRaven gave a speech at The University of Texas at Austin back in 2014 where he explained that making your bed sets the tone for your day. Accomplishing the first task of the day allows you to enter into a space of productivity and makes it easier to accomplish other tasks throughout the day. When I make my bed in the morning it gives me confidence that I can tackle whatever else comes at me during the day, and it also gives me a peace of mind from my OCD. If my bed is made my room feels that much more clean and organized. This starts my day off calmly, and I feel grounded in the space where I spend much of my time. This small act, which only takes a minimal amount of time, is critical in my commitment to taking care of myself.
2. Meditate + Pray
Before I even place my feet on the carpet, I thank God for waking me up and blessing me with a new day. I ask Him to cover me, my loved ones and others, as we travel to and from different destinations and interact with different people. I talk to Him about my worries and the challenges I might encounter that day. I also read a devotional to ensure I am getting some time to interact with His Word. I really try to be intentional about spending time with God at the beginning of each day, because I know it is important to both Him and me. If I give my day to Him, I know He will be there with me every step of the way.
Meditating is always great after a good prayer! I discuss the benefits of meditation in a previous post, and you can read it here: Self Care ’17.Honestly, I am still working on being consistent with this part of my practice, so I aim for at least five minutes in the morning before I leave my apartment. As someone who experiences anxiety, this really helps me feel grounded as well, and gives me a sense of calmness before my day fully begins.
This is a new morning activity for me that has been challenging to implement. I have been reading this workbook called The Artist’s Way, and it talks about developing a “morning pages” practice. It suggests that you spend a little time every morning and write three pages of whatever comes to mind. This is supposed to free up space in your mind for all of the important things you have to spend mental energy on, and it is supposed to help spark creativity. It is hard to be consistent with this practice when I wake up late or do not have a lot of time to get ready, but I am dedicated to making the commitment to myself. As a creative and someone who expresses herself through writing, I know it can be beneficial for me daily and long term.
I also talk about the benefits of journaling in general in the post linked above.
What do you need to do in the morning to start your day? A quick, hot shower, a face mask or a facial massage, or listening to a podcast are a few suggestions that you may want to try. Hitting the gym, doing yoga, or talking to a loved one are great activities, too. Like I always say, do what works best for you! Ask yourself what you need and implement activities that will help you put your best foot forward.
Whatever the day is for, the foundation is laid in the morning. x Anaston Jeni
This is a printable PDF guide created by Anaston J. Scott, J.D. for those interested in self-care. Your copy will be emailed to you within twenty four (24) hours of purchase.
Anaston J. Scott J.D. created this toolkit with you in mind. This printable PDF guide is for anyone who values taking care of themselves. If you are ready to start doing the work, you have taken the first step! Spend some time “with self” and make self-care a part of your lifestyle.
The Toolkit defines what self•care is, provides detailed steps on building your self•care practice, and includes exercises/activities to aid you in doing the work.
“Journaling has been a staple in my self-care routine before I knew that “self-care” was a concept. As my self-care practices have changed over the years, it has become more of a necessary and cherished activity. I have always enjoyed writing, in general, but using writing as a tool of emotional expression has allowed me to reach a level of intimacy with myself that I have always yearned for. Writing has allowed me to dig deep and really get to know who I am.”
Want more? Click hereto read the rest of this article in collaboration with Atiya Bloom of The Bloom Blog.
I am so excited to share my first official feature as a guest blogger on the Millennial Insights Blog. I have been creating content for a few years now, both for myself and for other brands, but this is my first writing opportunity where I received any “credit”. I am so grateful that Evan and Tariq saw fit to extend this opportunity to me! If you are interested in what three factors I believe contribute to a quality employee experience, click the link below.
“So you know how on one of your Sister Talks Podcast episodes you said ‘I’m the girl before the marriage’ or whatever? It was in reference to all of your exes getting serious with the next person they found. Well, that is not necessarily a bad thing, sis. That means that you know how to help coach a boy to be a man. But the day will come that you will meet a man that does not need to be coached–I am talking about a man that is already everything you need because God has made him just for you. Do not get discouraged because all things work for the good of those who love the Lord, and sometimes God has to take a little more time on the blessings that are for the believers with favor.”
On an episode of the podcast I formerly co-hosted with my best friend/sister Alexandria, we discussed everything related to relationships. If you are interested in listening to that episode, it is still available for your listening pleasure here. In that episode, we each gave an account of what our dating life was like in the past, and I titled mine “The Girl Before the Girlfriend” or “The One That Got Away”. We recorded this episode at the beginning of 2018, and I honestly had to go back and listen to it again to see what my narrative was then in order to compare it to what it is now.
