For confidence building.
At the time of Trayvon Martin’s death, I was an eighth grader on my way to high school. I first heard the news of this horrific racial injustice on the radio, and to say I was shocked is an understatement. It was my first experience with racial injustice not only in my generation, but in this era. Four years and dozens of stolen lives later, I was as emotionally drained as I had ever been. The constant fear of becoming another hashtag or developing one for someone in my inner circle paralyzed my thoughts daily. Am I next? Will I become another hashtag? How am I supposed to want to bring children into this type of environment?
Reflecting on my thoughts and emotions, I realize that I am not alone. As young, African-American women, we often do not give ourselves the opportunity to unplug from the world around us. We are expected to be an ever present source of strength no matter what is happening, and in turn, our overall health and wellness suffers. I am learning that I cannot help another soul unless I am well within, so I want to encourage you to take a day to gather yourself, too. The racial injustices that occur in our nation are traumatizing, and it is important that we make our health a priority so that we are able inspire change effectively.
I know you may be thinking: “Najya, where do I even begin? I don’t have that type of time.” I’m so glad that you asked! As activists, we know that political and social change does not happen overnight. Well, the same applies to us! We cannot expect to be happier, cheerier people after just one minute, hour or day. Making our emotional and mental health a priority is a commitment that we must make daily because the journey to becoming emotionally sound does not have an endgame.
After identifying where I had channeled all of my emotional energy, I decided to make some changes. Here are some of the activities and practices that I have started and continue to do as I move forward in my journey:
➢ Take a social media fast. I know that this is easier said than done, but the benefits make it worthwhile.
➢ Meditate/Pray. My faith has been my saving grace when I watch the news and follow cases of racial injustice. In moments of fear and sadness, I hold my faith and spirituality close to my mind, body, and soul.
➢ Journal/Keep a diary. An age-old technique, journaling and writing in a diary allows you to let go some of the thoughts and feelings you have saved in your memory bank. Let your notebook and pen carry some of that weight!
➢ Go on a “staycation.” If you are like me and your mind is always running a thousand miles per hour, try setting aside one or two personal days that you can take off from business/academics to completely pamper yourself with a new look, spa treatments, and great food! You can also dedicate a weekend to check into a local resort or hotel and unwind alone. Turn your phone and notifications off during the day and let your hair down. It is the perfect way to clear your mind and recharge emotionally while not venturing too far away from home!
I hope that these ideas encourage you to devote time to rejuvenating, recharging, and becoming stronger emotionally. As I grow, it is my prayer that we grow as a community. I send you positivity, love, and hope.
Najya Williams is a social activist, spoken word artist and future pediatrician. She aspires to publish several books on her journey to self-discovery, healing, and faith. Najya hopes that her work encourages others to chase their dreams and reach beyond the celestial realm.
Because BuzzFeed Makes Everything Better. It is important to understand the significance and history of why black lives matter. Here, BuzzFeed staff discuss when they first learned to be proud of something that has historically and socially been demonized, their blackness. Enjoy!
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is here to remind young women that whoever likes you or doesn’t like you should have no effect on your self worth.
On May 19, the Nigerian author was honored at the 2015 Girls Write Now Awards, where she gave a riveting speech directed at young women — reminding them that their stories and their voices matter. “I think it’s important to tell your story truthfully and I think that’s a difficult thing to do — to be truly truthful,” Adichie told the crowd in New York City.
She said that it’s hard for women to be truthful when telling their stories because we’re conditioned to be concerned about offending people. Adichie told the young women in the crowd to forget about being liked. “If you start off thinking about being likable you’re not going to tell your story honestly because you’re going to be so concerned with not offending and that’s going to ruin your story. Forget about likability,” she said.
“Forget about likability”
“I think that what our society teaches young girls and I think it’s also something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists to shrug off is that idea that likability is an essential part of the space that you occupy in the world,” she went on. “That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes and make yourself likable, that you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy because you have to be likable. And I say that is bullshit.” And that’s what we call a crowd pleaser.
