I want to open Part II of this blog post by saying: it gets better! My recent attempts to clean up the mess that is my life and hold myself accountable for how I’ve been complicit in my own dysfunction is only hindered by my need to stop and feel sorry for myself.
I have always felt I was operating to the fullness of my abilities, so to learn that I have been falling so miserably short for so long is discouraging. I am going through a dark phase of healing and growth right now, reshaping who I am as a woman; learning to eradicate my anxious-attachment behaviors while simultaneously realizing that fixing my negative traits will forever change how I navigate intimate relationships. I hate change. The world around me feels like chaos, but through learning to parent my inner-child I am able to soothe myself into peace using copious amounts of self-compassion. Let’s talk about it!
Mama Knows! Self-Compassion and the Inner Child
I started a new podcast with a business partner where we specialize in tough topics between the sexes within the black community and how it relates to mental health and white supremacy. It is an interesting endeavor that keeps me on my toes but has left me with a ton of open-ended questions I have had to direct at myself. One topic brought up was the frustration black men feel toward black women for not loving themselves. I sit on my couch at night ruminating on this interaction because I can’t imagine what life would look like had I known how to love myself early on. I flash back in my mind to all the times I didn’t know to assert myself— I was taken advantage of sexually from the age of 6 so I’m not sure where I was supposed to develop those skills. I honestly thought that earning the love of others and constantly proving my worth was how to live adult life. I thought I was helping, I thought I was loving—and I suppose I was helping—everyone but myself.
I struggle with feelings of shame for the shitty treatment I accepted from my friendships and romantic relationships in the past. I am even harder on myself for how shitty I have shown up in my interpersonal relationships: martyring myself into fatigue, not emotionally connecting and disappearing when overwhelmed by my depression and/or irrational feelings of abandonment (in the case of romantic relationships; being extra needy and on high-alert when going through anxious episodes). The process of learning to forgive myself and allowing myself to grow and fail has forced me to learn how to self-soothe as I grow mentally stronger. Touching my heart and creasing my brow in empathy when I think about my past sufferings feels much better to me than crying for hours while berating myself for not being smart enough to know better.
I have only now gotten into the habit of using self-compassion to re-parent my inner child— I resent having to do it—but I am starting to see positive results! I still crave co-dependent amounts of acceptance and external emotional support which leads to feeling as if I am always battling with my struggles with emptiness, inadequacy and depression. The love and nurturing that I crave in those moments of despair have to come from me—which seems absurd because I am always running on empty; exhausted from hiding the severity of my mental struggles from the world—but here we are.
I couldn’t find my keys yesterday. My default reaction is usually racing heart, near-panic attack as I pace my apartment in a brain fog, disappointed with myself for being so scatterbrained, imperfect and stupid yet again! This time, when I realized I lost my keys my brain immediately thought. “Ok, calm down you will find them. It’s normal to lose track of your things, just be more diligent about putting them where they belong in the future.” I understand to most people this seems like a logical way to speak to yourself, but when you really think about it, how many of us lose our keys and it looks something like this:
*Stomps around the room overturning furniture in a panicked energy* “Where are my keys?! I always do this! I am ALWAYS late! I was going to be on time for once in my life, I’m so annoyed I keep messing up. Kids! GET UP AND HELP ME LOOK FOR MY KEYS YOU KNOW WE HAVE TO LEAVE!!!”
And just like that I have ruined my day and the kids’ day because I wasn’t able to handle a regular ass situation like a rational adult. My inner child is impatient, she doesn’t like to feel stupid and inadequate so when I mess up, I have to be sure to calm that part of me first and say, “It’s ok. You are not going to be perfect. Let’s fix the issue at hand while finding a way to remain calm.”
Finding ways to soothe and counsel yourself through stressful times is difficult when most of us have spent a lifetime defaulting to unhealthy self-protective mechanisms to get us by. One of my main motivators is realizing the impact of how my negativity towards myself is felt by my children. If I don’t want my children to struggle with loving themselves then I have to do the work to love myself. Re-parenting your inner child is basically as close as possible that any of us get to going back in time and righting wrongs. My learning self-compassion and practicing self-care is simply loving on the inner parts of myself that never received the proper love and care for whatever reason.
Now that we’ve gone over the tools to help us get through the nasty parts of healing, let’s dive right back in!
Why Your Relationships Suck
Your relationships probably suck because you do. Sorry, this is part 2 and I don’t feel like finding a more diplomatic way to say that, so I will say the way it came to me in an epiphany: I suck! I have endured some pretty heinous things at the hands of men who were barely even deserving of my presence! However, instead of leaving those toxic relationships I leaned into unhealthy coping mechanisms to keep the relationship afloat because sometimes unhappy feels better than alone. As I work through my abandonment issues, I am slowly able to come to terms with my contributions to the messes that were all of my previous relationships.
See below for some gems!
Confession: I just recently grew out of casual sex; not because I wanted to, I just couldn’t deal with the emptiness of it anymore. I used to prefer to have lovers over relationships because it was a way for me to feel as if I had some control over how much I let those men damage me. If I convinced myself that it was casual then I didn’t have to deal with my feelings of abandonment when the situation eventually ended. I didn’t like to be in committed relationships because I was never allowed to love as freely as I wanted to and I got tired of feeling like I had to hold back my love just to make a man comfortable.
