Perspectives on Self Esteem (Part1)

Foundation

Today, (in group therapy, I’ll call it) we discussed self esteem. It worked really well for me by giving me a new perspective on the different aspects of self esteem and how one can navigate each viewpoint. We were told to look at our self esteem as a house. So, the foundation is our inner/real self and it is represented by the inherent beliefs we hold about ourselves that never change.

As a ‘right side of the brain’ art exercise, we used different colored paper, scissors, and glue to construct a flower, equipped with petals, leaves, and roots. Our first instruction was to make the petals. On each petal we were to write a characteristic that we value within ourselves. On my petals I wrote:

Adaptable

Multidimensional

Emotional

Black Girl Magic

Understanding

Knowledge seeker

Welcoming

Determined

As I made my petals, it started out as a difficult task. I paused for a few minutes to wonder why that was. Why was it so hard to name the things that I like about myself? I know I could tell you in a millisecond what I don’t like about myself. Where does the hesitancy come from? I realized that I’ve learned to dislike these particular characteristics because for a long time, I was surrounded by people, in different capacities, who had convinced me that these characteristics were bad. If I hadn’t had the experiences I had, I would probably take pride in being adaptable and determined. Taking my power back has allowed me to give myself permission to stand firm in my black girl magic. In a room full of mostly white women, I even found myself hesitant to name that magic but I’m learning not to shrink or apologize for the space that blackness takes up in my life. Although it is one of the many things that I am, it is one of the first that I identify with and I need to be confident about it, despite the potential discomfort of others. Thankfully, I wasn’t asked to explain it because I immediately felt that they wouldn’t understand. Besides, it’s hard for me to put it into words but that’s all a part of the magic. It’s that thing that you can’t quite put your finger on yet it is all encompassing. It’s the kick of cayenne pepper in your favorite dish, the extra spice. It’s the gold accent jewelry that sets your all black outfit apart from the others. It’s an aura, an idea manifested. It’s taking your magic into the belly of the beast, allowing your presence to be felt─ saying, “I AM HERE!”

Next, we were tasked with writing two things we would like to change or strengthen within ourselves. “Only two?” I half laughed to myself. Those came easy. My emotional impulsivity and creating/maintaining boundaries. I’ve always been the emotional one, always. When asked to expand on what “emotional impulsivity” means for me, I explained that I tend to (and when I say tend to, I mean 9.99x/10) react out of emotion first, without thinking through how I would like to behave. This has harmed and severed more than one relationship. It has also manifested itself in the form of self-inflicted instability. Looking back on my life, ever since I was taken into the foster care system, my life has been unstable for the most part. I have moved around more times than I can name off the top of my head. One of the results of this has been me running away from myself and how I feel. I would convince myself that if I just make it to the next event, apartment, city… I would be okay. My problems would be gone. With men, on more than one occasion, I’ve allowed impulsive emotions convince me that moving to where this person lived would solve all of my problems. I would love and be loved and everything would be okay; all of the other bullshit I was feeling previously would go away. I was wrong, of course. We cannot run from who we are. Our problems do not stay grounded when that plane departs, we carry them in the underbelly of our spirit as the underbelly of the plane carries our luggage. I’ve had to learn this the hard way, more than once. Recently, I almost repeated the same lesson when I felt moved to leave my current living situation where I am the most stable that I’ve been in God knows how long. Thankfully, the person who inspired those feelings had the sense and compassion enough to put my needs before their own, and tell me that that wouldn’t be the right move. For once, my stubborn ass listened. It’s one of those things where you can be told 100x but it doesn’t register until the hundredth and one. I am grateful for those who plant the seeds but I think I am most grateful for those who pour the last pitcher of water before the blossom.

Boundaries

Creating and maintaining boundaries is something that motherhood has sort of thrown me into. I had begun to delve into the idea in previous years but having two young souls as motivation in my life has thrown me head first into the discomfort of bettering myself on all fronts. I have had to create boundaries with friends, family members, and professionals whereas previously I was more of a “yes” girl. I would say yes even when I didn’t want to out of fear of hurting or upsetting the other person. That compliancy has even extended to sexual encounters. Out of fear of whatever I wouldn’t want to disrupt the flow, even when I was uncomfortable or just not into it. I’m learning now that I am allowed to say no, without apologizing or giving an explanation as to why, unless I so choose. Friends and family have been the most difficult to navigate because I feel as though when I do take charge and create boundaries, I am pushing them further away from me but in reality, those who really love me will respect my needs. Not only respect them but honor them without question. And those who don’t, well… ADIOS BITCH!