Thank you, Chimamanda for reminding all of us (even the self-confessed feminists) that being liked should never stand in the way of telling your story.
Watch her entire speech in the video above.
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
The most important decision of your life, the one that will affect every other decision you make, is the commitment to love and accept yourself. It directly affects the quality of your relationships, your work, your free time, your faith, and your future.
Why then is this so difficult to do?
Your Family of Origin
I grew up with nine siblings. I had two older brothers, three older sisters, three younger sisters, and a younger brother.
I never fit in. My sisters were tall and thin with beautiful, long, lush hair. By eleven years old, I was short and very curvy. My hair was fine, thin, and wild.
For the most part, my siblings did as they were told. I was outspoken, out-of-control and rebellious.
I wore my sister’s hand-me-down school uniforms. I rolled up the hems on the skirts and popped buttons on the blouses. My look was unkempt.
I was teased and bullied at home and at school. Yet I didn’t go quietly into the night. I fought for my place in my family. To protect myself, I developed a good punch and grew a sharp tongue.
I was 27 years old and married with four children when I became desperate enough to seek out my first therapist. I felt alone, stuck, and unlovable. I was determined to change.
After six months of working through my childhood issues, old thoughts, beliefs, and events, I felt alive again. It was like stripping off several layers of paint from an antique piece of furniture. I found myself restored to my original beauty.
We’re taught by society that our worth is found in the idols of our culture—technology, status, youth, sex, power, money, attractiveness, and romantic relationships.
If you base your self worth on the external world, you’ll never be capable of self-love.
Your inner critic will flood you with thoughts of, “I’m not enough, I don’t have enough, and I don’t do enough.”
Feelings of lack are never-ending. Every time a goal is reached or you possess the next big thing, your ego will move the line.
Shift Your Self-Perception
Feeling worthy requires you to see yourself with fresh eyes of self-awareness, , and love. Acceptance and love must come from within.
You don’t have to be different to be worthy. Your worth is in your true nature, a core of love and inner goodness. You are a beautiful light. You are love. We can bury our magnificence, but it’s impossible to destroy.
Loving ourselves isn’t a one time event. It’s an endless, moment by moment ongoing process.
It begins with you, enfolding yourself in your own affection and appreciation.
Read on for steps to discover your worth and enfold yourself in affection and appreciation.
1. Begin your day with love (not technology). Remind yourself of your worthiness before getting out of bed. Breathe in love and breathe out love. Enfold yourself in light. Saturate your being in love.
2. Take time to meditate and journal. Spend time focusing inward daily. Begin with 5 minutes of meditation and 5 minutes of journaling each morning. Gradually increase this time.
3. Talk yourself happy. Use affirmations to train your mind to become more positive. Put a wrist band on your right wrist. When you’re participating in self-abuse of any form, move the band to your left wrist.
4. Get emotionally honest. Let of go of numbing your feelings.Shopping, eating, and drinking are examples of avoiding discomfort, sadness, and pain. Mindfully breathe your way through your feelings and emotions.
5. Expand your interests. Try something new. Learn a language. Go places you’ve never been. Do things you haven’t done before. You have a right to an awesome life.
6. Enjoy life enhancing activities. Find exercise you like. Discover healthy foods that are good for you. Turn off technology for a day and spend time doing things that make you feel alive.
7. Become willing to surrender. Breathe, relax, and let go. You can never see the whole picture. You don’t know what anything is for. Stop fighting against yourself by thinking and desiring people and events in your life should be different. Your plan may be different from your soul’s intentions.
8. Work on personal and spiritual development. Be willing to surrender and grow. Life is a journey. We are here to learn and love on a deeper level. Take penguin steps and life becomes difficult. One step at a time is enough to proceed forward.
9. Own your potential. Love yourself enough to believe in the limitless opportunities available to you. Take action and create a beautiful life for yourself.