I have since had to come to terms with the fact that I do love hard, but I also have learned to love out of desperation all these years. The grandmother of one of my exes once told me that sometimes men expire of loving you and there’s nothing you can do about it. It stuck with me because that’s exactly what happened with her grandson, so now I don’t know how to deal when a man needs space and pulls away from me. In spite of being an introvert and needing plenty of time alone to recharge myself, I am uncomfortable with the idea of my man needing space because that can quickly taper off into disinterest. On some level society accepts that at any given moment a man can just leave, ghost or abandon you and/or your child and you won’t even see it coming. All around me I see more examples of how to desperately keep a man by attempting to be more visually appealing, accommodating, or quiet—and not enough examples of men being content in their relationships. Men can be trash, yes but also men can be used as pawns to fulfill the needs of women who are just seeking any connection to fill their empty void or prove they can catch and keep a man. Are you actively engaged and fighting for your relationship because you want to be with that man specifically, or because you don’t want to be alone? Do you want to add to his happiness, or do you not want him to leave you? There is a difference!
Desperation is not a good seed from which anything healthy can grow.
Although I haven’t dealt with the worst of my self-esteem issues since high school, I still struggle with insecurities and have found a tiny nugget of bitterness that bleeds itself into my relationships if I don’t stay on top of it. I do hold a grudge towards men for how they view women and value us based on our looks and sexual relevance. I always hated that the men I dated “don’t know what it was about me” or feeling as if I was being used as a quirky black girl fetishist vacation, so I started playing the game. I chose to play a character while interacting with men because I felt it easier to keep them on the hook by fulfilling their empty sexual fantasies and not becoming too attached.
My resentment toward men and belief that most of them were shallow assholes not worthy of getting to know the real me was just bitterness and hurt from that rejected, misunderstood teenaged girl. That resentment was definitely all mine to own and work on— and that only covers the bitterness I have examined and am willing to share on this blog! Holding onto bitterness tied to deep-sated insecurities can be a stain on interpersonal relationships. Sometimes it’s tough to even know where to begin, but paying attention to your triggers is a good ass start (plus, you know? MENTAL HEALTH THERAPY!)
Out of touch with yourself
The only way to get in touch with yourself is to really spend some time alone with YOU. The problem is: a lot of us are sitting in the pain of our anxiety and abandonment issues; afraid to be alone. If you read the previous blog post and can identify with any of my nasty relationship habits, then it is highly probable that you are not in touch with yourself or your own emotions. [I won’t expound on this much because I plan to go into further details on my Patreon account sharing my shadow work journey and how I’ve drifted through life completely in tune to the lives of others and not my own. I’m excited about this exclusive vlog series for the opportunity to connect with others on their healing journeys in a private and safe space. Click here for more details!]
The good news is: the journey to becoming more in touch with your emotions can take place naturally as you learn to practice self-care and self-compassion. Both practices help us to be more aware of emotions as we experience them in the present and help us examine what the soothing countermeasure should be. For example: I’m feeling anxious means I should take a long hot shower and meditate to work through my feelings; while I am working out my feelings I extend myself compassion in my thoughts even if I uncover something negative about myself).
My very first relationship was a co-dependent one, as I was left to hold together a situation constantly being torn apart by his cheating and my inability to figure out how WE were supposed to handle the issue. (Do you see what’s wrong with that sentence?!) Looking back, I had even forgotten about negative comments he used to say about my not being pretty enough and how he used to put me down whenever I made any decisions or steps toward personal growth. I learned to put my needs aside to feed his ego and through learning to constantly please someone else, I learned to emotionally abandon myself. This pattern has repeated in most of my relationships… until now! As I am working on establishing my own limits and boundaries, I find myself attracting relationships in my life with people who also have a healthy set of boundaries and no expectation that I break my back to meet all of their needs. As I have learned to be more in touch with myself, I am able to connect with more like-minded people who are an emotional support and a direct reflection of characteristics I am working on or aspire to have.
I like it here, it’s peaceful!
Calm the Fuck Down, Lighten the Fuck Up
I have always thought this in my most rational of minds, but, honestly it’s easier said than done. When it comes to peace of mind in any relationship we have to realize that it’s not only for our partners, it’s for us! It’s not about being fun for a man, it’s about remembering to take time to have fun in the ways you like to do so. Here are some tips and ideas for lightening tf up!
Check your obsession
My brother used to say that if you watch a person long enough you are bound to catch them picking their nose. I have since learned to apply the same logic to men: if I am constantly watching, thinking, controlling, obsessing about a nigga then I’m bound to find whatever imperfection or conflict for which I am subconsciously always searching. I will not downplay the joy it is to be in a relationship with someone you adore, but adoration goes too far when we expect our partners to be constantly accessible to us. Release the expectation of instant response texts, play-by play-itineraries and password sharing to consider what it is to allow a nigga the freedom to be himself without being constantly scrutinized. (This one takes awhile, I’m still a work in progress not gonna lie!)
Update your playlist
My tendency to ruminate in pain leads me to the same sad playlists time and time again. When dating someone new or if you find yourself on a negative streak in your relationship, simple changes can be made to help you get over the hump. For me, updating my playlists to positive, calming or vibey songs to help me sort through my thoughts and/or express my lovey dovey feelings has made a tremendous difference in helping me to stabilize my relationship anxiety.
Find accountability partners
This might be a judgmental thought but now that I am 36 I feel that all of my close friendships need to be accountability partners. It is not easy to build up and retain interpersonal relationships when managing anxious attachment tendencies, but a trusted, emotionally available friend goes a long way toward helping to talk through anxieties and irrational reactions to what usually turns out to be regular ass relationship stuff.
I view relationships as a safe space where I get to be as much as myself as possible and allow my partner to be the same. In the past, efforts to hold onto my flailing relationships looked like trying to adapt to my partners every whim while minimizing my own wants and needs. I now see those actions as a betrayal to my authenticity. It is 100% important to me that I practice the art of compromise in relationships without losing my own identity or trying to be something I am not just to people please.
Tease and flirt, wrestle, joke, play games, reveal the joyous parts of your inner child!
Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk!