happens to my son
living within my skin.
drinking my cells.
his soft psyche turning cruel.
does he not remember
he is half woman.¹
Over the last seven years, my relationship to my self-esteem has been unsteady. There have been times when I felt unfuckwithable and times when I would rather crawl under a rock than face the world or myself. Many factors have contributed to the ups and downs of said relationship. My toughest battles, the ones that have shaken me to my core have been fought at the hands of men who can still look at their mothers and say, “I love you”, after ringing their hands of my blood, of my spirit. It’s a tragedy. I wonder what makes me any less than the women who have carried them. How could they destroy me and be out for blood for any man who would do the same to their mothers, when we are one in the same, as women? I am someone’s mother too. My son is not even two years old and I already cringe at the idea of him disrespecting a woman in the slightest. I am terrified of the thought that one day he may be violent towards a woman, particularly a black woman, despite my efforts in raising him. Carma’s mother, after learning that he had put his hands on me, leaving the base of my eye socket cut open and bruised, told me that she had not raised her son to be a woman beater. Who raised him then, if not her? I mourn for the day that my son forgets where he came from. It was no easy task to bring him into this world and I don’t know if my soul could handle my son turning into one of those men.
When someone makes the decision to walk away from their mother, know that they made this decision neither lightly nor comfortably. To sever contact with one’s own mother is to defy one’s own biology.²
Where so many young, black, men and women grow up struggling with daddy issues, my parental discrepancies have mainly stemmed from my mother. Unfortunately, a lot of people are unable and unwilling to disrupt the loyalty they feel obligated to give their parents but that’s exactly what we need in order to discuss these things. I don’t have that type of obligation. I have been on my own, more or less, since the tender age of 16. At that time, I was forbidden by my mother from returning to her home where I’d been living for the last year or so since leaving the foster care system. Given that experience and my father’s on and off again bouts of incarceration, I have since been freed of that obligation, or so I thought. I maintain a relationship with my father but things with my mother have reached a new low.
Since being kicked out, I vowed to myself to never return to my mother’s house to live, regardless of my circumstance. Experience has taught me that that was the right decision, even in 2015 when I found myself homeless. Despite that vow and several periods of not speaking to my mother, I have still tried to maintain a relationship with her. I have bent to her will when I went to visit back home and stayed at her house, at her demand, even when I didn’t want to. I have attempted to stifle my feelings of being inadequate in her eyes in order to avoid hurting her feelings. When my ex choked me and I called my mother in a panic, telling her that I needed to leave, she suggested that maybe I was “just mad”. Still, I continued to be in contact with her, for her and the family’s sake, not wanting to stir the pot more than I already had by simply existing in the way that I do. After a very public argument, I decided that I had had enough of trying to keep her in my life. I shut her out completely.
My mother and onlookers alike would suggest that my anger came out of the blue but nobody knows the struggle I had that very morning, as I so often do. A struggle that could be drastically reduced if only I had my mother’s help, her love. Many will and have argue(d) that “I chose to have children so I should deal with the consequences”. Who taught us to have that mentality towards motherhood; that we should bare the weight of it on our own? My lack of connection to my maternal lineage between my great grandmother’s passing, my grandmother’s murder, and my mother’s deep rooted inability to be the mother I need, has affected my self esteem greatly.
If the women who came before me are no longer here and I don’t feel the love of the one who is, how do I find that love within my own divine feminine? I am coming to terms with my unrealistic expectations of people. Although I know that I have high expectations of others because I have high expectations of myself, I know that they are not excused. I am learning to love and validate myself, in addition to and in spite of the love I receive from others but unfortunately, that disconnect is still present. Until my connection to my divine feminine is restored (and it will be restored, asè) I refuse to entertain a relationship to anyone who takes me away from that restoration process, even if that person is my own mother. So many times, in discussions about my mother, I have been told that “that’s just the way she is” so I “should accept her as she is”. I refuse to do that, especially not when her actions affect me so negatively. I will never settle, not even for my mother. I’ve said this in previous years but now, as a mother myself, I know for sure that I cannot expect them to tolerate me if I am detrimental to their well being. I recognize my children’s sovereignty. They have the right to choose who they allow into their life, even if I am not one of those people.