So what is the “girl before the girlfriend”, exactly? It is literally what it sounds like. Majority of my dating experience has been encounters with men who claimed they were not interested in or ready for a relationship, but shortly after our “situation” concluded (and sometimes during) they ended up in a relationship. Even as far back as high school I have literally been building men for other women. That is not a task I wanted to take on nor is it my responsibility, but it is the role I have allowed myself to play.
I have attracted males who were right on the brink of their next phase of life, males who were broken, and males who were not yet whole. Essentially, males who were lost. I opened myself and my heart and put forth my best effort to add value to them in whatever way was needed at the time. I journeyed with them from “not ready” to “ready”, but unfortunately for me this resulted in someone else reaping the benefits of my effort. They were ready, but not with me. It caused me to believe that there was something wrong with me and that I had to be doing something wrong.
So you must be wondering if this happened to me again? Surprise! Yes beloved, it did. The storyline of what happened is far less important than the lessons I learned this time, so we will focus on that and leave the rest where it is at. So the quote at the beginning of this post came in the version of a text message from my sorority sister and dear friend Shaquila. It came shortly after the situation referred to above, and it was right on time. It honestly gave me the courage to get back out into the dating world and try again.
Moment of transparency: I will admit that this situation shook me to the core. I have had my heart broken twice before, and I definitely coin this as the third. A part of me still cannot believe that here I am, again, singing the same sad song. I have questioned my self-worth over and over again, trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Am I crazy? Am I not attractive? What am I lacking? What do these other women have that I do not? It has taken a lot of emotional work to get back to a healthy, whole place. The journey is not easy, but I owe it to myself to do the work.
The biggest lesson I have learned as a result of this last experience is acceptance. I was faced with two options: either accept what type of lover I am or change who I am. I decided to go with acceptance and this has helped me tremendously. I recognize what role I have played in each relationship. I have an “all-in” approach when it comes to my relationships with other people, and I exhaust every option before I walk away. This is just who I am, and I believe this quality will make me a great partner to someone one day. I have also accepted that this approach can cause me to get hurt. Recognizing this allows me to focus my energy on how to either lessen that hurt or find ways to work through and process it better.
Next lesson: I have let go of all the rules. Society is great at telling you what a relationship should be, look, and feel like. Instagram is full of relationship experts, and you can find at least three love gurus on Twitter. Even celebrity couples will have you creating ideas and idolizing their love stories. I am no longer interested in all of that. When I am blessed with a relationship my partner and I will do whatever works for us. Focusing on what “they” say is stressful and can cause you to miss out on your blessing or deal with things that are less than you deserve.
In closing, I have learned what I want in a partner. I mean, I really know. In the past I have always had a great idea about what I was looking for, I have prayed for the type of man I want, etc. But now there is a certain conviction in my spirit and I know for sure. Refer to 1 Corinthians 13. Read the whole chapter, but verse 4 tells you what love is. I want someone who embodies all of those things. If I cannot read your name in place of the word “love” in those verses, you are not the person for me. It took me a long time to truly figure this out. In the past my therapist asked me what I want in a partner, and I could only tell her what I knew I did not want. I could never exactly verbalize anything positive. I think I was making it more complicated than I needed to. Now it is pretty simple.
Moment of transparency: One of the lowest moments in my dating life was allowing someone to stand in front of me and tell me how they did not want me. Repeatedly. And instead of walking away, I stayed and begged this person to see me. To give me a chance. To love me. I have never felt more vulnerable or small than I did in those moments. I wish I would have recognized then that the person was not my 1 Corinthians 13 and that the conversation was full of everything but love.
So here I am, still “The Girl Before the Girlfriend”, but I know this is not the life God has for me. Like Shaquila said, God has a man created just for me. A man who will see my worth from the very beginning. A man that I may have to teach a few things, but he will be a man on his own. A man that will feel like home. Love was my word for 2017 and is my word for 2018, so I am not giving up.
What is your love story? Take some time to reflect on your relationships. Focus on what they have taught you and how they have made you better. Look at how far you’ve come, regardless of your relationship status. If you are one of those people who feel like they are not “ready” for a relationship, consider this concept I talk about in the podcast episode.
In Wale’s “The Matrimony” featuring Usher, the song starts out with a dialogue about how regardless of the plans you make, you cannot truly be “ready” for marriage because it requires you to grow. As with any growth, you cannot be ready for it, because it is new. You change and become someone new. Marriage is a stage of a relationship right? Right. So the same logic applies, beloved. The right relationships will cause you to grow, whether you think you are ready or not. You cannot say “wait God, no no. I am not ready to grow.” It just happens. You can spend your whole life planning, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and go for it. Leave the excuses behind, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.
