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

Grandmother, the Alchemist.

 

“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands…’I had my ups and down, but I always found the strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”- Excerpt from Beyonce’s Lemonade.

I have to be honest, I have been avoiding completing this blog post for months. Grief is such a strange thing. There is no recipe for “How to Deal With Grief”, & despite all of the self-help books, articles, etc. the fact remains the same–people deal with grief differently. & guess what that means? You have to learn how to navigate through it in a way that works best for you. So that’s what I have been doing, & I can’t tell you that I have figured it out just yet.

My Granny passed away in March of 2016. I thought I prepared myself for her death, but I was way more unprepared than I could have ever imagined. I can’t even describe the audible sounds that escaped my body when my mother called to give me the news. I immediately felt an immense sadness, & wished that I would be able so see her one more time. Hold her hand one more time. Roll her hair or get her dressed one more time. Watch her say her prayers before bed one more time. Give her something sweet for a snack one more time.

So now almost a year later, I still have those same wishes. I often think of all of the memories I have of her & the things she taught me. I’ve picked 3 pearls to share with you.

  • My Granny taught me the importance of prayer.

When her body was able she would get on her knees & say her prayers before bed every night. No matter what time it was, no matter where she was. Sometimes, because of the disease (Alzheimer’s) she would say them over & over, but she would always pray. One of my fondest memories is just watching her pray & wondering what it was she was talking to God about. She also prayed over her meals, even if it was as simple as “Jesus wept”. But regardless of the twists & turns of her life, her relationship with God remained constant. Her faith & her dedication to Him have inspired me to be much more intentional about my walk with God.

  • My Granny taught me the true meaning of unconditional love & that it is okay to “need” it.

Unconditionally loving someone is a remarkable thing, & I truly loved my Granny. As a child, I used to think that love was based on what people did for me, what they said to me, & even how they loved me. But during the last few years of my Granny’s life, I learned that love is not subject to a condition. When you love someone, truly love someone, you just love them. There were times where my Granny was sweet, I loved her. There were times when she was not so sweet, I loved her. There were times when she needed me, I loved her. There were times where she didn’t want to be bothered, I loved her. Because I loved her, I was willing to do anything to make sure that she was happy & well taken care of. If that meant feeding her, I did it because I loved her. If that meant repeating things to her twenty times, I did it because I loved her. If that meant staying with her all day & spending endless hours in a hospital, I did it because I loved her. There were times when I would get so frustrated with the situation & the things she would do or say, but I still loved her. I would be angry, disappointed, & sometimes even annoyed…& yet my love for her never changed. There was no “if this occurs, then I love her” or “I love her when”. That’s when I realized what love was supposed to be. 

Some of the most precious memories I have are when my Granny would ask me or my mom to stay with her when it was time for us to leave. It would break my heart when she would cry & ask us not to leave her. My Granny was a strong woman, one of the strongest I know, but she still needed love. She needed us, our love, our companionship, & it was okay. I think we sometimes feel guilty for wanting other people to love us. Yes, our love for self should be sufficient; the love God has for us is always more than sufficient…but never forget that it is important to feel love from the people around us. We were made to love & getting love in return, in whatever healthy form it comes, is something that it is okay to say that you need.

  • My Granny taught me how valuable time truly is.

Time is really one of the most valuable things we have on Earth. Once it’s gone, you cannot get it back. It is so important to treat every single day as a blessing, & you have to try to make the best of every moment. There were times where I didn’t slow down to appreciate some of the little moments with my Grandmother, & a part of me probably thought that I had a little more time. But one day I didn’t, she was gone, & all I wanted was a few more moments with her. You have to be present in life. Be intentional. Show up for people & always be mindful that tomorrow isn’t promised. 

What did your Granny teach you? Grandparents are extremely special people, & I’m blessed to have been able to have time with all of mine. We learn so many life lessons from them, some that don’t even “hit” us until maybe years after they are gone. Take some time to reflect on the time you’ve spent with your grandparents or even just your grandmother. I recently wrote a letter to mine that was therapeutic in my healing process. It’s also a great way to exercise your memory & remember some things you may have forgotten. My Granny was remarkable, magical, even. There were times where I was just in awe of her & everything she was. She was beautiful, she was honest, she was loving, she was strong, she was faithful. She lived life to the fullest from beginning to end. & I am blessed to have been able to know her in such a special way. 

 

Block Queen

To my girLS & baby sisters, I’m affectionately known as the Block Queen, lol. But what started out as a joke between sisters, has actually turned into a self-care habit.