The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth³
Instead of conforming to the toxicities of our community at large, I’ve made it my mission to share my journey with you in hopes that as I break these cycles of trauma, you too may break the cycles within your lineage. I plan to “burn the village down”, not to simply destroy it as it has so viciously destroyed me at times but to destroy it for the purpose of rebuilding it. The new village, the one I am working towards will stand on new ground with healthier, more prosperous communities of people. This task can be burdensome; that’s why it is important that I keep a close eye on the various things and people that contribute to my self esteem, whether it be for better or worse. Spiritually and emotionally, I can no longer afford to stand idle in relationships that don’t serve me. All things must contribute to my highest good and vice versa. There are a few ways that I’m learning to build and maintain my self esteem. I say “learning” in the present tense because I haven’t quite solidified my sense of self in the way that I would like. I am always a work in progress and likely always will be.
Contributors to self esteem
Surrounding myself with people who love me for who I am has been my saving grace over the last nearly eight months. I am finally at a place where I’ve exhausted all of my efforts to water plants that refuse to grow. I was trying to pour from an empty cup and that was causing me to feel unworthy when my attempts to nourish went unnoticed. I am so grateful for those who choose to love me, never calling me weird whilst recognizing that I am very different than anyone they’re used to. I’ve been chosen to do this work to heal and it’s imperative that those around me honor that, no matter how uncomfortable it may get. We communicate openly and that’s what allows us to continue supporting each other in our various capacities. We don’t require each other to change but we encourage each other to grow.
As a woman with my sun in Pisces, for those who follow Astrology, I am known for and heavily identify with my duality. Now, identifying with and honoring are two totally different things. So many times, I’ve had to choose between the various aspects of myself, whether that choice was coerced or self inflicted. I don’t want to have to do that anymore. This time around, my journey is calling me to find balance as a multidimensional being. I seek to understand and really practice the dualities within myself so long as I do so with consent and without causing harm. I can be an intellectual and still turn up. I can be a mother and still explore my sexuality. I can speak in front of hundreds of people and still not be bold enough to pursue someone in person. I can love you and still leave you. I can be okay and still not be okay. The more I attempt to choose between all of who I am, the further away I am from myself. I am learning that embracing my versatility is more of a confidence boost than a killer of confidence.
Bout my bidness
Being bout my bidness has been a healthy step forward in building my self esteem. Coordinating child care and travel plans to fly out of province for work is so fucking stressful. When I can’t find a solution right away, I want to (and have) shut down. Thanks to my handy, dandy laptop and my supports, I am able to take a step back and figure out the logistics more easily than trying to do so alone, on my phone. It is super empowering to do the seemingly impossible so that I can secure the bag for my family. I set out to do something and when I accomplish it (regardless if it takes plan B, C, and D), I am more motivated to set the next goal and kill that one too. I told myself that this year I’m returning to work as an entrepreneur and multiple doors have opened up that allow me to do so. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to do my anti-human trafficking advocacy work during pregnancy and in the first year and some of my children’s lives but now? “She readdyyyy!”, in my Tiffany Haddish voice. Also, for staff trainings and youth presentations, please contact me here.
Despite the readiness that has been fueling me over the last few months, my self esteem isn’t always at this level. Having low self esteem as a teenager is one of the factors that contributed to my being targeted by a pimp. Low self esteem has kept me stagnant when on the inside, I felt as though I was destined for greater things but I grappled with feelings of unworthiness and and that I just didn’t have it in me. I used to ask myself, “What makes me so different? Who’s to say I can do it?”. Now, I accept that I’ve been called upon for a magnitude of things─ to be a catalyst for this shift that’s happening in the world.
I am still learning to love these curves *cue hip roll* that motherhood have awarded me. It honestly tears me up a little that I don’t have a flat stomach as we approach the #allsummer19 season but you know what? THE BEACH GONNA GET WHATEVER BODY I GIVE IT! In all seriousness, there was a time when I was known for my body to the point that not too many people knew I was actually smart. Now with having a body type that is viewed as “less than” in society, I am being driven to showcase who I really am inside. People are either going to accept it or reject it, both physically and intellectually. Whichever the case, I am only responsible for how I feel and right now, I feel damn good.
Self Reflection to Build Self Esteem (Journal Prompt)
1.Where is your self esteem now? High? Low? Why?
2. Where would you like it to be?
3. How can you get there?
4.Who can help you get there?
5. Who or what is hindering you from getting there? What are you willing to do to remove these blockages?
¹─ from, Naayirah Waheed
² Quote, @motherwounded, Stephi Wagner
³ African Proverb