If we were made in his image then call us by our names¹

No, but seriously. With each experience, I grow more and more unapologetic and it has been one of the most liberating things I’ve ever initiated for myself. Here is the thing about boundaries: When I’ve implemented them, whether verbally or directly through action, I have received a lot of push back from people. I am growing and certain people don’t like that. I am labeled as disrespectful, bitter, misogynistic, and even a rat. I would go over these name calling rants literally dozens of times and think to myself, “Am I really like that?” If I can see that I am, I will absolutely work to change it, in attempts to be a better, more well rounded individual. But, in the event that I am not, I throw that shit out the window! I will not let people put labels on me that I don’t believe about myself. That shit is exhausting and harmful to my spirit. Twice in my life, my spirit has been broken down, nearly diminished but never successfully so. I am a woman for myself, as my god mother always tells me. I am a mother. I will do everything in my power so that my light is never dimmed at the hands of another, both literally and figuratively. I was not made in God’s image for someone to take my power for their benefit. I am here to be myself, that’s all.

Support

Speaking of cultivating, the roots of the flower represent our support system. We were asked to name all of the people we rely on to help us “fill up our cup”. I quickly put the names of my best girl friends, my godmama, and my uncle. They are the ones who I go to for advice on any and everything, without hesitation. They listen when I need to be listened to. If a man is acting up, “Heyyyy girl!” When I need reassurance or advice on some type of inner conflict or to discuss family dynamics, my god mother is always only one call away. My uncle, very similar to my father, is the one I go to for sound advice on more practical matters like car troubles and someone who I love to share good news with. I would describe him as successful, not only professionally but because of his level of self awareness, and you can’t buy that at the corner store. Of course, amongst them and others, there are certain people I go to for certain things. That used to make me feel like I was being fake but I’m realizing that as humans, we compartmentalize nearly everything. Everything has its place and when it doesn’t, I honestly feel a little out of sorts. I’ve also come to realize that sometimes I am not the go-to person for one of my go-to people and that’s okay too. It doesn’t mean that either of us is unworthy for whatever reason. I think the fact that we seek what we need to begin with is beautiful and empowering.  

Ground Level

For our ground level, we were asked to look at our talents and skills, no matter how seemingly big or small. In reading other material on social media, I extended this to include the things that we make known or not, as well as the things that may or may not make us money. Often times, we are driven by the pressure of capitalism and producing something. I challenged myself to consider the things about myself that may not seem like a big deal but are still cool. At the same time, I am pushing myself to shamelessly name my accomplishments as another extension. Sometimes, I genuinely forget that I wrote and published a book (and am working diligently on my second! See what I did there!). Other times, I question whether a given situation is the right time or place to mention that I’m an author. Shout out to my girl who always shamelessly plugs my book to so many people that she interacts with!

The talents, skills, and accomplishments on my ground level are:

    • Artistic- Painting, drawing, writing, of course- books, poetry, journaling, blogging
    • Cooking- Yes, my creativity extends to the kitchen.
    • Imitating people’s voices- Don’t ask me to do it, I will say no. You just have to catch me doing it.
    • Education- I don’t plan to continue any formal education but I recognize my privilege in being given the opportunity to pursue post secondary schooling so I list this as an accomplishment (I hold three diplomas. P.s. Fuck student loans!)
    • Moving out of Nova Scotia- I recognize this as a skill because not everyone has the courage or means to do so
    • BEING A MOTHERAs a talent, skill, and accomplishment! Yassss bitch! As my Instagram bio so accurately conveys, motherhood is “Easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. My fellow moms know! From the cooking to the cleaning to the time management, and not to mention the physical demand it takes to keep two toddlers alive (send help!)

Upper Level

In this house that I’ve so meticulously been building, the upper level has proven to be a bit more challenging, and a bit of a nuisance, to be honest. The upper level of the house symbolizes your present status. I asked myself, “Who am I right now? Where am I within myself, presently? Where is my self esteem right now?” The purpose of this level is to recognize the things that are either placed on you by others or that you take on yourself. They can be positive or negative.

