“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.”
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
the dismissing or refusing of a proposal, idea, etc.
the spurning of a person’s affections
So let’s be honest, as much as people like to say that they accept rejection in stride, no one really likes being rejected. Personally, I have been feeling like rejection has been walking with me attached to my hip for the last few months. There are jobs I have applied for that I did not get—many, many jobs. I’ve been spurned by people, both romantically and platonic, so lately I have been trying to figure out what I am doing wrong or if there is something wrong with me.
It is easy to focus on the negative when you start to reflect on the “no”s you might be receiving; it can be quite discouraging and even overwhelming. It is likely your ego is bruised and you are trying to pick up pieces of your face after having so many doors slammed in it…but Beloved, during these times you have to ask yourself which outweighs the other—the rejections or the blessings? Most likely there are only a few instances where you have been rejected—and even then, if you look closely enough, I am sure God has blessed you with something greater.
So how do I deal with rejection?
Honestly, I am still working on this. I have been incorporating a lot of positive self-talk in those moments where I start to question myself or the things I am doing. I try to focus on how I feel about myself, not how other people feel about me, so that my sense of self-value remains in tact. I also encourage myself to find the blessings in my life and thank God for those gifts. Creating a spirit of gratitude often softens the blow of disappointment and allows me to shift my way of thinking.
I try to combat feelings of regret. There are very few things that I regret in life—I put forth a lot of effort to be okay with all of the decisions I make regardless of the outcome. This process involves looking at situations as a learning experience and using them for further self-discovery and self-mastery. I ask myself what each situation is teaching me, even if the lesson hurts a bit. Growth is not always easy, but it is always necessary.
How do you deal with rejection? Responses to this particular journal question ranged from looking at rejection as “it is their loss, and at least I tried”; to “remembering that rejection does not determine my value. I am still important, and I am still loved”; “you cannot get everything you want, sometimes things will not go your way”; and “the right job, person, situation, etc. is right around the corner”. There is not one set way to dealing with rejection—we all process things differently. Find a healthy coping mechanism for you and be sure to put it into action the next time a “no” comes to visit.
Rejection is the sand in the oyster, the irritant that ultimately produces the pearl. x Burke Wilkinson
My skin care routine has changed so much over the years! I’ve taken prescription pills, used commercial brands such as Clinique or other dermatologist-recommended brands, & the list goes on. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am actually happy with my skin! My goals within the last year or so have been to minimize my skincare routine and find natural products to replace the commercial brands I had been using. Finally, I have done just that.
Developing a solid skincare routine is a great form of self-care that is often undervalued. Doing masks and steam treatments not only allow you to take care of your skin, but also give you time to love on yourself a little, too!
Here’s my simple skincare routine:
- Step 1: Cleanse your skin using the Detox/Cleanse/Heal Mask from The Natural Root.
You can purchase this product here: Detox Mask
If you’d like to receive 15% off of your purchase, use my coupon code: anaston15.
I typically use the detox mask every other day or at least weekly. If I am indulging in a little extra self-care, I do a steam treatment first to open up my pores before putting on the mask. The packaging comes with instructions regarding how long the mask should be left on, depending on your personal skin type. I rinse off the mask with cool water.
- Step 2. Moisturize your skin using the Sweet Honey 2N1 Deep Conditioner.
I never knew you could “double-mask”, until I watched a skincare video from one of the influencers I follow on Instagram, Jade Kendle (LipstickNCurls). I started using the 2NI Honey as a mask after using the Detox mask to ensure that my skin is moisturized, and this has honestly been a game changer for me, because there are days when my skin is very dry and flaky. I either use it right after the Detox or use it the next day. I put the honey straight on my skin and get in the shower and let the steam from the shower open my pores.
- Step 3: Tone your skin using Dickinson’s 100% All Natural Witch Hazel.
I purchase this particular witch hazel from Walgreens and use it daily. I pour it on a cotton pad and wipe my face to make sure I close my pores and remove any leftover dirt/product, etc. This cleans my skin without over drying it, and it is all I use if I am not using the Detox mask.