10. Be patient with yourself. Let go of urgency and fear. Relax and transform striving into thriving. Trust in yourself, do good work, and the Universe will reward you.
11. Live in appreciation. Train your mind to be grateful. Appreciate your talents, beauty, and brilliance. Love your imperfectly perfect self.
12. Be guided by your intuition. All answers come from within. Look for signs and pay attention to your gut feelings. You’ll hear two inner voices when you need to make a decision. The quiet voice is your higher self; the loud voice is your ego. Always go with the quieter voice.
13. Do what honors and respects you. Don’t participate in activities that bring you down. Don’t allow toxic people in your life. Love everyone, but be discerning on who you allow into your life.
14. Accept uncertainty. Suffering comes from living in the pain of the past or the fear of the future. Put your attention on the present moment and be at peace.
15. Forgive yourself. Learn from your mistakes and go forward. Use this affirmation, “I forgive myself for judging myself for __________ (fill in the blank i.e.: for getting sick, for acting out, for not doing your best.)
16. Discover the power of fun. Self-love requires time to relax, play, and create face-to-face interaction with others. Our fast-paced world creates a goal setting, competitive craziness that doesn’t leave room for play. Dr. Stuart Brow says, “The opposite of play isn’t work, it is depression.”
17. Be real. Speak up and speak out. Allow yourself to be seen, known, and heard. Get comfortable with intimacy (in-to-me-see).
18. Focus on the positive. Go to your heart and dwell on and praise yourself for what you get right in all areas.
19. Become aware of self neglect and rejection. Become conscious of your choices. Ask yourself several times throughout the day, “Does this choice honor me?”
20. Imagine what your life would look like if you believed in your worth. Dedicate your life to loving you. Make it your main event.
21. Seek professional help. Self-rejection and neglect is painful. You deserve to be happy. You have a right to be accepted and loved. If necessary, seek help from a support group, counselor, or coach. It’s the best investment you can make.
Because we are all interconnected, when I love me, I also love you. Together through our love, we can heal ourselves, each other, and the world. Love is our purpose, our true calling. It begins with and within each of us.
Some people have the misfortune to have been born to abusive parents who belittled them and prevented them from developing a healthy self-esteem. Others are born predisposed to view themselves in a negative light because of their physical appearance, a disability, or for no reason anyone, including themselves, knows. Research has consistently supported the notion that it’s difficult to be happy without liking oneself. But how can one learn to like oneself when one doesn’t?
WHAT PART OF OURSELVES DO WE DISLIKE?
People filled with self-loathing typically imagine they dislike every part of themselves, but this is rarely, if ever, true. More commonly, if asked what specific parts of themselves they dislike, they’re able to provide specific answers: their physical appearance, their inability to excel academically or at a job, or maybe their inability to accomplish their dreams. Yet when presented, for example, a scenario in which they come upon a child trapped under a car at the scene of an accident, that they recoil in horror and would want urgently to do something to help rarely causes them to credit themselves for the humanity such a reaction indicates.
Why do self-loathers so readily overlook the good parts of themselves? The answer in most cases turns out to relate not to the fact that they have negative qualities but to the disproportionate weight they lend them. People who dislike themselves may acknowledge they have positive attributes but any emotional impact they have simply gets blotted out.
THE SOURCE OF SELF-LOATHING
Which makes learning to like oneself no easy task. Many people, in fact, spend a lifetime in therapy in pursuit of self-love, struggling as if learning a new language as an adult rather than as a child.
Before such a change will occur, however, the essential cause of one’s self-loathing needs to be apprehended. By this I don’t mean the historical cause. The circumstances that initially lead people to dislike themselves do so by triggering a thought process of self-loathing that continues long after the circumstances that set it in motion have resolved, a thought process that continues to gain momentum the longer it remains unchallenged, much like a boulder picks up speed rolling down a mountain as long as nothing gets in its way. For example, your parents may have failed to praise you or support your accomplishments in school when you were young—perhaps even largely ignored you—which led you to conclude they didn’t care about you, which then led you to conclude you’re not worth caring about. It’s this last idea, not the memory of your parents ignoring you, that gathers the power within your life to make you loathe yourself if not checked by adult reasoning early on. Once a narrative of worthlessness embeds itself in one’s mind, it becomes extraordinarily difficult to disbelieve it, especially when one can find evidence that it represents a true account.