Disclaimer: Do not get into a relationship if you have no intention of doing right by the other person. I do believe there is a necessary mental state to be in before you start dating, so please don’t “be” out here playing games. You know if you are in the right frame of mind to engage with other people. My advice is to those who think they have to have “x, y, and z” in order before they can be open to dating.
“How lit would it be to have someone to do life with?” x Anaston Jeni
A couple of weekends ago I finally watched Nappily Ever After, & boy did it strike a nerve! It is amazing how a movie can put so many things into perspective that you thought you had dealt with or had forgotten about.
I have been extremely hard on myself lately, especially when it comes to my physical appearance. What’s funny is that I thought I had outgrown this phase—I was sure that I had reached a place where I was confident in the way I look. Now, do not get me wrong, I have been feeling rather “pretty” lately. I have been wearing less makeup, pulling my hair back more, taking the time to dress myself up, etc…but at the core, there are still insecurities there that have been buried under the surface.
So, if you have not seen Nappily Ever After, you should. I will not spend this post telling you about the story line, but I can say that I related to the main character in a plethora ways—mainly her desire to maintain this “ideal” aesthetic.
I went through the phase with my hair where I wanted nothing but “sleek” looks. If my hair was not flat-ironed or roller-set, I did not feel pretty. Wearing my natural hair just did not “do it” for me, and deep down I knew I had to make a change. I believe I cracked the surface of this issue by deciding to go natural my junior year of high school, but the real work of loving my natural hair has been done over the last few years. I feel a sense of pride knowing that I have taken care of my hair well enough to not only restore it to a healthy state, but to also maintain it’s health in the midst of color changes and various styles over the years. I now have an appreciation for the hair that has grown out of my own scalp, hair that has taught me patience and perseverance. I chose to transition as opposed to doing a big chop, because I wanted to “force” myself to appreciate the present and to learn how to deal with things as they are. I decided a big chop/cutting all of my hair off was not necessary for me to love myself. There are so many beautiful women who have been taking this step lately, and I commend them for it; however, I choose to stay true to myself and do what works for me.
Like the main character in Nappily, it actually causes me stress and anxiety when I wear my hair roller-set or flat-ironed. I find myself constantly checking the weather—especially to figure out the humidity levels for the day and week. Wearing my hair natural allows me to be free from worry. It could rain, snow, or be hot and sunny—my hair would be just fine. That is the type of freedom that I long for.
I also went through this phase with my weight. I talk about my weight journey in a previous post—you can read it here. As I have gotten older, (especially within the last year or two) I have realized the importance of being physically strong over trying to look a certain way. Fun fact: I have minimal upper body strength. This lack of strength has contributed to terrible posture in my shoulders and tons of knots, which cause me to feel tense ninety percent of the time. To combat this constant state of uncomfortableness I get massages at least monthly and previously saw a physical therapist. She was the one who informed me that the knots would go away the more I build up the strength in those muscles. So, I recently hired a personal trainer to help me build the strength my body so desperately needs. In the end, I would rather have a body that is strong than look a certain way and not be healthy.
After watching the movie, I felt this immense desire of wanting to feel beautiful. So, I did the only thing I could think of—I took off all my clothes, took my hair down and brushed it out. I sat myself down in front of my bedroom mirror until I felt like I had appreciated myself enough, and once I was done I danced all around that bedroom and even in my bathroom mirror. In those moments, I felt more free and beautiful than I had with any particular hair style and any outfit.
It was such a vulnerable thing to do, even if the only person that could see me was me. My instant reaction was to pick apart my appearance and list all of my imperfections, but I forced myself to shift my perspective and bring an end to the negative self-talk. I decided to pick things that I love about my appearance. For example, I love how plump my lips are, and how they sit on my face. I love my tattoos and the story they tell about the things I have experienced in my life. I love the stretch marks I have and how they remind me of how remarkable growth can be. I love the dimples in my back and the length of my legs. In that moment, I just love(d) me.
I have come to the realization that loving yourself is a lifelong process. As you mature and grow in age, so does your appreciation for everything that God created you to be. My perception of beauty constantly evolves as I adapt to this thing called life, and I know that the greatest feat of all is to love myself wholly and fully. As I continue to grow older and as my body changes, I pray that I am always able to recognize how beautiful I truly am.
What does the word “beautiful” mean to you? I pray that you see yourself as the beautiful creation that you are. Try the same thing I did–get undressed and sit in front of yourself in the mirror. Tell your reflection at least three things that you like about yourself. Love on yourself until you feel confident and can fully appreciate the magnificence of your body. As India Arie says, have a private party!
“I’m gonna take off all my clothes, look at myself in the mirror. We’re gonna have a conversation, we’re gonna heal the disconnection. I don’t remember where it started, but this is where it’s gonna end. My body is beautiful and sacred, and I’m gonna celebrate it.” x India.Arie