Now that we are coming to the end of 2016, it is time that we do some “End of the Year Cleaning” to make sure that we are in the best possible position to have a positive start in 2017. In order to do that, we need to cleanse our minds, our souls, our bodies, etc. & get rid of the baggage we have been holding onto & toting around, both literally & figuratively.

It seems as if 2016 was not the best year for a lot of people–it was tough & full of a lot of life lessons & experiences. I am constantly seeing posts on my FB feed from friends & associates confessing that 2016 is a chapter they are ready to close. I believe a part of the problem is that we are holding onto things that God is trying to pry from our hands. Even if 2016 was a great year for you, you can still do some “End of the Year Cleaning” to open the door for even more blessings in the new year. Let’s get started.

So, how can we get our minds & souls right? The first step is to assess what we are feeding our minds & what we are feeding our souls. What are we choosing to actively place in our life? The easiest thing to do is look at the people you are surrounding yourself with. What does your tribe look like? Are you surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting you, encouraging you, inspiring you? Are your relationships healthy & growing? If you are unhappy with your circle, it is time to make some changes. That’s where the “blocking” comes in.

So, we all know what this concept of “blocking” is. You can now easily block people via an option on your iPhone, on Instagram, Facebook, etc. It’s simple. Start with your phone’s address book & scroll through your contacts. You may not actually have to block anyone, but I’m sure there are contacts that you need to delete. People you can’t remember meeting, people you don’t talk to at all, exes, people you drunk text or “emotional” text,  just to name a few. Next, open your messages & scroll through those–delete those text messages from your ex from 2015, delete that argument you had with a virtual thug that was a complete waste of time. Swipe, delete, delete, delete.

The next step is to assess what you are viewing, primarily on social media. Who are you following? What do you spend your time reading? What (or who) are you keeping up with? Ask yourself, “does this serve a purpose in my life?”. You know what is serving a purpose & what isn’t. Be honest with yourself. Sit down, look at the things that are going on in your life–good & bad–decide what you want to keep & what you want to remove. Being in a generation that is completely obsessed & attached to our phones, it is important that we are welcoming positive vibes through those digital sources. If you spend a lot of time on social media, or on your phone period, & find yourself wasting hours keeping up with people or things you have no business being concerned about…then we might have a problem. You know what to do, start unfollowing & unfriending!

Being a Block Queen (or King) is not saying that you should just block people left & right–it is saying that you are strong enough to remove unnecessary people & things from your life without feeling guilty about doing so. For example, if there is a person you just don’t vibe with, & their presence on your TL, in your life, & overall atmosphere just annoys you or creates a cloud of negativity–you need to remove that person. Completely. If there’s a person floating around that you know means you harm & is only around to keep up with you & what you’re doing, block them. That person doesn’t care about you, they only care about what they know about you. The whole “I want you to see this glow up” mentality is honestly not practical. That thought process is more concerned with the other person rather than the person you should be concerned with–you. 

There must be a balance to this process, though. I am not suggesting that you treat everyone as if they are disposable–people are not disposable. Don’t be quick to cut people off because they have offended you or posted something you don’t like. You don’t block people just for the fun of it or in a state of temporary anger. I’ve been guilty of unwarranted block sprees, & it is something that I am actively trying to work on. The point is to remove the toxicity, not to temporarily ignore a person & then follow them or contact them 30 minutes later.

Do you have an inner Block Queen (or King)? Get the digital detox process going. You can do this once a month, but if you feel like that is excessive, then start with doing it in December & again in six months. Take the cleansing process even further & go through your material things–your closet, your hair products, your pantry, etc. Get rid of the baggage & make room for the abundance of blessings God has for you in 2017.

“I’ve carried unworthy people on my back for years…Nowadays, I pack light.” x Ebony Cherrelle

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

I have struggled with my confidence, both physically & internally, for as long as I can remember.

As my readers know, when I was a little girl in elementary school, I was teased because my lips are big. I would be called names & made fun of & cry. The only person who took up for me was my first grade teacher–she told my peers that people paid to get lips like mine, that my lips were sexy, & that they needed to stop talking about me. Because I didn’t feel pretty, I was awkward & self-conscious. Then, over time, the teasing became focused on my weight. I have always been “skinny”, but people never seem to be able to accept that. I’ve been asked if I’m hungry, if I even eat, people offer me food, etc. I’ve even been told that if I turn sideways, I will be invisible. Picture that.