- Step 4. Moisturize using Trader Joe’s 100% Organic Argan Oil.
I purchase this particular argan oil from Trader Joe’s and use it daily. It is lightweight and allows my skin to be moisturized without feeling sticky or weighed down.
On days when my skin is feeling itchy, I will use aloe vera as a moisturizer instead of the Argan Oil.
What is your skincare routine? When developing your own skincare routine, be sure to find what works for you! Different products will work for your skin depending on your skin type–mine is primarily oily, especially in the t-zone. These are staples in my routine, but it took a lot of trial and error to find these products and to see how they worked with my skin. Aim for natural/organic products that will not be harsh on your skin and that can be used for other parts of your body. For example, I also use the Detox mask on wash day for my hair as a part of my deep-condition routine, and I also use Argan Oil to moisturize my hair. Remember, less is more!
I’m back with Episode 2 of Conversations with Anaston! In this episode I am sharing a piece of my story regarding my experience with depression. Often times we shy away from telling our stories and being honest about the challenges we face with our mental health, so I am sharing my story in hopes that I can continue to encourage others to do the same. So in honor of #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday and #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth here is my depression story.
Birthdays have always been important to me. As a child my parents would come eat lunch with me or bring treats for my classmates and myself to enjoy. I’d have my mom check me out of school and we would have lunch together even in high school. I’ve always loved balloons, cake, candles, birthday cards, and especially people singing happy birthday to me. In my voicemails you can find old messages of my dad and grandmother singing happy birthday, and I still have many of my old birthday cards on the dry erase board in my bedroom.
In 2013, my birthday took a turn for the worst. And even though April 15 was always a special day, now it is always a reminder of how blessed I truly am.
After celebrating with a few members of my framily, and a failed plan or two, we decided to hang out at my best friend’s apartment. As we were getting off the exit in her part of town, I heard this weird “pop” “pop” sound and thought maybe the car behind us, with another two of my best friends in it, had blown a tire. So we pulled over in the median and got out to see what happened–to our surprise and horror, there were bullet holes in my childhood best friend’s car. Thankfully everyone with me was okay, but we spent the rest of the night dealing with the aftermath of this drive-by shooting. As a part of their initiation these gang members were instructed to shoot at whatever cars they could find and left a high school student badly injured.
That night I learned to never take any moment for granted and made a promise to myself that I would always make the best of my birthdays. So in honor of my twenty fifth birthday I want to share twenty five lessons I have learned over the years.
- Everything that I am and everything that I have, I owe all to God.
- The longest relationship I will ever have in life is with myself.
- Honesty is always the best policy.
- True love begins with me.
- The only person who can make me whole, is me.
- It is better to be over-dressed any day.
- Start every day with gratitude.
- End every day with gratitude.
- Patience is truly a virtue.
- Family is everything.
- God will always be there.
- I am beautiful, I am sacred.
- You can never stop learning or growing.
- It is okay to not be the smartest person in the room.
- I am capable.
- All you really need is one good friend.
- Emotions have never made me weak.
- Never become a part of the crowd.
- It is okay to not be okay.
- Never let a man convince or try to convince you that you are less than who you are.
- You have too much to do to spend your energy where it is not reciprocated or restored.
- You may be alone, but you are never lonely.
- Be neutral in your ego.
- It is okay to be happy.
- But God…
“I’m having a private party…celebrating the woman I’ve become. Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me!” x India.Arie
Photographer: Josh Garrett (@itsdannygphoto)
So, honestly I have not been feeling much peace for the last few weeks or so. Really, 2018 has been off to an interesting start…and for a while I was worried.
When I wrote Because I’m Happy! back in June of 2017, I was in a really great place. I was so excited about the work I had done on myself, the progress I had made, and the happiness I was blessed with. For the most part everything was going right, and I was dealing with the things that were less than desirable in a healthy way. So I am sure you can imagine my frustration when life started throwing its challenges at me toward the end of February. Now that I feel like I am on the other side of the storm, a few things have been put into perspective for me:
- God never said the weapons would not form. He said they will not prosper.
