The Girl Before the Girlfriend

Listen to The Girl Before the Girlfriend

“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

S is for Silhouette

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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 

Self-Care, Skin-Care

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!

Try a Little Tenderness

 

Have you ever heard the saying that you are your toughest critic? For some reason, we tend to be the hardest on ourselves–always critiquing, criticizing, & analyzing who we are & even the things that we do.

In one of my recent posts, So You Had a Bad Day, I discuss some of the ways I recover from feeling down. What I don’t mention is that days like those can also cause me to beat myself up about my progress (or lack thereof). Bad days can create feelings of insecurity & cause me to second guess myself in areas where I previously felt secure. It’s easy to be hard on yourself at times like these, but at some point you have to show yourself a little compassion & realize whatever it is, it is okay. You’re human, & things happen.

As we are winding down into the last few months of 2017, I have started to focus more on having compassion…not just for the people around me, but primarily for myself. As someone who has experienced depression & currently experiences anxiety, it is easy for me to feel like there is something wrong with me. It is easy for me to pick a part the pieces & be hard on myself in those moments where I feel as if I have failed.

In order to start practicing more self-compassion I am trying to find ways to add practices to my self-care routine where I am intentionally building myself up. One of the ways I have achieved this is by writing myself love letters–you can read about this practice here. I have also started utilizing affirmations. I must admit, when I first heard about the concept of affirmations I was skeptical. I really didn’t believe that telling myself different things over & over could affect how I felt & improve my mood…but now that I have actually given affirmations a try, I notice that they make it a lot easier to love on myself. Here are a few tips when it comes to affirmations:

#1: Start with pre-written affirmations. Practicing affirmations can be awkward at first, so using pre-written ones, like those written by Alex Elle, can really inspire you to write your own.

#2: If you can, write them down. Writing down your affirmations allows you to revisit them throughout the day. For me personally, it’s easier to write them on sticky notes & post them on my computer or put them up around my apartment.

#3: Don’t get stuck on the routine. Although I am trying to make affirmations a part of my morning routine, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. So instead of getting frustrated with myself, I try again the next day. It also helps to still find a few minutes to be intentional throughout the day or reread previous affirmations.

Listen, life is far from easy. There will be bad days, you will make mistakes, & sometimes you will fall. Those things don’t mean that you have to stop loving yourself along the way. Self-compassion means that you recognize these not-so-great moments & you try to comfort & care for yourself thereafter. Self-compassion means that you operate with a certain level of understanding instead of judging & criticizing yourself.

Be careful not to go overboard, beloved. There are days when I straddled the fence of self-compassion & self-indulgence. You must still do the work & recognize the things that you need to work on. Avoiding them will be counter productive, & self-compassion won’t be able to help you.

If you’re not supposed to pass judgment on other people, why do you pass judgement on yourself? You weren’t created to be perfect–humans are not perfect. Compassion is something we all deserve. Spending some time directing that compassion to yourself will allow you to have clarity, feel good, & it should be comforting to know it’s always there. Try writing some love letters & affirmations, & let me know how it goes.

 

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, & that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.” x Budda

L is for Love, Pt. II

 

I wrote L is for Love a little over a year ago when I was heartbroken, disappointed, & at one of the lowest points in my life. Growing through that experience forced me to put the pieces of my heart back together again & fall in love with one of the greatest loves of my life…myself. Going through a break-up or a fizzling out of a relationship is never fun, & it is rarely ever easy. Figuring out how to enjoy your alone time, love yourself, & get back to happy can be hard, ugly, & full of ups & downs…but I did it. I did it before, I did it then, & I keep doing it every day. In a moment of transparency I want to share with you one of my most beloved practices on my journey of falling in love with myself.

I write myself love letters.


Dear Anaston,
I pray you love yourself. I pray you love yourself wholly, fully & as fiercely as the love you pray for & seek in other people.
I pray you love yourself when you are at your worst. When you are down to the bottom, tear-stained, battered, & broken. When your mind is working against you & you are anxious, afraid, & your faith is wavering. I pray you love yourself enough to recognize when you need to pour into you & that you are never too self-conscious to ask for help. 
I pray you are able to look at yourself in the mirror, stripped from everything that society & the world around you wants you to be & that you are happy with the woman who looks back at you. I pray you love yourself when you don’t get invited to that event & get passed over for that opportunity. When everyone is busy & the only person you have to come home to is yourself…and Pablo.
I pray you love yourself when you stumble & fall in this dating life. When he doesn’t answer your text messages or return your phone call. When you think “this could be something”, but it doesn’t work out. I pray you love yourself enough to stay the course & be confident that God has created the partner just for you.
I pray you love yourself when he comes. When he sweeps you off your feet & all your practice & work finally pay off. I pray that you can wrap yourself up & dive into the love that God talks about in the Bible. I pray you love yourself when you find yourself in love & you’ve traded your heart for his. I pray you love yourself when your routines change, when someone else is in your space, & when you have him to come home to…and Pablo.
 I pray that you love yourself enough to know exactly how beautiful you are. That you love every bump, every hair, every pound, & every inch of your skin. I pray that you recognize your worth, your talents, & your intelligence. I pray that you love yourself enough to be neutral & humble, knowing that you are here to just be you, to serve, & to love.
And if no one else ever tells you that they love you, I pray that you love yourself enough to be rooted in just that…the love you have for you.
I love you,
Anaston

 

Why wait for someone to write you a love letter? One of the things I’ve always dreamed is that my husband will write me love letters (I’m old-fashioned like that), but until & hopefully after he comes, I will write them to myself. Both writing & reading the letters that you write can serve as an immense healing tool as you put your pieces back together. You discover things about yourself that you may have forgotten & you give yourself some much needed love. When you’re feeling down or discouraged, read one of your love letters & refill your love tank. I’ll share other practices that I’ve tried throughout this self-love journey in another post, but I wanted to share what really helped me figure out how to love Anaston. 

Have you ever had your heart broken? How did you get through it? Let’s face it, break-ups & the ending of a relationship doesn’t mean that you no longer love that person, but if you spend time redirecting that love back to you, it’ll soften the ache just a little bit more. 

 

“Today I affirm: I am responsible for doing the work in my healing. I am my own validation. I am abundantly full of all that I need.” x Alex Elle