I’ve always been the “odd ball out”. I was never super popular in school (honestly, most people didn’t even like me). I wasn’t class president or one of the people picked for class superlatives, & always felt like I was sitting on the sidelines when it came to other people. I constantly got passed over for things & always felt like I was alone. I was insecure, shy, & reserved. I began to think there was something wrong with me. I began to think that my personality wasn’t “right”…so I put up a wall & changed things about myself to try to fit in with those around me. 

My low-self esteem both mentally & physically transpired into all areas of my life. I’m blessed that this battle rarely showed itself to other people, it was mostly something I dealt with on my own. So over time I began to make some changes to be happier with me, & I learned something along the way.


I am fearfully & wonderfully made, & God created me the way He intended me to be. He took his time when He created me, & because of that I am a fan of His work.

In order for me to see a positive change in my confidence, I had to look inwardly at myself first. Although I knew I had some insecurities with my physical appearance, I knew that these insecurities had a lot to do with my mind & the things I thought about myself. I had let what other people said about me change how I felt about Anaston. I worked on things that I knew I needed to work on within myself–mainly my attitude. Once I began to do the work on the inside, it was easier for me to work on the outside.

I had to realize that the only person who has to be okay with my physical appearance is me. I have the features I am supposed to have, & I am the size I am supposed to be. I have always been healthy, & food has never been an issue for me. I’ve realized that people will always have negative or rude comments about my size, but because I am okay with it now their comments do not affect me. I decided that I have a “goal” weight, & I am on the track to achieve that in a healthy way that works for me; however, If I stay this size for the rest of my life, that’s okay as long as I am healthy. 

I’ve also decided that in 2018 I will no longer entertain comments about my weight. I am going to start telling people that I do not appreciate their opinion & ask them to keep those comments to themselves. I am even willing to take it a step further & say the opposite of what people say to me. Maybe if I repeat their comments to them, they will see how hurtful it can be. (I doubt I actually do this, but there are times I wish I could._

It is also important to realize that we all have our own personal weight struggles & there is something about us that others desire to have. It is often the things we want to change that another person would be grateful for. 

Do you struggle with your confidence? Accept yourself first, exactly as who you are right now in this moment. Look at yourself in the mirror & affirm that you are beautiful. If there are things about your physical appearance that you don’t like, set goals for yourself. What can you change? Is it worth the change? Who are you trying to please? Once you can answer these questions, you can begin the work that you need to do. Be content with the progress, you won’t feel 100% confident every single day, it is a process (one that I am still working on). The important thing is to not let your insecurities take control. Be active in the work that you do, step out of your comfort zone & you will see the positive changes you desire. For example, if you don’t like looking at your reflection, put up mirrors all over your living space. Not only will you have fun decorating, but you’ll learn to be comfortable with yourself. I have mirrors everywhere, not because I am vain or narcissistic, but because I remember a time when I didn’t like who looked back at me. Now that I love her, I want to see her all the time. 

 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully & wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 NIV

“When you are comfortable in your own skin, you are beautiful…Confidence is something you create within yourself by believing who you are.”  x Anonymous

Be Good.

 

I know that I am a good person, & I strive to be a selfless person.

Being a good person means that sometimes, you will be taken advantage of…unfortunately. I’ve battled internally with being who God created me to be, a good person, & who the world is trying to turn me into, someone who is not so good. By “not so good” I mean someone who is not a “giver”,  & is cold-hearted & selfish, for example.

A part of me being a good person means that I also try to be selfless. I tend to primarily be concerned with other people more than I am concerned with myself. I take care of others before I take care of Anaston & a lot of my time is spent making sure that I am being “good” to those around me. Frequent thoughts revolve around questions like: How can I help this person? Can I give them my time? Are there any other “things” that I have to give? How can I make them happy?

I previously viewed being a good/selfless person as a personal problem. Why is it that I give so much of myself to others, & all people do is take? I am rarely on the receiving end of anything…& that has bothered me. So I often ask myself “why do I give?”. It is important that my intentions behind the things I do are genuine & not self-serving. Do I give to get something in return? No. Do I give just to be able to say I gave? No. Do I give because I don’t want what I have? No.

I give primarily because nothing that I have is mine. Yes, I have earned some things, worked for some things, I own some things, but none of it is mine. It all belongs to God. So who am I to not give what I have to someone else? This way of thinking is new to me, & it came to mind one Sunday during church. (In the bible, it’s referred to as “stewardship”. God owns everything, we simply take care of the things he has blessed us with.) Looking at it that way, it is easier for me to not to be so offended when someone only takes from me.