But a narrative is just that: a story we tell ourselves. It may very well contain elements of truth—that we are unattractive, that we do fail a lot of the time, or that our parents didn’t find us all that lovable—but to proceed from facts such as these to the conclusion that we’re deserving only of our own derision constitutes a significant thought error.
THE TRUE SOURCE OF SELF-ESTEEM
The problem is that we common mortals can hardly avoid deriving our self-esteem from the wrong source—even those of us whose self-esteem is healthy. We look to what in Nichiren Buddhism is termed the “smaller self,” the parts of ourselves that seem better than those of others and to which we become overly attached. In other words, we ground our self-esteem in things about ourselves we perceive as unique: typically our looks, our skills, or our accomplishments.
But we only need to experience the loss of any one of these supportive elements to recognize the danger of relying on them to create our self-esteem. Looks, as we all know, fade. Unwanted weight is often gained. Illness sometimes strikes, preventing us from running as fast, concentrating as hard, or thinking as clearly as we once did. Past accomplishments lose their ability to sustain us the farther into the past we have to look for them.
I’m not arguing that basing our self-esteem on our positive qualities is wrong. But we should aim to base it on positive qualities that require no comparison to the qualities of others for us to value them. We must awaken to the essential goodness—to what in Nichiren Buddhism is termed our “larger self”—that lies within us all. If we want to fall in love with our lives—and by this I don’t mean the “we” of our small-minded egos—we must work diligently to manifest our larger selves in our daily lives. We must generate the wisdom and compassion to care for others until we’ve turned ourselves, piece by piece, into the people we most want to be.
In other words, if we want to like ourselves we have to earn our own respect. Luckily, doing this doesn’t require that we become people of extraordinary physical attractiveness or accomplishment. It only requires we become people of extraordinary character—something anyone can do.
A simple thought experiment supports this notion: think right now of your favorite person and ask yourself, what is it about them that attracts you the most? Odds are it isn’t their physical appearance or their accomplishments but rather their magnanimous spirit; the way they treat others. This is the key quality that makes people likable, even to themselves.
Treating others well, it turns out, is the fastest path to a healthy self-esteem. If you dislike yourself, stop focusing on your negative qualities. We all have negative qualities. There’s nothing special about your negativity, I promise you. Focus instead on caring for others. Because the more you care about others, I guarantee the more in turn you’ll be able to care about yourself.
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to explore Dr. Lickerman’s home page, Happiness in this World(link is external).
Today I was fat shamed.
I had been craving cheese fries and Nathan’s hot dog nuggets all day long….ALL DAY LONG. It was a strong craving, so I decided to treat myself to 15 pieces of hot dog nuggets and cheese fries with extra cheese.
First of all I was the only woman on-line for fast food, which made me feel supper weird and uncomfortable. But I pushed through, even though I felt like I was standing out and that people were silently judging me I decided to not let their ignorance get in the way of my meal. So I ordered, in an albeit hushed voice…especially when I asked for the extra cheese.
So I was already feeling fat and uncomfortable after I had placed and picked up my order. When on-line I noticed women eyeing me, you know that up and down look of judgment that says “who does she think she is” or “what’s wrong with her.” These silent looks of judgment reveal that they secretly have deep held insecurities, so again I pushed through.
But the final hit came when I stepped up to the cashier. She asked what I had ordered and I told her “large cheesy fires with 15 pieces of hot dog nuggets.” Her response, a facial expression of shock and judgment followed by the question “15?!”, which was really a statement of judgment rather than a question. Of course being me, I made excuses for my order saying that “it was just one of those days.” What really sucks is that I felt the need to excuse myself, like I had made a mistake. I was craving for cheesy fries and hot dog nuggets, I don’t eat it everyday and I was so damn tired of salad. So what the hell is wrong with a little salty fried cheesy goodness every once in a while?