I think I got so comfortable in my “happy place” that I felt like I was untouchable. So when challenges started presenting themselves, it threw me completely off of my game. I began to question a lot of things and wondered why God was putting me through what felt like so many tests. I kept asking a lot of the “why me” questions, feeling like I did not deserve any of what was happening to me. This “level” of happiness I was experiencing made me think that I would no longer have to suffer through drama, disfunction, and negativity anymore. Boy, was I wrong. However, in the midst of each challenge, I have come out victorious on the other side. Every situation or outcome has not been ideal, honestly, but each was necessary for my growth. Though I was very uncomfortable, experiencing frequent anxiety, and very stressed, I am good. I have not suffered any losses. I wish I could keep this mindset while I am in “it”, but it is refreshing to have this perspective now that the dust has settled.
2. Always be the bigger person.
We all have those moments when we get tired of being the “bigger” person, always having to rise above, “go high”, etc. If you’re reading/listening to this and telling yourself you do not have those moments, you are lying, beloved. I had quite a few of these moments over the last few weeks. I felt like I was being put in situations where I had to be the bigger person, when everything inside of me wanted to be mean and petty…but I am not a mean and petty person. So why would I even waste my energy resorting to that type of behavior? I am not perfect, by any means, but I know that I have done the work to be sure that I no longer intentionally cut people with my actions or my words. So changing the very nature of who I am for a temporary game of tit for tat is not worth it to me anymore. I had to remind myself that getting even, proving a point, etc. could potentially do more damage than what was already done. Regardless of whether I was right or wrong, what matters most is that I can go to sleep each night with a clean conscience. And I do not want to sacrifice my peace of mind gambling in a game of revenge. At the end of the day, I can only control myself. I have the right to feel how I feel and even express how I feel, but the goal is to do so with tact. This can be easier said than done sometimes though. There are moments where I still yell, curse, and say things out of frustration, but thankfully those moments are few and far in between. When I am feeling the pressure to act out of character, I literally just close my mouth or stop myself from typing a message. Hopefully, once I have given myself a moment to calm down, I can handle things the right way.
3. Never give up.
Sounds cliche, but it is the truth. Here I am about to graduate from law school, and it seems like life is challenging me the same way it was when I was preparing to graduate from college. The part I have to remind myself, though, is that I made it through those experiences. They were also uncomfortable, stressful, and caused anxiety. However, they were conquered. I try not to spend too much time reflecting on my past, but it can be quite the teacher. Your past shows your strength. When you think about all that God carried you through, you ought to be able to keep pushing and stay the course. So I try to remind myself that if I “just keep swimming” everything will be okay. I will come out on the other side, I will get through whatever it is, and life will continue. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. There will always be things that will come to steal your joy, but if you keep seeking the light, happiness will always be there.
So I am continuing to do the work. I wish I could tell you the many ways I put my self-care routine to use during this time, but in the midst of the chaos all I could do was call my parents a thousand times a day, do a lot of deep breathing, shed a lot of tears, pray a lot, and try to have a few YOLO moments along the way…but now that I have typed this, I am realizing that all of those things are self-care, too.
How do you find the balance within yourself during difficult times? Think about the last time that you were faced with a challenge, and how you handled it. Think about how you felt, the things you said, and the things you did. Was there a sense of peace within you regardless of what you were being faced with? Were you able to return to that sense of peace after you freaked out or got upset? Try to figure out at least one thing that will be your go-to when you start to lose the balance within yourself. My goal is to be more intentional about meditating and breathing through things and to trust God and the capabilities He gave me.
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” x Unknown
A lot of people have asked what my wash day routine looks like & how I style my wash & go! Here’s my routine from start to finish! Remember to find what products & techniques work for you, this is simply what works for me.