Being fat aint stop me from getting NOTHING I wanted but an outfit²

Physically, I struggle with my postpartum body. Surprise, surprise! Many people tell me I look great “for just having twins” but in my brain, my children are almost two years old and helloooo, I’m supposed to be snatched by now! My weight has fluctuated so much. Within the first month after giving birth, I lost 30lbs, then an additional 20lbs, and haayyyy I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight (thank you, breastfeeding!). At 6 months, when I finished breastfeeding, my weight didn’t know what it wanted to do. One month, I could be 150lbs, the next I was 165lbs. Around my 26th birthday, the official hashtag on my birthday getaway to Los Angeles was #whohadtwins! I looked and felt my best, considering I had eight month old twins at home waiting for me to return. After sitting on the couch, eating snacks for too many consecutive nights with my ex, I found myself at a whopping 190 something pounds. Ew! I had only ever been that big while pregnant. How did I let myself get this big? HOW SWAY? Everything was falling apart at home and at that time, I didn’t have the energy to consistently work on myself so I kind of just let my body do what it was doing. Between moving three times in two months, I shed some unwanted pounds, likely from stress. My littles became more active and that allowed me to drop some more weight. I still don’t have the desire to work out. I dread shopping and refuse to wear anything that isn’t high waisted at this point in the game─ I at least have to wear clothes with a slimming effect so that I’m not looking at old pictures, reminiscing on my tight skin and flat belly! It’s really all an illusion though, and I know that. Still, I question, WHY THE HELL DO I EVEN CARE? My baby face makes me look like a teenager but this body miraculously gave birth to not one but two humans (three minutes apart! *dusts my shoulder off*) My boobs are still pretty perky, if I do say so myself, and I can still wine up myself. So, what’s the big deal? A little flab in the front? Being fat aint stop me from getting nothing I wanted but an outfit! What my postpartum body “is supposed to look like” is absolutely a fantasy, fabricated by society and my comparisons to my former self. I am thankful for Julia Hutt (@joolsannie) who creates art that realistically depicts the ever changing bodies of mothers. Aside from society, I place unrealistic expectations on myself! Of course, my 13-25 year old body was flat “in all the right places” and my skin was tight! I didn’t have two children in those stages of my life. How then, can I expect my body to look the exact same after such a huge transformation? Stop this, Jade. I already have the body that I’m “supposed to” have! I can still bust down (bust down Thotiana, I wanna see you bust down, ayyy!), throw a punch and stand on my fucking head. Most importantly, I can carry and cuddle my two babies at the same damn time. How bout dah?

Bitch better have my money³

In managing my finances by myself, for me and my family, I never feel like I don’t have money, or I can’t have this or that. My first thought now is almost always that I’m going to get it. If I want it or I need it, I’m going to get it. I may not know how or when, as of yet, but I know that it’s going to come to me. Since I started having that mentality, I’ve started navigating life, not through a place of lack but through a place of being able to manifest boundlessly. This is a concept that I’ve struggled with grasping since I started to learn about manifestation but thanks to Imani (@thehoodhealer) and Matthew (@matthewprogress), for putting it into words at one time or another, my thoughts feel like they make more sense─ super validating. I literally feel like an alchemist, as if I can manifest anything.

I wanted to do hoodrat stuff with my friend⁴

Already this year, I’ve felt a shift in my attitude and willingness to put in the work towards accomplishing my goals. For once, what I want isn’t so far from my reach; it is attainable. I’ve been planning and executing more than I’ve done in the past. Maybe not at the speed I would like to, given the fact that I have two young souls depending on me but I am getting shit done nonetheless. I proudly launched this blog and have been committed to its releases (even when I haven’t wanted to!). I’m working on, “The Teen Sex Trade: Part Two”. I’ve started taking bookings for my anti-human trafficking advocacy work and things are on the up and up! I’m even traveling more, which makes for one happy mama. Whether it is a weekend getaway out of the country or a quick drive to Toronto for a few days, I recognize that I am happiest when I have something to work towards and look forward to. I’m also a much more balanced mother when I get that much needed time to do hoodrat shit with my friends! All jokes aside, it’s a glorious feeling when you know your children are safe and well taken care of. I love having time to myself to relax and just be myself instead of being “Mom”. It’s an integral part in helping mothers to maintain their individuality.

When I can go away for an hour or a few days to be myself, I am less likely to scream at my children for simply being children. Nobody tells you how triggering motherhood can be or how sensory overload is a constant battle when raising children. At my first appointment with my new therapist, she gave me some tips to get a handle on my yelling. I recognized that when I do that, I sort of transform into my mother almost immediately. She yelled a lot about a lot. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want my children to remember me in that way as they grow older and so, I work on it every day so that I can change the narrative. A tip I was given was to look at preventative measures. When do I yell? Why am I yelling? I struggle the most with our morning routine when I am trying to get the twins ready for daycare. I end up yelling at them in a rush to get them out the door when in reality, it has nothing to do with them at all. I’m not a morning person. I never was and I doubt I ever will be. What I have found that is helping is that I get the twins up 30mins earlier than they have to be awake and just let them do their thing. Lately, that extra time has given us time to snuggle and fully wake up. At 7am, I open their bedroom door, greet them with, “Grand rising!”, and bring them into my bed. Naturally, they curl up on either side of me and sometimes, when they are feeling more energetic, they start jumping on the bed (or me) and playing. Letting them burn off that morning energy has made a world of a difference around 7:30am when it is time to brush our teeth and get dressed. We can sometimes get to daycare 10 or 15 minutes early and you know what that means? An extra 10 or 15 minutes that I get to myself, okurrrr!

¹On and On, Erykah Badu

²Facebook status, Nicole Britton McCoy

³Bitch Better Have My Money, Rihanna

⁴Quote from interview with Latarian Milton