1. Identify that one thing in your life that makes you feel inadequate and get rid of it!
The kryptonite within us all can be so crippling and debilitating that it stops us from living our fullest, happiest, healthiest lives. Feeling worthless or inadequate is something we probably have all felt at some point in our lives and could be feeling right now. This is easy to identify because it will constantly make you feel bad. It makes you constantly doubt yourself, it puts you in fear, and it can even make you physically sick. When I realized that certain people in my life did not bring out the best in me, or didn’t care about my success and well-being, I had to let them go.
Why do people tend to hold on to the very thing that is holding them back? Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of judgement. Fear of loneliness. Fear of success (yes we can even fear success!) Whoever or whatever the kryptonite is, if you continue to subject yourself to it, you will slowly lose yourself and become numb to the feeling of inadequacy.
2. Take responsibility for your actions.
Stop blaming others for your behavior. Think about the last time you did something but blamed it on someone else or said, “It’s not my fault.” Take yourself back to that moment and ask yourself why you did that. Why did you storm out? Why did you hit that person or call them a name?
If your answer starts with “Because they…” STOP. Just stop right there. This is your first exercise in self-awareness.
Answer the question, but this time, start with “Because I…”.
I lost control of my anger and did not know of another way to respond.
I choose to do that because, in the moment, it made me feel better.
Answering that question is the hard part. The next step would be to realize that their actions are in no way a reflection of you. You are 100% responsible for what happens to as an adult.
If you get arrested from putting your hands on someone, who goes to jail? You.
If you go out drinking all night with your friends and drive home drunk, who is endangering the safety of everyone on the road? You.
If you are in an abusive relationship, guess who decided to stay? You.
No matter how you look at a situation, there will always be two sides to a story and a decision to make. Choose to be on the side that exalts you and uplifts your character
3. Find out what makes you angry.
What makes your skin crawl? What do other people do that you find completely disgusting and unacceptable. Mine for example is liars. I hate lying and the reasoning behind it. We lie because we want something, are avoiding the shame and guilt of something, or to prevent from hurting someone. All these reasons are bull. There is never a good reason for not telling the truth- especially to yourself. All truth comes to the light and all parties involved will be even worse off had you told them the truth to begin with.
In your case, whether it be your parents or the community you live in, there is something that gets you riled up whenever you hear it, see it, or talk about it. Hone in on that anger. There is nothing wrong about being angry. Once you know what makes you tick, you can expect and plan how you will react rather than exploding uncontrollably.
4. Do not succumb to being a victim.
First, let’s define victim. A victim is “one that is acted on and usually adversely affected by a force or agent.”
We as black women tend to think of victims as weak, helpless people that can’t help the bad situation they are in. We need to reshift our thinking to accept that a victim is simply a person negatively impacted by another force (purposeful or accidental). We should not shame someone for being a victim, nor should victims succumb to the label.
Do you tell yourself things like,
“What else am I supposed to do, he/she just doesn’t listen,” or
“I want to leave but he won’t let me,” or
“I want to graduate college, but no one in my family ever has.”
If you find yourself serving up a bunch of excuses as to why you can’t do something, you may have fallen into the victim-mentality trap.
So how do you stop playing the victim? You treat yourself as you would treat your best friend.
5. Learn to recognize emotional manipulation.
This has helped me tremendously in my journey to self-awareness. Emotional manipulation can be extremely sneaky, tricky, and deceiving. It is the number one magic trick that anyone can learn. And you probably don’t even know you’re doing it nor does the other person realize it’s happening right in front of their eyes. In fact, the closest person to you, is usually the perpetrator.
Recognizing emotional manipulation takes practice and keen attention. Someone who may seem supportive and caring on the surface, could be using that as a form of control to get what they want. The easiest way to know if you are being emotionally manipulated is if you express your feelings or concerns to the other person and they consider the issue “your problem.”
“That’s your problem – if you don’t like how I’m talking to you then you’re just too sensitive, either accept me for who I am or leave.”
This statement can be deadly to a person’s relationship. If there are people in your life that disrespect you, dishonor you, and down-grade your feelings, chances are they could be an emotional manipulator.
6. (Optional) Take a personality test
If you’re a nerd like me! I recommend the Myer’s Briggs personality test. Even if you take the test and it seems inaccurate, it helps to put things in perspective. It makes take a step back at look at yourself in an objective/unbiased way. For me personally, this test helped confirm all the little things I do. My quirks, my thoughts, my emotions, my behaviors – all made perfect sense to me. I wasn’t just some weird girl that looked at the world so much more differently than others, I was just being me.
(I found out that I am the rarest personality type for a female. I am an INTJ. This means I’m very strategic, analytical, and diligent in everything I do. I knew before the test that I liked research and the thought of injustice made my head spin, but after the test, I understood why those things excited me. It helped me become not only more aware of myself, but more accepting of myself for being the unique woman I am.)
7. Be more vulnerable
Most of us were raised to be strong, independent, hard-working women that “do what they gotta do” to survive and support their family. This mindset, as good as it may seem on the surface, is actually a protection mechanism that we wear to show that we have it all together.
We learned through seeing our mothers, sisters, and aunts voice their feelings, but in return have their opinions and emotions criticized, devalued, or dismissed. Subsequently, women, especially black women, are commended for keeping their head down, grinding through the rough times, not asking for help.
What we don’t get to uncover is her passion. Who is she once the kids, career, and relationship are over and gone? We have to find out who she is. Uncrack the shell that she has built overtime from having low self-confidence, being abused, and fearing rejection. She is your mom. She is your sister. She is you.
Opening up to other people, in any relationship, can be one of the scariest things you face in life. But just remember, that each question, and doubt, will push you further and further away from having any connection with that person.
Remove the thoughts of “Will they hurt me?”,
“Will they leave me?”
“Will they take advantage of me?”
Let’s assume the answer to those is YES! Yes, you will get hurt. Yes, people will exit your life. And yes, people will treat you unkind and unfair. The good news is, you’ll be okay! Vulnerability is the yellow-brick road to self-awareness and the ultimate reward at the end of the journey is connection and intimacy.