But I am learning that while it is great to be selfless, & it is great to be “good” to other people, it is even more important to be “good” to me. There has to be a healthy balance between my concern for those around me & the concern that I have for myself. I went through a period of time where I tried to be all about Anaston…& trust me, that neither worked for me nor did it last long. So now I’m trying to find that balance & create boundaries where I give of myself in a healthy way. I discuss how I am doing that in my post Take Care of Your Star Player

Do you identify as a selfless/good person? How are you maintaining the healthy balance in your life? I think we all strive to be good human beings, but it is important to make sure that our actions & intentions are aligned. You cannot give to someone just for the bragging rights or because you expect something in return. Give because you can. Give because it is who you are. Give because you love. But be sure that when you give, you save some for you. It’s a bad feeling to wake up one day & realize that you have given so much of yourself & you have nothing left for you. 

 

 

“I give because I know what it is like to be without. To long for & to be ignored; to speak & not be heard; to care for & have nothing returned. When I give it’s because I know the value in what I have in my heart. When I give, I am all in.” x Anonymous

Take Care of Your Star Player.

 

So this concept of “star player” came from a Katt Williams stand-up skit from the 2008 It’s Pimpin Pimpin tour (I believe). Basically its like everyone around you (I use “everyone” loosely) is on your team & you are the star player. You should watch the skit, its quite funny. I like the concept, even though how I am using it isn’t 100% the same as what he is talking about.

On sports teams aren’t the star players well taken care of? Of course! The MVPs of the team pretty much get what they want. They get the best treatment & all the perks. So as the star player, you must take care of yourself the same way. Give yourself what you want & the treatment you deserve! Have all the perks! You can’t spend all of your time focusing on the people around you, making sure they are taken care of & happy, etc. If you do, you leave nothing left for yourself.

This summer has been a journey for me to get back to focusing on myself after spending my adult life taking care of/primarily worrying about other people. My main focus, for as long as  I can remember, was my Granny. Not a day went by that I didn’t think about her, her health, & how things were at home. A lot of the decisions I made were also made with her in mind. I didn’t ever want to be too far away that I couldn’t go home & see her regularly. In March of this year, my Granny passed away. Her physical absence left me with these feelings of “what do I do now?” & “who do I worry about now”. I was forced to turn my attention back to Anaston.

A part of getting back to focusing on myself was figuring out how to actually take care of myself–physically & emotionally, & spiritually. I had to figure out things I liked/didn’t like, what I liked to do in my spare time, & my goals that weren’t tailored to my family life, etc.

So how do I take care of me? Here’s a list of some of my self-care practices, some of which were mentioned in my previous post about anxiety.

  • I go to church & pray often.
  • I journal.
  • I meditate.
  • Therapy.
  • I walk everyday (or at least try to).
  • I exercise.
  • I get (or at least try to get) a massage once a month.
  • I make sure I am eating enough & drinking enough water.
  • I write out affirmations.
  • I take at least thirty minutes a day for just myself everyday, free of outside distractions.
  • I try to do something fun every week.
  • I try to go to a new place in Savannah once a month.
  • I listen to music again.
Honestly, I believe going to church & really paying attention to my relationship with God has made a huge difference in my life. My spirit feels lighter, & I find that I am more at peace than I have been in a while. There’s something about being in a good church home that just makes me feel good.

Mostly I try to pay attention to me more, & I don’t apologize for it. When I make decisions I think about me first & how the decisions will affect my life before I consider how it will affect someone else. I am excited about learning new things about myself, & I am open to all of the growth that I am experiencing. I accept Anaston in the place that she’s in now, & look forward to the woman she will grow to be. I speak positively to myself & of myself. I’m focused on how I feel about me & how God feels about me. 

My Granny isn’t here physically, but she’s with me spiritually. Knowing that means she is still a part of everything I do, & because I know she’s in a place where she is more than taken care of, I find peace in taking care of me now too. I even try to enjoy some of the activities or practices that made her happy–it makes me feel like she’s here with me.

Do you treat yourself well? If you don’t take care of yourself, it will be hard to function the way you want to in the other areas of your life. Start figuring out what makes you happy. Make a list of the things that you like to do, & make sure you do at least one of those things a month. Make sure that every day you have time to yourself. If it is challenging for you to find time to be intentional about your self-care, try participating in my #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday movement. Every Tuesday, challenge yourself to do at least one thing for you. One thing that will make you happy & feel good. If you don’t take care of your “star player”, your team will inevitably suffer. You cannot take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself, first.

 

“Don’t just be good to others, be good to yourself too.”