This is the reason I deal with so much self-hate. Not because I innately hate myself, but because everyone else makes me feel like crap, like something is wrong with me, and like I should hate myself.
Today brought to mind a video I recently watched on “feeling fat.” It speaks to the truth of body shamming, acceptance, and self-love. The struggle for self-love is so real, and Caroline Rothstein speaks to it with grace, confidence, and honesty.
Wishing you self-love and acceptance.
“Dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not and to believe in your own individuality.” ~Henri-Frederic Amiel
I sometimes think that I was “given” the struggle of depression so that I could understand where darkness and wickedness come from. When people intentionally hurt others it is because they too have been hurt, it comes from a dark place of unresolved pain. This explanation in no way excuses the behavior it just adds some perspective. When people unintentionally hurt others it is due to ignorance. In my life I have been exposed to both on a deeply personal level.
My Aunt is the pillar of unresolved pain, in my experience the more devastating of the two. Throughout her childhood she felt bullied, unworthy, and never good enough. She was left with a desperate need to prove herself, to have everyone know that she too was of significance, important, and worthy. How she went about proving her significance was devastating… she sought to claim familial power and control through bullying and manipulation. Now I will not discuss what she has done to others, but I will share what she has done to me. For a very long time I was one of her targets. As the eldest daughter to the eldest sister and the closest granddaughter to her mother, I represented something to be conquered, controlled, and broken. If she could break me, she could break what to her I symbolized.
As the second oldest she was always compared to my Mother. And in her eyes she thought my Grandmother,her Mother, never really liked her. She didn’t perform well in school and would get caught lying about class assignments; which at the time and in the culture was a no no. She grew up feeling small and hurt, and she used that pain to fuel what she would later become as an adult.
So she took her anger out on me, but I was only one of her targets. She manipulated and bullied others as well. She even manipulated my Father against me. As a child, I distinctly remember the feeling of getting double teamed, being constantly bullied by two key figures in my life. The bullying didn’t begin to desist until I knew how to placate, until I learned to be the small quite one, until I understood where I belonged. She could not break my Mother or her Mother, so she went after me. By winning over me she had conquered over something…
The second pillar of suffering is ignorance. My Father is a good man but gullible and he has had to fight is own demons. As the eldest of seven children my Father was often the man of the house. His Father was a trucker driver, never really home, and ended up leaving the family when my Father was in his late teens. So he has had his own struggles, his own battles to fight. And when it came to raising a precocious and rebellious young girl he was lost so he relied on what he knew…heavy discipline and conformity. There was no room for my personal and individualistic growth…there was no space to grow in and nowhere to grow to.
It has been a struggle and continues to be a struggle. Did you ever get the feeling as a child that there was no one at your side, no one in your corner? Not only did my relationships with my Aunt and Father make for a toxic environment I would often get bullied at school by both students and teachers. All of this, I believe, is what led me to begin experiencing depression as a teen. I think I had finally had enough, had finally begun the process of giving up. I remember very long days of lying on my bed in my darkened bedroom playing with matches, fire, and rubbing alcohol. As I look back at it, I imagine that the fire must have seemed a live to me at a time when I didn’t feel so; at a time when I thought that my life would have served a greater purpose if given to someone else.
Although I am a work in progress, and working at the project of me, I still remember those feelings and sometimes they find space to reemerge. And I bring up this struggle because within in me has lived the pillars of pain and ignorance, the pillars of suffering. Pillars I inherited but was not born with. But instead of bullying others I chose to self-destruct. I bullied myself. I was/am a walking open wound exposed to salty wind and hard rain. I have OCD, Anxiety, and Depression. I am overweight, make poor eating choices, and mark my skin. But beyond that my mind is on repeat with continued messages of self-hate, disgust, and disdain.